We are very fortunate to have a beautiful wheat field wrap itself around our home and garden. Last week, to my youngest son’s enormous pleasure the combine harvester was out cutting the crop. It’s a large field and takes two days to complete, this involves the boys hurtling to the bottom of the garden when the combine is close and running upstairs to hang out the top windows when it was further away. Kids blissful summer holiday freedom. This week the Canada geese have chosen the field as their B&B plus supper retreat. They start landing in batches from 7.30pm, the last arrive just before 8pm, a feast of grain spilt by the combine and then off by 6am the next morning. Where they go I’ve not a clue, I like to think they pop down to Hastings for paddle in the sea and spot of lunch, before making their way back to us.The last batch of Canada geese to arrive, sadly they flew too fast to catch them all on cameraSome of our evening guests
A quick addendum to my last posting. I have just made three wasp traps from soft drink bottles. I’ve cut off their necks and turned them upside down inside the bottle and taped around the top. Using a hole punch I’ve made two holes and threaded garden twine through the bottle to hang. Squeezed the juice from a lemon and lime, added a good scoop of sugar and a little boiling water, stirred until the water is dissolved and then poured into my traps. Fingers crossed several of these hung around the garden will resolve our wasp problem.
One of our home made wasp traps hanging in a plum tree
I don’t think the summer holidays are going to be very good for this blog! Our feet have barely touched the ground during this first week, friends, family and play dates squeezed in between trips to Lego Land, Somerset and Windsor. Fabulous fun, but the kitchen garden is in need of some attention. I have promised myself a few hours to weed the dahlia bed, and to take a few pictures for my end of July kitchen garden round up.
Although we’ve been busy, I have made a few discoveries. I noticed something inside one of my children’s scary bird boxes that they built and painted earlier in the year. My initial excitement that a brave family of birds had plucked up the courage to raise their young in my children’s creation was soon quashed, on closer inspection I saw the distinctive paper like wall of a wasp nest and then regular trips in and out by its occupants.
If you look carefully you can see a wasp and its nest through the bird box hole
Last year we had lots of white tailed bumble bees which we co-existed with happily, we barely noticed wasps. This year there are few bees and wasps have taken over, resulting in uncomfortable wasp stings, an angry nest being removed from above our back door and another nest discovered in the front eves of our house. I am not looking forward to the plum and apple harvest, I can envisage it becoming a perilous race to gather the ripe fruit before the wasps devour it.
The husband strided into the kitchen last week and handed me a green immature cobnut from one of our trees, he popped it on the window sill telling me it would be a reminder to crop the ripe cobnuts before the squirrels get to them. This seemed a good plan, until I discovered squirrels have a taste for green unripe and soft nuts. The debris from their feast lies under all five of our cobnut trees; it’s looking as though the dream of eating our own cobnuts on Christmas day is sadly farfetched. The nuts are an added bonus, the main purpose for the trees is to coppice their lovely long branches, which we use to build structures and supports in the kitchen garden.
Stolen cobnut husks discarded by the squirrels
Cobnut husks littered under our cobnut trees
My blogs have been a little sporadic over the last few weeks. I have been busy helping to organise our schools Summer Fair, held this weekend. My children had a ball, winning a collection of sweets that will last them the summer and yet another hoard of soft toys, as if we don’t have enough already! An exhausting event packed with lots and fun and heaps of laughs.
A perfect pick me up followed the next day, a lovely Sunday afternoon wandering around our village garden safari with my three year old. We explored lots of beautiful gardens; my son was treated to ice cream and cake by various kind garden owners. We had a good old natter with everyone we met and left feeling very inspired, warm with contentment that we live in a lovely community with fabulous, kind, interesting and creative people. Sadly no pictures, too busy chatting and keeping up with my son. A beautiful, loved back garden provides more inspiration and achievable ideas than any named garden open to the public, whose survival is dependant on a team of professional gardeners.
Once home I pottered into the kitchen garden to discover an army of cabbage white caterpillars gorging themselves on my Cavolo Nero Kale. Luckily they were only on a couple of leaves, so I snipped off the leaves with the caterpillars, and relocated them in the compost heap, hopefully too far away for them to crawl back.
Black fly are feasting on my dahlias, artichokes and runner beans flowers. I started by wiping them off the stems with my fingers, but now the infestation has ramped up to quite another level. So, out came my misting sprayer, filled with a good squirt of washing up liquid and water. Fingers crossed this will work and not harm the plant. I understand that if you just squirt with water, their bodies repel it, but the detergent will work through their protective layer killing them in the same way it cleans grease off your frying pan. Hopefully we’ll soon have an army of hungry ladybirds come to our rescue, finishing off those that get away.
Black fly on my runner beans after a spray
Black fly on the dahlia after spraying
A fox has dug a hole next to one of my pumpkin plants, disturbing roots and knocking all the soil on the gravel path. Outcome, plastic drink bottles ¾ filled with water distributed around the kitchen garden. It worked with cats that decided to use the gravel in my old London flat’s garden as a toilet. This tip was given to me by a friend whose grandfather had had an allotment for years. Apparently at night the reflection of light off the bottles deters the cats. In London it worked a treat; hopefully it has the same effect on foxes in the countryside.
Bindweed in my garden really is a bind! As I’ve mentioned before I dug out mounds of bindweed root whilst landscaping the kitchen garden. I have the odd shoot come up, but at this stage I’m just pulling them out. My main herbaceous border is a different matter. Before planting this border up in the spring of this year I dug it over thoroughly, pulling out networks of brambles, nettles and bindweed roots, however, I knew there’d be a lot of bindweed root left in. Jeanette the amazingly talented plantslady of Wheelgate Nursery suggested an ingenious but simple solution. When you see a bindweed shoot emerge, pop in a cane for it to grow up.
Bindweed grown up a cane
When it’s established take away the cane, then, pop the length of bindweed into a sandwich bag. Spray inside the bag with glyphosate, pop a rubber band around the bottom and leave for a couple of weeks. Amazing, kill your bindweed whilst keeping your precious plants safe.
My bagged up bindweed
I have even tried it on a couple of horsetail shoots that have jumped the ditch from my pond area. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
‘Oak before Ash we’ll have a splash, Ash before Oak we’ll have a soak’
I noticed today our oak trees are coming into leaf, this sent me striding up the garden to see what the Ash tree was up to. It was not quite in leaf. I take note of what the saying says each year, usually the Ash and Oak manage to accuratly predict the summer to come. This year we’re in for splash, a lovely long hot summer. Does mean lots of watering in the kitchen garden, but it’s well worth it.
Ash not quite in leaf
Oak in leaf
Just in case anyone needs to find me. I made this sign this morning from a slate our builder left behind:
During the week I’ve been busy moving all the plants from the nursery bed situated below the greenhouse to new herbaceous borders. I hope to start building the last three raised veg beds in their place next week. Whilst tidying up after the replanting this morning, I made several discoveries. A black bird has nested in the trunk of our Crabapple tree. This is a source of worry to me, it’s only 3 feet off the ground and quite exposed. How it’s going to survive, hatch and bring up a family of fledglings with my three noisy children and the dog who loves anything in feathers is a concern. To its credit it has chosen the prettiest spot in the garden to perch at the moment!
Black bird nesting
The crabapple tree trunk the black bird has chosen
The Crabapple tree in full bloom
The broad beans are in flower, I think they are the vegetable I most look forward to every year, a very special treat. Sadly, they are one of the few truly seasonal vegetables; you only ever get them from the garden, a farm shop or supermarket when in season. For some reason they’re not imported from Kenya all year round.
Broad bean flowers
My final discovery of the day was hearing the cuckoo for the first time, always a special day in the year.
During the February school half term, I spent a lovely afternoon with my three children and friends at Sissinghurst Castle, making bird boxes. We’ve put them up on trees in the garden with hope that we’ll have nesting birds this Spring. I’m not holding my breath! I adore the bird boxes, my children made them. But, they’re not quite the inviting bird sanctuary I thought they’d be. If any prospective parents are brave enough to take one on as their new home, I fear for their delinquent offspring.
It has even been suggested that if someone wonders into the garden by mistake they’ll leave quick thinking they’ve come across a weird religious cult.