Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Chickens from both sides

Chickens have their cute and amusing side:

but also their very messy side:

It was time to clean the wet, old, dirty straw out and freshen things up.  We do get lovely compost these days, though.  We keep them on the patio during Winter, so they aren't in a mud bath, and we have less far to go in inclement weather.

As you can see from the first picture, they enjoyed a good scratch in the grass while I cleaned out their living quarters.  Robyn was there, too, but she's a bit poorly at present, so keeps herself to herself a fair bit.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Bit of a Buzz

When we first moved here we had a lot of wasps flying into the house and eventually realised we had a wasps' nest in the loft.

Recently we've had honey bees flying into the house, which was a bit of a nuisance, but at least it means the honey bee seems to be thriving in this area and they like the plants in our garden.

However, when my son and his girlfriend went out into the garden to hang up the washing on Sunday I heard a scream. I looked out and they were surrounded by a cloud of flying insects. At first I thought it was flying ants, but then I saw that it was a swarm of bees, which began settling on a branch of our juniper bush. It might have taken 20 minutes for most of the bees to settle.  A few remained buzzing about, presumably on guard duty, but I could get quite close.  A swarm is usually fairly peaceful.

I phoned a local bee-keeper, whose number I got from the local bee-keepers' association website and he came within the hour.

Here he is pruning some branches that were in his way before cutting the branch the swarm was on.

You can see from this picture that he had fetched a skep before cutting off the branch.  In this picture he is holding the branch to which the swarm was attached and is putting it into the skep.  You can see quite a few of the bees were disturbed by this.

You can see from this picture that the skep has now been turned quickly and deftly upside down and quite a few bees remain outside it, on the cloth and on the beekeeper.  That's why they wear suits.

The queen bee is inside the skep so her loyal workers are now making their way in to join her.

About 20 minutes later they were nearly all in.  Once all those that wanted to go in were in the bee-keeper tied the skep up in a cloth and took the swarm away, minus the stragglers - scouts and guards - who are still buzzing about and in a more agitated fashion. Some of the bees remained in the air, presumably acting as guards and the bee-keeper told me that some bees will have been sent out as scouts looking for a suitable permanent home for the swarm.

I saw a few of the remaining bees on another branch of the juniper bush in a very mini swarm yesterday morning and felt quite sorry for them. They must wonder where their queen and their fellow workers have gone. The guards are more aggressive than they were, so I can't get as close as I could, which suggests they are feeling more agitated.

I wonder if anyone else here has had any experience of a swarm of bees. Any bee-keepers here, even?

Saturday, 30 April 2011


The first earlies I planted in bags at the end of February seem to be doing well.  I just hope it's looking as good below the earth as it is above.  I think the variety is Duke of York.  I was pleased to find a small bag for sale with just 10-12 seed potatoes in it.

The Charlotte potatoes seem to be coming along nicely, too.  They were planted about a month later.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Apple blossom

We had a really good crop of apples last year, but the year before we didn't have a single apple.  I know that apple trees have a good year followed by a bad year, but I don't think a bad year has to mean no apples at all. However, we had a reasonable amount of flower on the apple tree this year, so I am hopeful that we shall have a fairly good crop.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Mystery plant, part two

The mystery plant is looking distinctly like a member of the alium family.  I still can't remember planting this special alium, though.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Survival of the fittest

The peas are coming along nicely
as are the fuchsia seedlings

I went away for a few days, getting back Monday.  Our daughter was in charge of the chickens and I had also asked her to water our seedlings, especially if the weather was warm as it had been on Wednesday.  Well, she didn't forget entirely, but the seedlings were on the dry side when I got home and some had perished, but the majority survived, which they wouldn't have done if she had forgotten entirely.  She is only 19 and doesn't see the point in gardening.

A few of these tagetes, marigold and cosmos seedlings are no longer,
but most have survived.  I shall have to resow the summer savoury, though.

Some of the beetroot seedlings have expired,
but we had more than we needed.

The leeks look promising so far

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sowing Seeds

The weekend before last hubby and I sowed some seeds in cardboard cells using organic seed compost.  In the last few days some have started to sprout.

Beetroot seedlings

Cosmos seedlings

Leeks are slower to germinate.  These were sown in the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Mystery plant

Can anyone please tell me what this is.  I think I must have planted it at some point, but I can't remember what it is.  I imagine it grows from a bulb.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It's Coming Along

I bought a few plants on Sunday to try and fill in some of the gaps in the garden.  I put a few in the rockery, which needs quite a bit of tidying, trimming and replanting.  I also bought some for the bed half way up the garden, which was looking sorry for itself by the end of the Autumn, so it needs more plants.  I think a lot was killed off the previous Winter and I mostly put annuals in the gaps and the dry summer and our 2 week holiday didn't help new plants get established.

So, I put some bulbs in, some planted this Spring are only just coming through.

Sunday I added some more plants so it looks like this

I've got some cosmos seeds I planted the previous weekend that have just started to sprout, so they'll come in useful for filling a few gaps more cheaply.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The First Day of Spring

Today is officially the first day of Spring and our cherry tree is in full blossom.  Last weekend it was still in bud.  I was really pleased to get this photo of a honey bee on the blossom.  There were several honey bees around and I also saw a bumble bee (white tailed, I think).

 The garlic I planted towards the end of January is looking good

and the broad beans, which I planted near the beginning of January have come up at last. I use Aquadulce, which is a hardy variety that can be planted in the Winter.  I prefer to sow the seeds in November when I can as this is meant to give the crop a head start where blackfly are concerned.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Chicken's First Dustbath of the Year

The chickens had a lovely time having a dust bath on Saturday while hubby was cleaning out their ark and run.  It is a great way for them to clean their feathers and dislodge any mites that might be lurking.

Later in the afternoon we noticed Robin was looking decidedly poorly and her crop looked pretty swollen.  When I felt it it was very soft and squidgy, a sign of sour crop.  About half an hour before bedtime she was sick.  Hubby put her up to roost as we weren't sure she'd manage to go on her own, but a bit later she came down for a bit of supper and a glass of water.  She was much better in the morning, but I gave them all some yoghurt anyway and more on Tuesday to help balance their microbes.  They adore yoghurt, so I can't give it to one and not the other.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Adding a Splash of Spring Colour

What a lovely day it was today;  quite Spring-like.  I had a thin jumper on, but didn't need a coat.  The birds were singing and calling out to each other and for a while I was serenaded by a dunnock. He was quite close, but annoyingly I didn't have my camera to hand.


I did some pruning, especially of our rambling roses, which had got quite out of hand due to neglect.  I think they should have been pruned in the summer after flowering, but we never seem to get round to it then.   Now we can get to the back of the pond and plant a few things there, which I'm hoping to do as it's rather bare at present.  I'm even contemplating a frog/toad (no wish to discriminate) house.

I also managed to plant a couple of snowdrops and a couple of cyclamens to add a bit of colour to the flower bed we look out on at mealtimes.

 The bed on the other side of the path has colour, but needs a good tidy up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Preparing for Spring

Crocus now in flower
I've been making the most of the sunshine today and Saturday.

Today I planted five seed potatoes in a bag, they are a variety of first earlies call the Duke of York and a bit on the small side, so hopefully five won't be too many. I also put in some narcissus, crocus and iris bulbs I didn't get round to planting in the Autumn.

On Saturday I started to tackle a flowerbed we look onto from the dining room, which has got rather weedy and straggly. It's going to be quite a few hours' work to clear it.  Hubby dug the remains of a large red hot poker out for me as best he could as it is growing under some stones.  There are two more red hot pokers that need severely chopping so that they can also be dug out and a mahonia and a japonica, which are not right for that bed, which need similar treatment.  There are also quite a few brambles and a smothering of wild strawberries.

There suddenly seems a lot to do in the garden to get it ready for the onset of Spring.

There are signs of Spring all over the garden, with Winter heather and crocus in flower and the garlic I planted about a month ago up already along with the Autumn onions I planted late October or early November. I'm now waiting for signs of the broad beans I planted a couple of weeks ago.

Garlic shoots

Monday, 7 February 2011


Yesterday I spotted a bullfinch on one of the bird feeders.  Shame he didn't visit when I was counting birds for the Big Garden Bird Watch.  It was an overcast day, so I needed my binoculars to see him properly and I didn't notice if he had a mate nearby.

As my camera isn't good enough to take a photo of something so far up the garden, here's a picture I found on the RSPB website, where you can find pictures to help you identify most birds as well as examples of birdsong and lots more.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Big Garden Bird Watch - Results in My Garden

I watched out for birds in my garden between 8.30 and 9.30 this morning.  Considering the birds who do visit our garden occasionally I was a bit disappointed, but here goes.

I saw 3 blackbirds, two male and one female who mostly chased each other away, even the female chased a male off the area where she was feeding.

2 magpies and 2 wood pigeons frightened off the smaller birds while they were around.  2 collared doves also put in an appearance, but not for too long and they were less aggressive.

Later I saw 4 blue tits flitting about and occasionally using our feeders.

I also saw a great tit briefly on one of the bird feeders, one dunnock lurking in the hedge, a couple of robins making excursions to the bird feeders and 3 tree sparrows doing the same.  We usually have more tree sparrows than that in the hedges, so not sure where they were this morning.

Unfortunately the wren I saw earlier in the week didn't make an appearance.

My results have now been entered on the BGBW website.

I'll leave you with a clip of birdsong, although the robin who was trilling away can't be seen.  The scraping noise isn't some exotic bird, but hubby scraping the chickens' mess off the paving stones on the patio.   There was some lovely bird song while I was working in the garden this morning, but when I tried to record it, the birds stopped singing or even flew away.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Signs of Life in the Garden

I've been pleased to spot some signs of life returning to the garden this week, so I thought I would share them with you.

The few bulbs I managed to plant in the Autumn are showing and the pansies are still flowering

Erica Carnea Isabell, a Winter flowering heather which does not require acid soil.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Chickens and Sprouts

Once I cleared out as much of the muck and old straw as I could yesterday, I put down some new straw and gave the chickens fresh water.  Then I threw a sprout plant into their run, minus the few decent sprouts on it.  I thought I'd take a photo of the chooks attacking it.  Notice they seem to find the earth nearly as interesting as the leaves, but poor Robin had trouble getting a look in where the green stuff was concerned.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cleaning Chickens

Chicken keeping can be a very enjoyable occupation. There are all those lovely eggs to start with and the birds themselves can be an endless source of amusement, but there are some aspects which are not so enjoyable.

Chickens are messy.  They eat constantly and so they are constantly depositing their droppings on the ground, and their droppings are usually fairly soft and smelly.

We usually remove the droppings from the roosting area daily, but by the end of a week it can do with a more thorough clean.  We also like to put fresh wood shavings (these should be the dust-free variety sold in pet shops etc) in the nest box as even when no-one has spent the night in there little bits of mud and muck are brought in on the birds' feet when they lay their eggs.  If a bird does spend the night in the nest box we try to scoop their droppings out before anyone lays an egg, although sleeping and egg laying tend to take place in different parts of the nest box, thankfully.

Today I gave the chickens their weekly clean. Once I'd scraped all the muck I could from the floor of the roosting area I spread the sawdust from the nest box over it to make cleaning it a bit easier and once I'd removed as much of the old sawdust as I could from the nest box I replaced it with a generous amount of clean sawdust.

The nest box is the section on the right.

On your marks . . .
Then I had to start on the lower quarters. To do that I had to let the chickens out and they couldn't wait.

As the chickens are currently on the patio we have put straw down, which absorbs some of the muck,

Very mucky straw.

so that needed raking up

and putting on the compost heap.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Big Garden Bird Watch

blue tits in our magnolia tree January 2009
Happy New Year, and welcome to Notes on a Garden's new home.  I have a new e-mail address, so I had to make a new blogger account, but thankfully I was able to move my blog across.

The New Year may have only just begune, but it's already time to prepare for the Big Garden Birdwatch again.  The RSPB would be very pleased if you could spare an hour next Saturday (29th) or Sunday (30th) to count the birds in your garden.  It's a good way to find out just what is happening to our garden birds.

To increase your chances of finding out which feathered friends are living in your neighbourhood you could put out plenty of birdfood and top up water dishes to encourage them to pay your garden a visit.  This is a good thing to do regularly at this time of year, anyway, to help our garden birds survive the Winter.

Apparently early morning is a good time, but any time will do.

You can find out more about how to take part here.

Apologies to readers of my Green and Generous blog, but I thought it was worth repeating here.