Don’t be too tidy… and help wildlife!

I really don’t want to admit it, but Autumn is here. It’s September and the days are getting noticeably shorter.

Even for those animals and creatures that don’t hibernate over the winter months autumn time is very much a time to stock up on supplies. You’ll see more birds gorging on autumn berries in the garden and fattening themselves up on whatever they can.

If I do any digging at the moment I find myself closely watched by a beady eyed but very tatty little bird… it’s a young robin. It still has the pretty gold speckling of youth and patchy bits of red breast just starting to show. It pounces on every worm and I watched it gobble up two enormous worms the other day. It had a third lined up, but kept pecking at it half-heartedly, I really think it was completely full, but couldn’t bear to leave it! He eventually gobbled that one down as well – a very full tummy!

They are such lovely little birds, but robins are renowned for their aggressive territorial nature. I hadn’t realised until I looked it up the other day that the juveniles don’t develop their red breast until they are mature because otherwise their parents would attack them and drive them away just as they do other robins!

If you want to encourage wildlife in your garden don’t be too tidy! Late butterflies will be tempted by fruit that’s fallen from trees in the garden and you may get more of an opportunity to see hedgehogs as they look for food to stock up on their reserves in preparation for hibernation.

There are still seeds to be found on the likes of sunflowers and thistles, so by allowing this kind of vegetation to die off it provides more food and shelter, for birds in particular as well as other wildlife.

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Gardening myths…

I came across something that so surprised me in a recent edition of the (very excellent) RHS magazine ‘The Garden’, that it set me thinking about myths as a topic for my blog…

The Garden announced that, after proper research, there is no scientific evidence that watering in bright light causes damage to plant leaves. Well, you could have knocked me down with a dahlia! I’d always believed that watering in sunshine was very bad. It can, obviously, be wasteful at a very hot time as the water will just evaporate, but generally it is fine.

What do you get if you chop an earthworm in half? Haven’t we always been told ‘two worms’? Actually, it’s mostly a dead worm. The trouble is that if a worm is cut in two, both halves wriggle, and they may continue for some time. The head end, the bit with the fat broad saddle segments about one-quarter down the length, may even burrow off into the soil again. The good news is that, with luck, the head end may survive, and the tail cut might heal, if it can cope with infections, huge loss of body fluids and all the other problems associated with major injury trauma. The tail, however, will eventually stop moving and die. Sorry, rather depressing…

So, what are your favourite gardening myths – true or otherwise? Let’s hear them!

Smiles, Joanna

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A swim on the wild side!

This week, our guest blogger is my very own youngest daughter – Emily! She has been home from university for a few weeks before going away for six months on a work placement. While here, she was able to spend some time with old school friends and head off to the beach… where she had an interesting encounter!

“The sun put in a rare appearance, so I decided to head down to Babbacombe beach and enjoy a dip in the sea with some friends. As always, the British sea proved to be a lot colder than we remembered, but we took the plunge and swam out towards the five-knot-buoy. 

Suddenly, we spotted a smooth, dark shape gliding just below the water surface. We turned and a head popped up, watching us with large, dark eyes. We were so excited, it’s so rare to see a seal in the wild, let alone swim with one!

The large grey seal known as “Sammy” is a regular visitor at Babbacombe, coming almost daily to coax the locals into giving him the fish they catch off the quayside. Now that’s what I call smart – let the humans do the hard work, so you don’t have to! Recently featured in the local paper, Sammy worried locals a few weeks ago when he swam up to the quay with a hook in his side, although he left before the RSPCA had arrived. We can only presume he was protected by his thick hide. 

After a while we got out of the water to fetch our cameras and ran to the quayside where the seal was cruising up and down waiting for fish. He seemed hugely tame and was content to come within an arm’s length of us, even gently taking a fish straight from a fisherman’s hand! It was just fascinating to watch such a large creature (it looked to be about one and a half metres long and at least half a metre wide) move so gracefully in the water!

It had to be the best trip to the beach ever, and we plan to head back tonight and see if he’s still there!”

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Busy bees

Spending so much time with flowers over the years, I’m a great respecter of bees. When you’re in your garden, it’s rare not to hear their gentle drone. I would never keep bees and respect them though I do… no way could I have ‘pet’ bees!

The big, slow moving bumble bee doesn’t produce much honey but it is an important pollinator. The smaller honey bee not only pollinates but also toils away to produce honey from the pollen it collects.

I knew bees were vital, but I was surprised when I read that one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat is dependent on pollination – so worrying when we are told that honeybee numbers have fallen by up to 30% in recent years

Honey, and the bees that create it, are both pretty amazing! Honeybees are the only insects to produce food for humans and honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.

And wow, do ‘worker’ honey bees deserve their name! The average worker bee produces about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. She visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip… and as you will have gathered it is the female of the species that does all the work!

Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work at all. All they do is mate. Now there’s a surprise!! (Sorry all you guys that read the blog……..)

 

 

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A wonderful walk right on my doorstep!

Morwenstow on the north coast.I know I do tend to go on about how lovely Devon is… but it just is! This week, I thought I’d ramble (excuse the pun!) on about the South West Coast Path.

Not only is Devon blessed with lovely rolling countryside and dramatic moorland, it also has two stunning coastlines to the north and south. The north is rugged and exposed, while the south is softer with more sheltered bays. Devon is the chunky ‘thigh’ of the south west ‘leg’ of England that delicately dips its toe out to the far south west and the Atlantic ocean.

The South West Coast Path National Trail goes right round this leg taking in Devon and Cornwall and more – starting in the north, at Minehead in Somerset and going on for 630 miles – to Poole in Dorset in the south

It is regarded as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world. The heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way are stunning and every day spent walking it brings new experiences.

The lovely harbour town of Dartmouth in south Devon.You don’t have to be super fit, and you obviously don’t have to do all of it! Some areas, especially in Cornwall, are very steep and challenging (and very beautiful) but lots of other sections are gentle and make lovely seaside strolls.

Some people spend years walking small sections of it, ticking off the miles until they’ve done the whole thing. Others – heaven help them – tackle the whole thing in a couple of months, often for charity.

There’s a rather nifty scheme that lets you stay in B&Bs, while some obliging people will drive your bags on ahead of you so that, when you arrived footsore after a coastal canter, your bubble bath and slippers are ready and waiting for you.

There’s a very good website: www.southwestcoastpath.com which shows you everything you need from amazing photos that will inspire you, to walks that are interesting for children, or include pubs on the route (count me in!).

The coastal path in south Cornwall.

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