Tag: gardening

Nature Notes

Nature Notes: April

As I write this in mid March the rain is lashing at the window and the lambs are sheltering behind the hedges.  However, Spring is definitely creeping in – hawthorn leaf buds are slowly unfurling in our hedge, a few crocus and primrose have exploded with colour on our wildflower bank, snowdrops are hiding in the hedges, and there are female house sparrows prospecting the nest boxes.  However, whilst Spring is a lovely time of new life, it has been a sad week in this part of Gwyddgrug – the fields we walk through daily, which have been left largely to do their own thing over the past five years and as a result have thrived with wildlife, have had the majority of the trees in the old hedgerows chopped almost to the ground this week – an upsettingly late point in the year to remove vast swathes of vegetation with fantastic nesting and habitat potential.  The hazel catkins that were brimming from the swaying branches have gone, and so with it any habit for the woodcocks who nestle under the cover these trees provided, the stems on which the group of little long-tailed tits used to chatter on and the tree in which the song thrush use to sing.  Yes, these creatures will hopefully find another place to call their home, but tree felling is becoming increasingly common in our local countryside and it should not just be assumed that there will be another place for nature to move to.  My days have been made poorer for this particular management practice in the place I loved so much.

What is biodiversity and why is it important to us?

Instead of my environmental tips, I thought I would answer a question each edition on some of the issues that we face in terms of nature and climate, in Wales and globally – something I come face to face with daily in my role as a Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Science.  Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life we have in the world, or within a particular part of the world, such as our parish.  In 2019 the World Wildlife Fund released the State of Nature report, in which they reported that biodiversity has decreased dramatically in the last 50 years, and wildlife populations have decreased by 60% globally.  60%!  Such a dramatic decrease means we are in a biodiversity crisis.

But why does this matter to us?

Biodiversity affects our gardens and agriculture, as well as wild places.  Without biodiversity in plants we will find crops we grow now will not withstand the change in rainfall, air temperature and storm frequency that is happening due to climate change.  For example, apples need to get cold (below about 7°C) for about 40 days every winter to produce fruit the next year – we’re no longer getting that number of cold days consistently in the UK.  Without hedges and trees livestock will have no shelter from storms or shade in periods of hot weather.  Without insects there will be no natural pollination of plants – growing food for us, or for livestock, will be impossible so all plants will need to be artificially pollinated, causes cost of food to rise dramatically.  It will also not be financially possible for plant nurseries to grow the flowers we like having in our gardens.  So, even if we disregard the benefits of being surrounded by nature for mental wellbeing, there are so many reasons to save the plants and animals that live alongside us.

Morgan Jones

Nature Notes: February

I am writing this issue’s Nature Notes looking at a fantastic sunrise over the frosty valley below – the clouds are bright and the sky completely clear – days like this are my favourite.  It is well and truly the depth of winter, but it is nice to have a cold spell at last, and the days are just getting that little bit longer.

Nature is at its quietest at this time of year – plants are generally hidden underground or stagnant, but there are a few signs that Spring is around the corner.  The hazel catkins are dangling from the trees and now and then I see a shoot of a spring bulb appearing above the leaf litter – not in our garden though – Gwyddgrug is much too cold!

My visits to top up the bird feeder are at their most frequent this time of year – there is often a robin and a couple of blue tits waiting for me to fill it in the morning.  If they could talk I am sure they would be telling me to hurry up!  The long tailed tits are back in the fields near our house – they go round in a group and are often joined by a blue tit or great tit, all chatting away as they feast on the hazel catkins and chirping a warning sign as my dog wanders past them.

Environmental tip of the month

Moths are great food for birds (and bats when they’re not hibernating), vital pollinators (bees aren’t the only ones!) and can be found throughout the year.  Moth populations have declined by a third in the last 50 years due to a variety of factors such as climate change.  Another key control on this decline is human’s keenness for artificial light at night, when most moths are active.  Outside lights are useful in the depths of winter but try to only have yours on for the period you need it, or have it on a timer so it goes off quickly after someone has walked past.  We live on the edge of a dark sky reserve – an area celebrated for the ability to see a huge number of stars and where the dark sky is preserved through reduction of artificial light wherever possible.

Let’s get involved and turn that artificial outside light off.

Morgan Jones



Notes from the Garden Shed

February Notes

Now that the Christmas festivities are over and the New Year is firmly in place, it seems like a good time to start thinking of the season ahead in the garden.

Chips are a very welcome form of ‘comfort food’ during the cold winter months. I am sure a lot of readers will agree with that sentiment, and occasionally indulge in the consumption of the odd bowl of the popular potato based speciality. Chips, of course, are made from potatoes which are one of the most versatile of our vegetables crops.

There are many different varieties of the humble ‘spud’. Old Gumboot has grown several of the dozens of varieties available to gardeners to try.

The early maturing varieties are normally split into two groups, first early or second early. These take approximately 14-16 weeks from planting to harvesting, of course this is weather dependent and not a hard and fast rule. Well proven first earlies worth trying are ‘Rocket’ which is probably the earliest or ‘Casablanca’ which is a good all-rounder with very white skin and a creamy flesh.

Second earlies take slightly longer to mature. Varieties of note are ‘ Maris Peer’ which is a heavy cropper, or why not try ‘Kestrel’ which is an award winner with a good ‘old fashioned ‘ flavour and purple eyes.

There is a much wider choice when it comes to maincrop varieties; these need a longer growing period, which means harvesting later and storing for winter use. ‘Maris Piper’ is probably the most popular and widely grown potato for chip making, and is well loved by the fish and chip industry.

‘Cara’ is a good variety in dry summers as it is fairly drought resistant and also resistant to some of the common potato diseases. If you prefer a red skinned spud ‘Desiree’ is probably the one for you.

There are some newer types in the ‘Sarpo’ range that are supposedly resistant to potato blight, which is a problem down here in West Wales where the atmosphere is more humid than some other parts of the country.

Why not try a different variety this year? There is a very wide range available at your local garden shop, just waiting to be planted out in March/April, then look forward to your own home grown bowl of chips!

Happy Gardening

Old Gumboot

December Notes

 Old Gumboot is rather partial to vintage agricultural equipment and likes to visit shows that display vintage items.

We are fortunate in this part of West Wales to have several ‘working shows’ and vintage working days during the season. 2019 has been a good year, weather-wise for the organisers and visitors to these events.

In June we have the first significant Show at Pontargothi show field. This Show is organised by the ‘Towy Valley Vintage Club’ and usually provides a good line up of working barn engines, many of them driving sheep shearing sets, generators, water pumps, root cutters etc. which would have been their job in bygone days.

There are also vintage tractors on display, classic and vintage cars, and masses of other items.

A little later in the year there is the Teifi Valley Vintage show. Here you will find a massive display of vintage tractors (usually more than 100) along with classic cars, commercial vehicles etc and working threshing drums, balers etc. Auto jumble stalls are a good source of those hard to find spare parts too.

Later still in the season we are treated to the Camrose vintage working day, down in Pembrokeshire. This show features large working fields where a corn crop is usually harvested using binders and vintage combine harvesters. A working threshing drum is set up to separate the grain from the straw, often powered by a steam traction engine or a stationary vintage tractor. Tractors, horses and ploughs are to be seen turning in the stubble followed by other implements breaking down the soil to create a seedbed in preparation for re-seeding.

September means it is also time for the Talgarreg working show; this event incorporates a produce show in a separate marquee. Working and static tractors also feature here, along with a large display of tractor collections and barn engines. This year 2 threshing machines were in use, driven by local vintage tractors, one Field Marshall and a Fordson Major, both from the 1950s. In previous years potatoes have been grown and harvested the old fashioned way, potatoes collected by an army of pickers, and sold to the public.

As you can see we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of events down here throughout the season, along with Classic car shows, tractor road runs for charity, and Autojumbles. There is usually something of interest to vintage enthusiasts on most weekends through the season.

Maybe Old Gumboot should attend one of the many local auctions in the area to find some ‘treasure’ to display at the local show!

Will have to get back to the garden next time, but the ground is saturated at the moment!

Old Gumboot


October Notes

Every year around this time, when our bedding plant displays are still looking good, the postman drops a stream of bulb catalogues through the letterbox, it is at this point that you suddenly realise that summer is really coming to an end and that you need to focus on selecting bulbs for flowering next spring.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs are the most popular, types for planting in our gardens, and are probably the most showy of the spring bulbs, except maybe the tulip family.

This Autumn I am going to plant a fairly short growing daffodil, commonly known as ‘the Tenby daffodil’ ( proper name Narcissus Obvallaris,) this variety is not so widely available as some, but it is a super little daffodil, ideal for naturalising in grass areas where it looks most natural without appearing too ‘domesticated’. If you are unable to obtain them locally they can be found on line at www.dutchbulbs.co.uk. If you are lucky enough to also find the variety Narcissus Lobularis (the Lenten Daffodil) you will discover this little gem is as close as possible to the English wild daffodil. This is one of only a handful of daffodils native to the UK, and was reputed to be responsible for the poetic verses famously penned by Wordsworth. I find some of these smaller, less blowsy types can be just as rewarding as some of the more modern varieties, which in my mind tend to look almost ‘artificial’.

A carpet of crocus in flower is a most welcome sight in early spring. Crocus are equally good planted in a border or in a grassy position, but remember that you will not be able to mow where they are growing, which could make the area look untidy until they have died down later in the spring. Crocus are inexpensive smaller sized bulbs, which makes them easy to plant in bulk, to create impressive ‘drifts’ of the various colours available. There are of course many other types of spring flowering bulbs available from your local garden shop or online supplier. Now is the time to plant most species, preferably before the weather turns too cold and wet. Always try to obtain bulbs grown in the UK, as more and more are being grown here now. Also make sure that the bulbs have not been collected from wild sources but have been commercially grown.

Let’s hope you manage to produce an impressive display next spring in your beds, borders and pots.

Happy Gardening,

   Old Gumboot


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