Sunday, 14 April 2019

Tawny Mining Bee!

The other day in the garden I was stripping off part of the lawn (I say lawn, it is a small patch of grass that has suffered over the years with a swing and children on it!) in order to plant some wildflower seeds. I noticed a couple of bees going down into the grass and a day or so later discovered some small neat holes in the bare earth where I have planted the wildflower seeds.

I also rescued a bee from the house. Very sluggish, maybe just woken up from hibernation. After I took a few photos I put it in the lean to greenhouse to sort itself out, which it did after an hour and then flew off.

Having struggled to match it up in the Field Guide to Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk (this is probably due to my problematic colour vision and nothing to do with the excellent illustrations by Richard Lewington!), I posted one of the photos in this post on Twitter and thanks to Brigit Strawbridge Howard ( I now know this is a female Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena Fulva).

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Planting out peas, and our friendly robin(s)

It is still feeling quite cold out there with possible overnight frost forecast. However, it is time the peas went out into the big wide world!

Last year, they got nibbled by the local house sparrow tribe so this year the sparrows will have to look on in envy as I have bought ten metres of fine mesh to make an ark to protect them, at least until the flowers appear and they are big enough to withstand any small beaks.....

Inside the ark there are sticks for the peas to grow up, the only thing that does worry me is whether the peas will use the mesh to grow up as we'll need it for protecting other crops later in the season and it will be really tricky to untangle the peas if they do grow into it.

Now for our friendly robins! They really are getting quite unafraid of us and will come down to about a foot away from where we are working. There's definitely a pair of them, if it was two males coming into the same territory then there would be open warfare!

What you don't notice when you see them at a distance is that they whistle quietly to themselves whilst pottering about! They also make a quiet "pseep" noise. Both of them do sing, but it will be the male that is blasting it out from the hazelnut tree in the allotment!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Spring - or is it?

After last week's record - but unnatural - temperatures, this weekend has seen a return to what should be the case for this time of year, wet and windy and cooler.

But there are signs of Spring in the allotment. The temptation if there is a mild spell of weather and it starts to seem Spring-like is to get planting - I have seen a row of potatoes sown into a nearby allotment for instance - but in my experience it is better to wait until at least the middle of March before planting anything. The first things to go in are early potatoes - which will be under the ground for most late frosts (though I have on many occasions had to hurriedly earth up shoots in early May) and parsnip seed which will germinate in its own good time when the weather is right.

Indoors I have planted peas, peppers, gherkins and my wife has planted salad leaves for cut and come again harvesting indoors in window boxes. Have started chitting Sarpo Mira, Duke of York and Desiree potatoes. Next will need to be some brassicas, and regular sowings of peas so that they are big enough when the weather improves to survive the house sparrow parties that we have in the yard and in the allotment!

I have I hope, been able to thoroughly root out a dead nettle that was invasive underneath the rhubarb.

Other jobs undertaken in the allotment have been trimming the top of the hazelnut tree - done without managing to remove too many catkins - I wanted to get this done before the bird nesting season - whilst I like the tree and it does produce some hazelnuts, it is very vigorous and does need to be kept in check height wise. Also, making sure the hedges are a suitable height - again before bird nesting time.

I have dug over all the areas that can be done right now just leaving those bits where there are still winter vegetables in.

The robin (s) - I think there are now a pair of them - regard my activity as just solely on their behalf and will come quite close as they search for tasty morsels that I have exposed whilst digging. I think though that the male robin regards the allotment as his and flaps his wings at me on occasions and sings at me rather than to me as well!

The cornflowers have overwintered and, I hope, self seeded a bit, and are now flowering. We have also some asters and marigolds and nasturtiums that we have left to self seed to create opportunities for pollinators and a bit of distraction for such as the blackfly. We also have some lavender which I think might be reaching the end of its natural life, but when in flower is a magnet for bees and - as it goes dark - moths.

We left the sunflowers to die off and so that the seeds would be available to birds over winter. The remaining stalks and flower heads are now getting composted.

We have done well this year for overwintered vegetables. The carrots and parsnips are still going at time of writing, although the beetroot have now finished, There is still a bit of spinach and the inevitable stray potatoes when digging over last year's patch.
In store are still some onions which have kept pretty well. The stored apples are pretty much finished now, but it has been a very long apple season! And of course the jam and chutney and gherkins we have in jars!