Winter feeding

The last month has been busy with Christmas preparations beginning. The disaster that is my Nativity play has begun. So blogging has been low of late. But now I’m getting past deadlines. Quite a bit has been happening in my garden and progress has been made on my school outdoor area, which I will try to update during the next few weeks.

After thick snow descended on Thursday the garden has been well coated with ice on snow. It had just thawed on Saturday. This has left the garden with lots of hungry birds struggling to find food.

Through Winter it’s important to help the birds. The water sources freeze, so I’ve been trying to get out to crack the ice in the bird bath. The food I put out disappears quickly. The seed goes in a few days. So as well as the seed I try to keep the peanut feeders filled with either peanuts or suet pellets. These seem to last a bit longer than the seed. So even when it’s been a busy week and I haven’t got out to replenish the seed I’m still leaving something for the birds.

Haith’s have been helping me out as they sent me a bag of their help to fly Autumn/Winter mix to review. This is a seed mix with high energy and oil content to¬† help give birds that fat and energy they need to survive the Winter. Haith’s bird food is put through a cleaner process. The grain dust created during harvest can be damaging if seed is not cleaned. Much of the bird food you buy won’t be cleaned in this way.

Haith’s sent me a bag of both the cleaned and the unclean mix. I wonder if from the photo you can spot the difference?

On the left is the cleaned and the right the unclean. I was surprised at how much of a difference I could see in the two batches. While I’m not able to do the test taste to appreciate¬† the difference I’m sure the birds will appreciate it at this time of year when food is scarcer.

Before filling the feeders I also gave them a good clean out. I’ve talked about it before, but it is important to clean feeders to limit disease spread.

Before I’d left the garden the birds were already sneaking in, clearly ready, for a feed.

Over the day I’ve seen a good mix of visitors: sparrows, great tits and blue tits got in to test it first. Then pigeons, starlings and jackdaws followed. Then had wrens, dunnocks and robins in and out.

Then a few herring gulls came in, although not for the seed.

Alice has enjoyed getting out to explore the garden again after several days of frost. She checked in on the bug hotel and gave the flowers a sniff.

Thanks again to Haith’s for sending the bird food to review. The birds seem to be enjoying it. It’s been nice to get out briefly into the garden and then sit in doing data input while looking up to see the birds enjoying the new seed.

Half term begins

The half term holiday has begun for me. Me and Alice got out for a wander yesterday.

We headed down to the Mere. Alice enjoyed the rather noisy geese and mallards.

It was a bit windy, but Alice enjoys the feel of wind.

Alice has started to imitate animal noises, so we got a good baa at the sheep.

Back home the garden is seeing more bird life. Next door decided they didn’t have the time for their cats. So the cats have been given to family. Suddenly we have much more bird action again. What a difference a cat makes.

The goldfinches have returned after several months of absence.

The birds are enjoying the feeders for longer, so the seed is disappearing quicker.

With the cats gone the birds are becoming more confident coming close to the house.

With the lack of cats and the leaves falling I’m getting lovely views of the birds now. I can sit in the kitchen and look out on a wealth of life.

Farm trip

Today we visited an apple event at a local farm. Apple pressing and baked goods were on offer.

We went for a nice walk out from the farm.

A little way along we came to a tributary of the River Hull. I saw a brief flash of blue as a kingfisher disappeared.

We settled down on the bank for lunch.

Owl boxes have been set around to encourage nesting.

Alice had a good attempt at copying a neigh from the horse.

I saw my wildflower for the weekend: poppies and chamomile.

In a gypsy caravan Alice went for the biggest pumpkin on offer.

Autumn Sun

Today has been unusually hot. Lots of people sat out at the seafront pub. We got out for a walk along the front. Alice got out of her pram to walk the whole front.

The gulls lining up on the sea defences.

Alice had a good run.

In the park she had a good explore of the Autumn leaves. A lot of fun from the simple pleasure of throwing them. It’s the simple things in life.

Wildflower Hour-cow parsley

My wildlflower hour for this week is a common one; cow parsley. Part of the Apiaceae family alongside carrots, parsley and parsnips. The stems grow hollow up to around a metre. The flowers usually come out mid Spring to Summer, so most have gone over by now. Around Hornsea though there are still plenty flowering. A native species in the UK it provides a food source for many pollinators. This makes it an important link in helping support more species further up the food chain. Within the US it is considered invasive with its ability to make may seed heads in a single season a serious issue. Its sale is banned in some states.

Autumn gardening

Autumn gardening, for me, mainly seems to be about preparing for the next year.

The Spring bulbs have gone in ready for next year. I had daffodils from last year. They were planted where the bench now sits. These have been redistributed around the border.

I’ve gone with a number of allium varieties. I like alliums for there structural interest and there generally popular with pollinators. Might well be allium overload. We’ll see next year.

Purple sensation says it grows as a cluster up to 80 cm.

Blue drumsticks are a little shorter at 60cm.

Then one giganteum up close to the patio. I’ve planted this with a few drumsticks surrounding. Hopefully have the tall gigantism towering with the blue drumsticks as a lower tier. While a bit pricier it will hopefully come back each year giving a good show.

I’m not a massive fan of tulips, but we saw some lovely varieties when we went to the open gardens. They’ll add a bit of colour before the Summer colours kick in. I’ve gone for tulip alectric; a pretty variety with pink and white petals. I should really wait for tulip planting, so they don’t rot in the ground, but I know I’ve got a lot on with work the next month. But I haven’t had major issues with bulbs rotting in the soil from last year, so hopefully be OK.

 

I’ve neglected the weeding for a few weeks while I’ve got other jobs done, so had a good upheaval. It wasn’t too bad though. Now I’ve got more plant coverage than last year there isn’t as much space for weeds to come up.

In the front the wildflowers that grew these year have died down. I had one patch of lavender growing by the door. I’ve added a second variety at the other end. The stripy leaved plant is a wild plant Lords and ladies. While not something I planted I like the leaves so it can stay for now. As time goes on if the lavender does alright I’ll fill the whole patch. Then it’ll be fairly low maintenance, needing little watering and as it fills the gaps shouldn’t need much weeding. While it may not look very much now it will hopefully develop into a lavender hedge giving lovely scent as you come in the house.

The lavender around the front and back garden has had its hair cut for this year stopping it getting too woody and encouraging a bit more growth next year.

On the patio I’ve filled three pots with some new evergreens giving the patio some foliage and a bit more interest through the winter and into Spring. Two “little leaves” hebes that just have a small spread well suited to starting in a pot.

Then an annual shrub, chamaecynaris pisifera, known as “blue sky”. It will grow a little bigger than the hebes at 50cm. I like the blue tinge to the foliage. Should be good for retaining some seasonal interest through winter.

The birds are starting to return to the feeder. Things can be a bit quiet at the start of Autumn while there is plenty of food to be had naturally, but starting to see a bit more action on the feeders again. This robin was practising its poising ready for the Christmas cards.

The roses are still flowering, although I reckon I might be looking at the last bunch for this year now. Once there done they’ll be needing a trim, then probably a bit further in early Spring. They had quite a harsh cut back this year and did better for it, alongside being fed better.

The leaves on the shrubs and trees are still hanging on in there. Once they drop I’ll be doing the last major Autumn job giving them a

Wildflower hour-Himalayan Balsam

A while back the environment agency were heavily cutting back along one of the drainage ditches near us. I’d wondered at the time, then realised this weekend. Watching gardeners world there was a feature on Himalayan Balsam. This non native species of flower became popular for its pretty flowers in gardens. However its seed pops and spreads quickly. This has led to it growing wild where it drowns out native species. The gardeners world feature discussed how rust is being introduced in sites across the country. This won’t kill it, but will limit the growth.

Made it to the mere for a quick walk around in the sun with Alice.

This swan had picked up some additional decoration.

The birds pay no attention to crossing that line.

And went for some headshots of the mallards.