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.

Frugal Friday-Not quite shed of the year

This week I’ve started watching shed of the year. So far I’ve seen some pretty amazing Summer houses and some bonkers garden structures: a flight sim in a garage, a cinema in the garden, a nuclear bunker under a shed and a mushroom tree house.
My own shed however has been looking the worse for wear. We had discussed buying a new shed, but checking the roof it’s still in pretty good nick. A few boards at the bottom have rotted through, but it doesn’t really matter to the lawn mower and my garden tools.

So I had an afternoon up on the roof to refelt the roof. Less the relaxing experience of the 1961 song classic as a precarious scramble to get the sheets laid. While not the neatest job it will stop it leaking for a bit longer. It blends in fine with the trees and shrubs in that corner.

To improve the look of the thing its had a coat of culprinol natural slate. It looks pretty good and will prolong the sheds life a little longer. Not bad for a job done during Alice’s nap time.

Amy has been busy too giving a table and chairs a lick of paint too. Culprinol forget me not blue has given an old cheap table set a new lease of life. It matches our bench too.

Rather than spending lots on a new shed a bit of repair work has hopefully saved us money for a few more years. The paint was on offer at Wickes and we have plenty left for other projects.

Today also marks the start of Autumn so a good time for shed repairs. Check out old house in the shires blog on other Autumn jobs.

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Forget me nots

Forget-me-nots cannot be kept out of any garden and no one would want to banish them completely, although they are sometimes too generous with their offspring. I do not feel kindly towards them when I find seedlings coming up everywhere but when later they turn themselves into a haze of blue that fills every space and melts into the flowers around them, I am grateful for their persistence.

Margery Fish-Cottage Garden Flowers 1961

Forget me nots are returning to the garden for the second seeding of the year. I planted a small patch last Autumn knowing they would self seed and fill any gaps. They are fulfilling there role well suppressing weeds that would otherwise grow.

My favorite gardening tool

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.

Rudyard Kipling

Gardens can require a lot of work, but I have one tool I probably use more than anything else. My hori hori knife has been invaluable since I bought it last year. Also known as a Japanese soil knife the word hori translates as, “to dig”. Hori hori also works as an onomatopoeia for the sound of digging.

I first saw the hori hori on Gardner’s World used by Monty Don. The knife has a decent six inch blade with a concave shape. One edge is serrated, the other sharp. The blade is almost full tang, going into the handle making it secure.

This is a multifunction tool. Its main purpose is to remove weeds. It does this wonderfully for me. I’d tried a number of different weeding tools and none quite satisfied. When we moved in the garden had been neglected with many deep rooted dandelions. This allows me to cut in deeply and precisely into the lawn to remove weeds down to the roots. 

The knife also acts as a trowel as the curved blade allows you to dig. I use this for digging a lot of the smaller holes for plug plants. It’s also good for digging around plants for moving. The serrated edge can work through roots. It is equally good for splitting perennials.

I also find it works well for edging the lawn where the sharp and serrated edges allow me to mark the line I want and then saw or cut through giving me a neat, precise line.

The blade also marks depth with the ruler on the knife. This can be used for planting bulbs. It goes into the soil easily. A little wriggle and you have a hole ready for a bulb. I prefer it to my traditional dibber as I’ve mainly planted large bulbs like daffodils and aliums where this has worked better.

With the size of the handle and blade it does feel a bit like taking a machete to the weeds, but that is rather satisfying in itself. It is a tool I’ve seen described as, “fun to use,” and it is. It makes an otherwise dull job somewhat pleasurable. Allowing you to lose yourself in the zen of weeding. While not the cheapest tool it has replaced a number of tools in my gardening arsenal. I highly recommend the hori hori to garden lovers. 

Alice on the other hand favours the watering can. Used by her both to water plants and deadhead flowers as she brandishes it in all directions, smiting any flowers in her way.


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Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

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I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Link party

Just a quick update to draw your attention to the August link party. The link party is kindly organised by the old house in the shires. The idea is to link related blogs, this link party is aimed to link blogs on all aspects of gardens. Some super blogs there.

Watching the daisieshas been on some lovely garden visits as has old house in the shires. I like the vertical planting ideas on gardening limited. A nice activity making ladybirds. A rather nice project upcycling a broken chair. Some good food for thought for anyone interested in gardening.


Link to link party again
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