A Wild Autumn

It’s been a wild, wild month in more ways than one!

Today, Alex who helps me in the veg garden, saw a newt in a plant saucer full of rain water.

We think it’s a common or smooth newt.

And last week on Wednesday, my singing and gardening friends, Steve and Joyce had just arrived to camp and work in the garden, when we spotted a little hedgehog coming up the drive.

Joyce was particularly excited as it was the first time she’d seen one.

It went under the hedge between us and next door, and our neighbours, Mark and Lesley said they saw it with a larger one later the same day, in the evening.

We’ve had buzzards and marsh harriers circling overhead during the harvest and our other neighbours say there’s been a breeding pair of the former which have produced three youngsters!

Joyce – who’s an amazing photographer – also took this shot of a dragonfly and a Comma butterfly on the damson tree.

I think the dragonfly is a male southern hawker – maybe one of you can let me know if I’m right.

Eagle eyed Joyce also spotted a Stag Beetle larvae while she was weeding – she put it back where she found it.

Stag beetles are quite rare and on the endangered list in most areas of the UK.

The weather’s also been very wet and wild over the past week.

Steve and Joyce camped in the garden for two nights and weathered the huge storm overnight last Thursday night/Friday morning.

But, by some small miracle, it was sunny and warm all day Thursday and they transformed a couple of areas of the garden – removing the winter squash and frame that supported them, hoeing the weeds and replanting the bed with winter veg.

They also edged the bed and weeded the rather overgrown raspberry canes.

Although we had to observe social distancing, wear masks sometimes and dodge the high winds and rain it was wonderful to see them – a much needed morale boost before the darker and more solitary days of winter.

Today, Alex and I achieved a lot, removing most of the remaining bamboo cane structures, staking the asparagus ferns, weeding, hoeing and replanting endive frisee, raking up leaves and chipping branches brought down during the storm.

 

We also picked apples and pears to share with friends, family and neighbours.

I’m very grateful to for all the invaluable help we’ve had this year, including Sarah, Mum’s gardener and her friend, Ros, who volunteered throughout the spring and summer.

We couldn’t have managed without you.

Thank you!

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Wildlife garden podcast

 

Alasdair Fraser coppicing wood
Alasdair Fraser at the gate to Tomas’s Pightle – the wildlife meadow he’s created with his partner Caroline Fernandez and their son Tomas

This meadow, tucked off a main road in this village near Norwich, was used to grow Christmas trees and before that it was a strawberry field until Alasdair, Caroline and Tomas moved here 10 years ago.

There’s also a vegetable and fruit garden with a long dutch greenhouse set back behind their house.

Dutch greenhouse and pond
The garden is comprised of two areas: one to grow food; the other a wildlife area of woody margins and grassland
Caroline in the greenhouse which will be full of tomatoes, aubergines and other salads in a few months time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s all joined up by places where we can sit and enjoy it,” Alasdair says.

There are a few rustic home-made benches around the garden and by the nine metre wide pond.

Here the edges are planted up with bog and marsh species designed to provide a constant source of nectar and pollen throughout the summer beginning with marsh marigold and ending with watermint. There’s purple and yellow loosestrife and the nodding graceful great burnet which gives its name to the six spot burnet moth.

Beneficial insects like drone flies help pollinate not just in the meadow but in the adjacent vegetable garden.

To find out more – listen to this interview with Alasdair Fraser – who also works at the nature reserve RSPB Strumpshaw Fen

 

Alasdair Fraser’s top five tips for creating a wildlife rich garden:

  • Create a woodland edge/field habitat OR a woodland glade/grassland/pond (unless you’re already blessed with a heath or acid grassland as a garden) – it mimics a garden shrubbery and lawn but adds value for wildlife
  • Choose an indicator of success – not just birds but butterflies and bees. Do an annual count and monitor the variety of species
  • Design, manage and tend – but accept some unruliness   e.g. leave and enjoy dead stems.
  • Buy the best seeds and plants you can afford and position boldly in groups of 3 or 5
  • Have a wet area at least 0.5m deep, lined with the thickest liner you can afford.  Feed it from your roof down pipe or top up with rain water from a water butt

Recommended reading :  Chris Baines’ ” How to Make a Wildlife Garden” now republished as the RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening

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