Garden Log

Sunday 09/05/21

Weather : Mixed week of sunshine and showers.

Notes : Better week for the garden as there was a little more rain and we also finished with some really warm weather, ideal conditions really.

The Wisteria is nearly fully out and doesn’t seem to have been too damaged by the hard frosts in April. This has also brought the bee activity to life and I wrote a little post on the Red Mason Bees who have started to nest in the bee hotels.

Also flowering well to the delight of the bees is the Red Robin bush, which seems to be having a very exceptional year.

I’m also quite happy with the no mow policy on the grass. There are definitely more daisies and dandelions coming through and the flower seeds which I rather indiscriminately scattered around are starting to germinate. More rain is forecast for next week which should be pretty ideal growing conditions.

This has also been the first week when the Pink sorrel has been abundant at the front of the house, which is technically a weed but I really like it, it’s very colourful and it looks after itself completely. The flowers only really display in the sun so if we get any next week I’ll take a photo.

And finally on the vegetable garden front this week I’ve planted out the courgette seedling and also sown seeds into the beds for Radish, Lettuce and runner beans.

Saturday 01/05/21

Weather : Becoming colder and wetter as the week progressed. Some much needed rain.

Notes : Again a month since the last blog update. Generally April has been warm but with very little rain and the garden is extremely dry. Luckily we are promised a cooler period of weather with some rain which will hopefully pick everything up.

It’s been a good year for all the bulbs in the garden, bluebells, daffodils and tulips. I’ve not cut the grass at all, I only mowed twice last year, and there has been a reasonable spread of daisies and dandelions in the lawn. I’m quite desperate to have more flowers than grass and I have scattered some various wildflower seeds across the grass. After a couple of weeks there are already seedling germinating, I hope they progress but I’ve not had much success with this on previous attempts. The promised rain over the next week will definitely help.

The Wisteria is starting to flower, quite late this year but unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be a classic year. We had a late frost a few weeks ago, when the buds were already out and I think it would have damaged quite a few.

Over the last week I’ve planted my new geraniums into the pots and trays, aiming for the perfect ‘Alsacian’ village geranium display. I’m likely to be dissapointed but I promise to myself that I’ll try and feed them once a week this year to see if it’ll help.

The seeds are going well in my new plastic greenhouse, particularly the sweet peas which I have pricked out this week. Another week or so and I’ll be able to start planting out. The potatoes have been planted into the grow bags and I’ve put out my first row of radish seeds into the vegetable bed next to the house.

During the nicer weather I started to see a few butterflies in the garden and one of my resolutions for the year is to start recording what I see. Except I haven’t done it yet.

Sunday 04/04/21

Weather : Sunny Spring weather, very warm in the afternoons.

Notes : Warm weather this week has pushed the garden on. The blossom on the crab apple tree in particular has been out in great colour.

The first seeds have started to come through in the small greenhouse and I’ve also sowed some tomatoe seeds this week. I’ve just gone for Moneymakers this year rather than several different varieties. They were the best and most consistent last year so no need to mess around.

Highlight of the week is that the Dahlias have started to poke through.

I kept them in pots overwinter in the cold frame and I was quite skeptical that they would come again. They were new last year, grown from seed, and they looked absolutely dead. I’ve cleared a space in the front garden and I think this year I’ll put them directly into the earth to hopefully make them a permanent garden feature.

Sunday 28/03/21

Weather : Chilly nights but generally warm sunny days, a few heavy rain showers.

Notes: It’s been a month since the last garden log update which is a bit of a shame as a lot has happened. Unfortunately, I’ve been prioritizing the other log updates and this one has got rather left behind. I have to try and do a little better.

I’ve had two nice displays of note during this early spring season. The Quine blossom and the daffodils, both of which have been fantastic this year.

Every year I’ve been here the Quince has got better and better, last year it even produced some good sized fruits. Hopefully the abundant blossom is a sign of another good year.

I’ve probably got about another week left from this and then the next out will be the tulips and also the crab apple tree blossom which seems ready to explode.

I’ve started my garden maintenance by removing some of the old dead flowers, unfortunately the cold week we had in February took quite a few casualties. I’m hoping that the Wisteria plants I’ve been growing from seed at the front have survived. They look quite dead, they’re much further behind the back garden Wisteria, which has quite large buds already, but I’ve got a feeling that they’ll be alright. We are promised some good weather next week and I think that might bring them back to live.

Whilst clearing out the old Geranium window boxes I came across this buried in the soil.

In one of the boxes there were 3 or 4. Obviously some form of larvae but I didn’t know which. I phoned a friend, always Mr Baugh, and he has gone for Rose Chafer larvae. I’ll make a little blog post about this during the week.

Today I finally planted the Hawthorn bush. This is a moment for the diaries as I hope it’s going to mature in the garden over many years. I forgot to take a photo but I’ll do so and add it into next’s weeks update.

Sunday 28/02/21

Weather: Sunny and warm. Getting slightly colder as the week went on. Very little rain.

Notes: I didn’t spend a lot of time in the garden this week, I was trying to get a bit of house painting finished before the spring seasons kick it.

The first crocuses have now finished as have the flowers on the winter Jasmin, the blossom on the Quince tree won’t last much longer either.

The first daffodils are beginning to flower and I think that by next week they’ll be fully out. I’ll need to get a few pictures of that.

Sunday 21/02/21

Weather: Warm week, sunny with only a little rain. Spring!

Notes: After the garden devastation caused by the coldest week of the winter we have now had the warmest week of the winter. It felt like spring and the afternoon temperatures during the last weekend were 19oC.

Still, following the cold everything in a pot that was outside, particularly the Geraniums, still look absolutely dead. I did some feeding today, including of the Geraniums in the hope that they may recover, however I’m not very hopeful.

I took the opportunity of the warm weather to cut back a few of the shrubs and bushes that I left long over the winter. I also trimmed back the Ivy on the back fence. I don’t really like to do this as I’m removing a lot of berries that would be good for the birds, but I do want the ivy on the back boundary to thicken up and form a good hedge barrier. I know that trimming it back will help with this in the long term.

The warm weather has pushed on many of the bulbs and several more small crocuses, this time with yellow flowers, are now out in the garden.

Sunday 14/02/21

Weather: Very Cold all week. Snow on the ground and freezing temperatures at night.

Notes: The harshest weather of the winter this week, snow and freezing temperatures all week, and the garden looks terrible. Most of the plants now look dead, although hopefully they’re not.

Next week is forecast to be much warmer, with some rain and maybe even some sun, a hint of Spring. Therefore it will be interesting to see how the garden recovers. I guess I will have lost some plants to the frost but hopefully not too many.

Sunday 07/02/21

Weather: Very wet again this week lots of rain.

Notes: The run of warmish, wet weather we have had for a couple of weeks has pushed a few things along in the garden. A couple of the afternoons this week were even a bit spring -like, maybe early spring, and this led to a few very small crocus’s flowering. They are quite ‘wild’ scaterred throughout the garden and the lawn. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture as it started to rain again and they all closed up. They really only come out with the sun.

I’ve found quite a few more snowdrops and many of the bulbs look ready to start floering in the next weeks.

The weather next week is forecast to head back to hard winter, freezing temperatures and maybe snow, so it will be interesting to see the effect this has.

Sunday 31/01/21

Weather: Warmer but much wetter again this week. Lots of Rain.

Notes: Nice touch this week as I found my first snowdrop in the garden.

It’s quite a classic flower to find at this time of the year and is meant to give us all hope that winter will end and that spring is coming. I can’t remember ever seeing any in the garden before and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t deliberately plant it. I’ll keep an eye out to see if any others appear.

The flowers on the winter Jasmin continue to come out and it’s looking good.

Sunday 17/01/21

Weather: Cold and Wet. We also had one day of snow. The snow was cleared by rain the following day.

Notes: The ground is becoming quite waterlogged with all the rain and snow. The leaves that I spread over the ground are slowing disappearing although it’s a slow process, and slightly slower than I remember from last year.

I took a few photos of the status of the bulbs that are coming through so that I can keep a record for future comparisons.

I’ve also noted that the winter Jasmin is just starting to flower. This is always early to flower and I seem to remember some years have been better than others for this plant. I think last year the flowers were not very abundant, hoping for better this year.

I did take a little shot of my pyracantha berries in the snow. Not exactly a competition winner but a little record of the week.

Sunday 10/01/21

Weather: Cold all week. Daytime temperatures between 1-4oC. A very little rain. No snow 

Notes: I started a new small log pile in the garden this week. Not far from the first pile, on the same fence at the foot of the Ivy Hedge. I used mainly lime tree branches that I‘ve gathered from the trees lining the roads over the last month or so. Many are really already nicely rotted down. Storm Bella certainly helped with this.

I’ve seen that the lime trees do seem to lose quite large branched fairly easily and there always seems to be a good haul available.

 As a garden habitat I like the log piles a lot and I’m really hopeful that they’ll help attract and keep insects in the garden.

My other garden activity for the week was to strongly cut back the Mock-Orange bush. I mainly give it a haircut at the top and this gives me twigs which are around 1m long. They look ideal for use a pea sticks for the sweet peas.

Sunday 03/01/21

Weather: Weather: First cold snap of the year started from Friday. Temperatures regularly below 0oC at night. Plenty of rain.  

Notes: Looking back on my notes I realised that over the last months my logs had all become very specifically focused, Nests, Birds, Hedgehog, Mice, etc. I quite liked this general garden log I started for a few months in 2020 as it gives a general picture of what’s happening in the garden, which plants are in bloom when, what’s growing and what’s not. Therefore I’ll ignore the gap of several months and see if I can pick it up again on a weekly basis.

What I can currently see in the garden is that many of the bulbs, daffodils, orange day lillies and bluebells are starting to sprout above ground. Up until now we have been having a mildish and typically wet Winter. I think up until now we have only had 3 nights with overnight frost. We are right now having our first patch of cold weather for the year, maybe this will slow up the rate of growth.

The Cosmos in the front garden are now definitely dead although they did go on flowering into December. The frost has killed them off definitively.

The other point of note in the garden is that I have the very first blossom on the Quince bush. I can also see lots of buds ready to break out if the weather permits.

Sunday 26/04/20

Weather : Another warm sunny week with little if any rain. Unseasonable warm.

Notes : The weather continues to be exceptionally warm and mild for the time of year. This has been of great benefit to the nesting great tits. The first eggs hatched on 22/04 and in the end 6 of the 8 eggs hatched. The remaining 2 eggs remained in the bottom of the nest. With the fine weather and two attentive adults the chicks have had a great start and up until the end of the week have been doing very well.

One of the most interesting moment of the week was when the nest box was visited by a beech marten. No damage for the birds as it couldn’t get in the nest. But very interesting as I hadn’t had a marten on camera since last November I think. Amazingly it found the nest, I guess by smell, around 05:20 in the morning. Since then I’ve doubled up on the nature cameras on the nest but the marten has not return. Worth noting that as yet no other likely predators, especially jays and magpies have shown an interest in the nest.

I’m sure that there are other nesting birds close by, I think Robins and dunnocks but I’ve not managed to spot any other nests. The Great tits are still nesting in the roof at the front so I hope that they are doing well. At one point during the week I spent some time watching a wren in the nearby bushes and it would be fanatastic if they are nesting nearby too. I think in general the compost heaps are helping to attract all these birds who depend on the insects.

Other top bird note of the week was the definite return of the swifts. They are quite obvious now and at times coming quite low over the house. I did have one go at activating the swift calls during the early evening, when they seem to be most active, but I think it might be difficult as it certainly annoyed Benjamin. Once the great tit nest finishes I will switch to the swift nest and I hope that I can entice a pair.

Lots of insects are now in the garden. Increasing numbers of butterflies, including the small pale blue ones, but I really need to get my charts out. Definite objective for this year, again once the nesting birds are taking less of my time is to learn more about the butterflies.

There has been no more egg laying from the mason bees. I understand that they are the first of the season to lay eggs so perhaps they have now finished. I should now watch for the leaf cutters in May/June. Hopefully I will see something from them.

I should say on the mammal front, apart from the marten, I’ve seen plenty of hedgehog action and also mice. At one point I put the camera by the side of the house and it caught several mice there. Probably a bit too close to the house.

The garden plants are doing well although we badly need rain, which should hopefully arrive next week. I think this year we have had the best bluebells and now certainly the best roses as well. It may be the weather although I like to think that it is a result of all the effort to improve the soil.

Sunday 19/04/20

Weather : Another very warm week with little rain. Really the typical weather from June or July.

Notes : The female great tit spent the week incubating the eggs with little alarm. The male did start to feed her in the nest but it was really only occasional. I assume that there was still mutual feeding outside of the nest. When I did witness feeding it was mainly caterpillar with the the rest being made up of a mixture of other small insects. Next week should become very interesting as the eggs should hatch around mid week.

No other dramatic bird activity during the week. I should say that I may have seen mu first swift. But it was a sole sighting of a singular bird so I’m not sure. Many people are reporting the arrival of swallows but we don’t really see them here. However we always see swifts and obviously this year I have the nest box to work with. I don’t know if the warm weather is going to have an impact on migration or not. I’ve heard that although the weather here is great in the south and Spain it is not so good.

Perhaps the highlight has been the work of the mason bees. I have tubes blocked up in each of the three hotels, I would say a total of a dozen tubes blocked up. I’ve not had this success before. Reading up on them they are likely the red mason bees and they are active much earlier in the season than the leaf cutter bees. Therefore if they also have a good year the hotels will be very full indeed.

The wisteria was fully out and although the display was good I would say it was a little under whelming, perhaps our expectations are too high. Most of the other flowering plants are in good shape, for example excellent roses, but I guess this is all driven by the warm weather. Due to the weather, but also the impact of the COVID lockdown, it is easy to forget that we are only in April. It does feel like the summer.

I haven’t yet cut the grass this year. I wanted to leave it as long as possible to help the insects and to encourage the daisies and dandelions, or which there is not a bad crop but far from my ideal. I guess I will keep it long for as long as possible. I’ve been watering the seeded patches hard and some new growth is coming through, although it is slow and I think the end results will be quite patchy. Perhaps a period of rain will help. However it is interesting that I am managing to stimulate growth near the fir tree. So I think the lack of grass is simply a lack of water as the area is protected from most weather.

Really we need some rain at this point as it is becoming harder to keep everything going without using too much water, although if we do now get rain it will come at the wrong time for the nesting great tits. They will have chicks to feed and will not do so well finding caterpillars in the rain.

Sunday 12/04/20

Weather : Starting warm and getting remarkably hot by the end of the week. Some rain this week. Light showers early in the week followed by some thundery rain during the warm days.

Notes : The great tit nest is progressing well. In total 8 eggs have been laid and that is the total clutch size. The female started incubating around 10th April so hatching should be around 22nd or 23rd April. It was noticeable that once the incubation started the male was much more vocal around the garden and busy defending the territory. There is another pair of great tits nesting under the roof and the front of the house and there is often overlapping and some conflict. Also it was interesting to note that there is clearly communication between the male and the female. The male calls from nearby trees and bushes and the female replies from the nest. I have not seen either the male enter the nest to feed the female or any mutual feeding of the pair.

Other bird highlight of the week has been several blackcap sightings, always feeding on the ivy. Some of the smaller birds such as chaffinches are less frequent now and several have disappeared altogether, such as coal tits.

Hedgehogs are still present in the garden. However normally now one or two individuals visiting during the night and also much later. The first visit is no longer around 21:00 but much more like midnight. So perhaps an indication that they are typically based a little further away from the garden.

The insects have become much more active as the weather has got warmer, especially the bees. At least 2 tubes in one of the bee hotels are completely filled and there is activity at all of the hotels. I think the bees using the hotel are mason bees. They are collecting mud from the bare lawn, ex-trampoline area. I’m often watering this area to try and stimulate grass growth and so they have found a ready supply of mud. The tubes which are blocked up have definitely been sealed up with mud, so this leads me to the mason bee conclusion. I will try and get a much better look at the bees to confirm which type they are.

Also, as ever lots of the firebugs are around. I think I would like to make a type of garden catalogue/Bio Blitz to identify all of the plants and insects in the garden.

Everything in the garden is now growing nicely. I think the plants which have been present for several years are getting better and better as a result of the gradually improving earth quality. Particularly this year the bluebells are doing much better than ever before with lots of flower heads. The wisteria started to flower this week and should be fully out by next week.

Sunday 05/04/20

Weather : Again Clear weather with no rain. It is now more than 3 weeks without rain. However cold and sometimes very cold in the mornings at the beginning of the week but by the end of the week spring had arrived with a couple of very warm days.

Notes : First night roosting of the Great tits on 30/03, followed by the first egg laid on 03/04. Then a laid has been laid each night so as I write this on Sunday 5th April there are three eggs in the nest. Seen the male and female together around the garden so they are obviously doing well.

The robins are still seen, still mutual feeding but I don’t know where they are nesting. I think they have abandoned the potential nest site in the ivy hedge close to the great tit nest box. However they must be nesting close by.

I don’t seem to hear much singing of either the great tit of robin in the back garden, I hear a lot of the dunnock, especially in the evenings. The great tit which nests in the roof at the front of the house is however extremely vocal, especially in the mornings, not quite sure why this is.

The hedgehogs are present nearly every night in the garden. I still see the different individuals and again saw 2 on camera at the same time. It should be noted that the first hedgehog appears around 20:30 so it must be living quite close. I haven’t checked the hedgehog house since I moved it but perhaps he is in there. (I think it is a male). The one-eyed pirate hedgehog is not so regular and if he turns up it is much later. So I assume that he is living further away. The white patches one of the hedgehogs seem less evident, so I think that this was some form of phase and not a permanent feature.

There is blossom on the apple tree but rather sparse, I seem to remember much more last year, although that could be my memory playing tricks. There are some bees and butterflies and the insect life seems quite abundant, especially towards the end of the week in the warmer weather. I have seen bumblebees, certainly  I think a buff tailed bumblebee. Also the bees are quite active in the insect hotel. These are not bumblebees, I’ve always assumed that they are leaf cutter bees, but I’m not sure and need to check. I did take a video on my iPhone, I’ll see if I can do something with it.

Sunday 29/03/20

Weather : Clear weather, no rain but cold in the mornings.

Notes : The great tits continue to build the nest in the fence nest box. Not sure if the Robins are still nesting so close to the box. The robins are still very visible in the garden and continue to mutual feed. Dunnocks are also still often present but I note that these are often more visible later in the day. No sign of activity in the wren nest box.

Bird highlight of the week was a female blackcap white was spotted feeding on the ivy berries on the back fence. Also first week without seeing any chaffinches in the garden.

Blossom is coming on the apple tree so slightly worried that the frosty weather will kill this off. Pyracathra bushes are all showing signs of good growth.

Saw the first butterflies in the garden. A small red/brown butterfly which I assume was a small tortoiseshell and also an orangetip.

I think it is now around 2 weeks since we had any rain and the ground is already very dry and hard. This is despite a very wet winter and a period at the start of March with lots of rain. The ground has dried our amazingly quickly.

Sunday 22/03/20

Weather : Again less rain and improving temperatures. Some springlike temperatures actually arriving. On 18/03 the first really spring like day with warm sun in the afternoon.

Notes : Seen a lot of the Robins in the back garden with the male clearly feeding the female. Female making Chick like noises. First signs of nesting material in the fence nest box on 18/03 and then the nest developed well over the remaining days. Still not completed by 22/03. The nest is being built by Great tits, or rather the female great tit. They were much more active during the middle of the week when the weather was warmer. Much less active towards the end of the week in the colder weather. A lot of the nesting material was moss coming straight from the lawn. Which was nice to see.

I think the Robin nest site is still active therefore we’ll have to see if the Great Tits continue and if both nests, so close will be used. Also lots of Hedgehog action, several times 2 hedgehogs seen on camera and often fighting. It is hard to tell the hedgehogs apart as they now all seem to have pale patches which change over days. Is this a type of moulting?

Sunday 15/03/20

Weather : Less rain and improving temperatures. Afternoons quite spring-like.

Notes : New rat spotted in the garden. Darker than the ‘dead’ rat. Only one sighting thus far. Lots of great tit visits to the next box. Several per day. Once inside the bird does alot of hammering on the floors and side. I’m not sure if this is digging out insect or ticks which might be present, a type of cleaning. Seems very intense. Also the box was disinfected during the winter. However no great tit nesting yet in the box. Not sure if it is still because of the robins, they seem a little less visible as the week has progressed. Indeed in general bird action in the garden is relatively quiet although the first crested tit for a long time was seen in the garden. No activity in the Wren nest box on the back fence. A third Hedgehog has arrived in the garden, this time with a convenient white patch on its back. Therefore we have Patch (With the Patch), Pirate (One-eye) and 2-eyes. During one night 2-eyes and patch met and seemed just to fight with 2-eyes appearing to be dominant. With so many hedgehogs, I don’t know the sex, maybe I can hope for babies? Also no hedgehogs seem to be using the hedgehog house so far this year.

Sunday 09/03/20

Weather : Weather still much the same. Mild temperatures. Some very wet and windy days. A little cold in the mornings. No cold snap or spring like weather yet.

Notes : By the end of the week lots of sightings of birds gathering nesting materials. So definitely nesting has started. In general they seem to be more active on this in the mornings. The great tits are starting to build their nest in the roof above our bedroom, as per normal. Several visits to the Fence nest box of a great tit but no signs of a nest and nothing in the Wren nest box. However after seeing alot of the robins in the garden and specially a prominent pair, I have spotted that they are trying to make a nest in the Ivy only about 1m from the fence nest box. This would explain why I’ve seen them so much on the trail camera. Perhaps also why no Great tit has taken up the box. I’m not sure that they will nest so close to a Robin nest. Let’s see if the Robins continue in the same spot. If they abandon the spot it may free up the nest box. However Robins are nesting which is good. Few Wrens sighted, perhaps the ony hope for the other camera nest box is a dunnock. These are also very visible and vocal in the garden.  Saw a Goldcrest as seen in the garden. Potentially could have been a firecrest, didn’t get an amazing view but I think it was 90% sure a Goldcrest. Lots of daffodils out in the garden. Also the pyracanthra plants starting to show good growth. All the trees and shrubs are showing buds now. Heard some bees in the crab apple tree. Installed a 300L water butt on the front down pipe.

Sunday 01/03/20

Weather : Again very wet and a little colder. Temperatures between 5-10oC. Snow on a couple of early mornings but not settling on the ground. Some periods of very high winds.

Notes : Lots of Hedgehog action. Seems to be definitely 2 individuals in the garden. One-eyed Hedgehog has return, first seen this week. Visit to the Fence nest box from a pair of blue tits. Definitely a robin pair in the garden. Moving front and back. Will hopefully nest nearby. No wrens spotted or heard this week. Lots of blossom on the crab apple tree and leaves on the front honeysuckle, especially over the arch.

Sunday 23/02/20

Weather : Very mild. Some rain.

Notes : Return of the Rat. Night camera has not been working so not sure about the hedgehog. Robins seem to be quite dominate in the garden. Even taking an interest in the Fence Nest Box.

Sunday 16/02/20

Weather : Mild Temperatures. Strong winds and rain.

Notes : Return of a Hedgehog. Not one-eye. Fairly small, younger looking animal. Arrival of hedgehog coincided with the disappearance of the rat. 1st prolonged visit by the Great Tit to the Fence Nest Box. Spend 15 minutes inside in one and only visit. Thoroughly checking it out. No action in the Wren nest Box but plenty of Wrenspotting in the garden.  

%d bloggers like this: