Six on Saturday: 29.5.21

Well, we’ve had another week of rain so everything has shot up after a month of drought. It’s been a soggy week at the nursery with every waterproof needing a wash, but the few bits I’m growing there are doing well. The front garden featured last week is looking lush but the snails are attacking the hostas so I could do with some nematodes.

Bench corner

This little border corner is spilling over with an abundunce of beauty. The chives at the front are almost in flower. They are absolute bee magnets and will be swarming. The litte geranium is being dominated by the big geranium covered in purple flowers. It’s quite a weedy one but the purple one is looking nice. There are lillies coming amongst it that still seem to be doing well. I’ve squished a few lilly beetles but they’ve grown better since I moved them to the shade.

Hardy geranium

A close up the geranium. It is covered in a mass of tiny purple flowers. They show up well in the view from the house. Once they’ve flowered I’ll cut them back so other flowers can shine but pleasant for now.

Dwarf periwinkle

A house nearby had plant sales outside for charity. I picked up 2 dwarf periwinkles. These are ground cover plants that can spread like crazy so I may regret them. But I’ve got a spot amongst the base of the lilac that is bad for weeding and I think this may suppress some and actually survive in the spot.

Ammi visnaga

I also picked a few Ammi visnaga ‘green mist’. These have a pretty umbel flower and feathery foliage. Sarah Raven uses them within cut flower arrangements. I don’t have many umbels since removing the fennel. They are good for brining in a few different insects. Many are popular with butterflies so we’ll see what these attract. It’s also nice to have that variety of shapes.

Sisyrinchium striatum ‘lemon’

Alice choose these. They grow long grass strappy sword leaves with little buttery yellow flowers. I’m not sure where these will go or if they will even suit my conditions, but it was what she wanted.

Astrantia Major ‘claret’

I picked this Astrantia up at Scampston walled gardens last year and it looks to be settling in well. I just got a few flowers last year but it’s got a good coverage this year and will keep flowering over a few months.

I’m on half term now so got a bit of time to get the garden back in order. We’ve got a few days out planned along with a couple of garden visits. I’ve got a shaded woodland border to plan for forest school at work. They’d like something with established plants that will bring in the bees and butterflies. I can have a good bit of fun with that.

Six on Saturday: 8.5.21

It’s been a week of extremes. The very dry weather replaced by wet weather and then hailstones yesterday. This hasn’t left much time for gardening though as you’ll see I have been busy constructing in the garden.

  1. Plant sales

A few weeks back there was a cheap tabletop sale outside the Floral Hall. They had some good value plants so picked up a few gap fillers. A few cosmos can be used for any empty spaces. There is a tray of red salvias. I’ve not tried salvias before but these should be good bee magnets. Then a trailing pink and white Fuschia for the hanging pot.

2. Great tit

We made it to my parents last week and I love this picture I got of a tit desperate for some nest material.

3. Slide

Next week on Sunday is Alice’s birthday and it is time for her to have an upgrade on a slide. She’s outgrown the little dinosaur one. So, in preparation, a new climbing frame has been built. She got a brief burst of time on it last Sunday and since then it has been wet on an evening. She’s been so desperate to go on it again we had to put waterproofs on and go out in the cold and wet. And so this begins a decade of this dominating the garden.

4. Features

She had great fun on it though and should be good for burning off some energy and her imagination. It has space underneath for a den and the steering wheel on the top. It immediately became a pirate ship.

5. Juniperus squamata ‘blue star’ sense

I talked last week about wanting to change part of the border to vary the shape, color and texture of the plants. Currently, it is lots of similar dark-leaved plants. This may replace the hebe as a ground cover plant. The silver foliage should look nice against the darker Sambucus nigra. The label states it’s a good winter shelter for birds. Junipers do form berries many finches like but as this is a dwarf form I don’t think it will form the berries.

6. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Sungold’

Another conifer for the same stretch of border. This one forms a dome of yellow foliage offering some year-round color. Some yellow conifers burn in sun but this one is supposed to be fine. It is, like the juniper, listed as good cover for birds in winter so hopefully attract in a bit of winter wildlife.

It is far too wet though today for me to get on with any of the garden jobs. I’ve just about got the bare lawn patches going again so I want to avoid stepping on it while it is sodden. I might get a few plant profiles done for my RHS course. Hope you enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 1.5.21

So covered a few extra sessions at work again this week so not really done much in the garden the last week. But did manage a bit of weeding. Last weekend I gave the garden a good watering as it was in need of it. Rain was forecast but it din’t come till the end of the week in any great quantity.

  1. Rain

After a month or so of drought we fnally got a heavy downpour overnight. It’ll do the garden a lot of good as the ground had been dry as a bone. It should help refill the water butts again as they’d been drained.

2. Pop up tent

During the week though it had been nice enough to have the pop up tent and tunnel out to play in the garden. Now Alice wants to play out again it gives me a bit more time to enjoy the garden.

3. Long border

I don’t post pictures of the full borders very often but they are looking pretty good right now. The long border is mainly a sea of forget-me-nots with bulbs coming through. The climbing rose on the fence is getting to a decent point and should provide a good display this year.

Looking back the other way the hydrangea suffered as I mentioned last week. Drought and frost has left it damaged but I think it should still flower well enough. This Acer is growing strong with the bleeding heart underneath it. The climbing rose is visible again. Right in the corner before the patio the cotoneaster is coming up. The idea being to have a berry source close to the house to attract the birds close to the windows. Then a honeysuckle is growing along the patio seating area to provide scent.

4. Shade corner

The shaded corner is coming back to life. The shed is need of a few boards replaced at some point but the roof is still keeping the rain out so that’s the main thing. The large ferns that dominate the back area had their trim and are just returning to life but by and large it’s looking pretty lush. The lilac is coming back to life. The black cherry has kept a reasonable form. The hydrangea limelight behind the bird feeder is gradually growing in size. The climbing hydrangea along the fence isn’t visible but provides a good bit of cover for the birds.

5. Unsatisfactory border

This border is the part I like the least. I’ve already discussed the camellia previously. It’s for the chop. Not hardy enough and I’m not keen on the blooms anyway. The hebe at the edge isn’t hardy enough, spends much of the year recovering. It does flower well and the bees do like it but I think the space could be better employed. The rose in the middle is Charles DeMills. It did reasonably well last year. Part of the issue is none of these three compliment each other so it needs some reworking.

6. A little further along

Whereas just a little further along the plants work better together. The Sambucus nigra provides a dark centerpiece with vibrant contrasting pink flowers later in the year. The Acer spring green has a long dead stem but the section that is alive is doing well. The geranium phaeum underneath the sambucus provides a reliable ground cover plant which the bees love. Behind te Acer is a larger Dryopteris fern which is just poking fronds up again There is another climbing hydrangea going up the fence here but it is still tiny. It’s a varieagated one that should contrast well. This section of border just works better than further along as it has a variety of colours, shape, form and texture. Though it is a bit straggly now it will look good later in spring.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a bit more of the borders than I normally post. We’ve had exciting news at work with some funding for a number of gardening projects. Potentially a sensory garden I can lead on. So need to get reading up on suitable plant options. Hope you all get to enjoy your long weekend.

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Six on Saturday: 24.4.21

Hello all. The last week has been a harsh one for the garden with cold nights and dry days so the plants are taking a double whammie of drought and frost. So, the job of watering begins again.

1. Drought

The plants have largely held up alright but the hydrangeas have suffered from the dry weather and cold lights. I have watered them more this week but the Hydrangea libelle has suffered most. This one seems to be a little less hardy than the others suffering more than the others each year.

2. Tulip Tres Chic

We were bought these as a wedding gift and so far they have been coming back, though I haven’t seen many yet this year but I think there is another patch of them somewhere so they may turn up still.

3. Mixed tulips

Alice selected some mixed tulips for pots last autumn. As individual tulips they are nice colours but they haven’t worked well in pots as suggested as the height and timing of each has varied too much. They can be shifted into the border once they’ve finished this year where I think they will work better. The yellow and red has been the nicest of the mix.

4. Sambucus racemosa sutherland gold

The Sambucus leaves unfurling are stunning. The leaves initially display the dark centre before turning to a vibrant golden green. It’s drought-tolerant, wind tolerant and can handle being hard pruned. The flowers are popular with pollinators. It’s a winner for me by the coast.

5. Iris unguicularis Walter Butt

This has decided to put out another flower. While you only get a few at a time it is nice having something that flowers from December through to April. That little flower burst in winter was much appreciated but even now when the spring flowers are in full swing it is still worth pausing for.

6. Lamprocapnos spectabilis

I have lots of the standard pink bleeding heart spread along the border now. It seems to grow well in my ground and flowers for good periods. It was enjoyed by the bees a lot last year when we were on full lockdown and I could sit and watch. This particular patch is getting to a good size again. I’ll probably leave it another year and then divide it again.

They are beautful flowers. With the weird shape it’s always a bit of surprise to see bees enjoying them, but they are popular.

Lots to enjoy this week. The lawn is mown. But looking very dry. We have rain forecast later next week so hopefully get the water butts refilled but for now I’m going to need to give things a bit of help. Hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the slight relaxation of freedoms.

Six on Saturday: 10.4.21

It’s been a funny old week. We had a glorious weekend last week followed by a week of cold weather. I have got a few jobs done during my school holiday though not as much as I’d like. But, I have completed my next RHS assignment on design. Not feeling great about this one as I think I may have misinterpreted the questions. We’ll see when I get feedback.

Fun in the sun

So last weekend was Easter Sunday so we had our Easter egg hunt. Normally we would see see family but it’s not a possibility this year. Alice still had a good hunt. The Easter Bunny may have gone overboard on the eggs, so I didn’t put them all out and she still had a very full basket by the end.

Taking stock of her hunt.

Sun lounger

Amy bought herself a new sun lounger which was immediately claimed by Alice. You can see the difference in the weather to now. Dress, no sleeves, no hat, no multiple layers.

Dancing

Alice relocated a ribbon stick she made last year and had a good dance around the garden.

Random seeds

I gave Alice some of the seeds from the draw that can be direct sown to scatter. This fills gaps in the border and gave me some interesting surprises last year. The blackball cornflowers were quite pretty last year so hopefully they’ll do well again.

Ballerina tulips

The tulips are going strong now. I think these are ballerina tulips though the photo makes them look redder than they really are. There are patches of these coming along the border. It seems to have come back strongly.

Snow

And from glorious sun to snow. It came down pretty quickly for a period on Tuesday, though it didn’t settle. The wind was pretty strong and the garden is all looking very dry now. We haven’t had any of the forecast rain this week and the garden could probably do with a good shower. There is some forecast but I think I’m going to need to start watering the front again. I’ve been watering some of the more tender plants as it helps protect them from the frost a bit. When the leaves have a fine layer of water it provides a bit of insulation and slows the thawing a bit. Don’t know how much truth there is in this but can’t see it’ll do much harm.

Hope your week has been good. I return to work next week and I’m taking on a few more hours. So, a little less garden time but a bit more time to make use of the nursery polytunnel.

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Six on Saturday: 27.3.21

Well, it is holiday time Two weeks off to start catching up on garden jobs. The lawn has been reseeded but I still have some pruning jobs to do. I talked about the hydrangea last week but there are still the hydrangea paniculata to go. I’m going to be spending a day in work reseeding a few grass patches as hundreds of tiny feet takes its toll on the grass. But should have time for my RHS course and gardening. It was my birthday this week, but it was another lockdown birthday so no going out. But I got some nice gifts. Nothing on the gardening side but there isn’t really anything I needed.

1. Moon

One present I did get is a card reader to transfer photos from my big camera to my phone making it quicker to get access to my photos. Here is a quick moon shot taken Thursday night. Popped out in the garden as I could see a clear gap in the clouds. It was a nice mild night. You can hear the frogs out there currently. I need to set the trail camera again and see if the hedgehogs are around.

2. Forget-me-nots

The forget me nots are out in force which will bring in many bees over the next month. I know some people don’t like them but I like the fact that they spread to fill any spaces in the border and bring in so many insects.

3. Muscari

A stray muscari coming up well ahead of the others.

4. Discount planter

I picked up one of these cheap wildflower planters from Tesco now they have reduced stickers. It has a mix of poppies, cornflower, cosmos and sunflowers. So wildflower used in the loose term. I like these for using for bulbs for spring displays as they store easily when not needed. I have a few round pots but thought this might bring in a few insects on the patio this year before it is repurposed for bulbs.

5. Alice’s tulips

Alice’s tulips are growing strong. I think these were Chopin or Giuseppe Verdi tulips. I can’t remember which way around we planted them. Either way, a very bright burst of sunshine out the back door.

6. My real garden

We crowdfunded a gardening book a few months back and it has now arrived. The book was put together by Ann-Marie Powell and Tasmin Westhorpe documenting peoples gardening experience in lockdown. They asked for contributions and it features a great mix of professional and amateur gardeners.

And here is our contribution. Alice taking her place amongst garden media and Chelsea Gold winners.

Hope you all have good weekends. The weather is meant to be good this weekend before it becomes wetter. So time to get jobs done.

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Six on Saturday: 13.3.21

Well, I made it out into the garden a few times last week. Got a few jobs done. The front garden is largely weeded so now need to do a bit more work on the back garden. Lots coming up now.

1. Science week

This week in the nursery the topic has been flowers. I’ve done a few activities with the kids, sowing some seeds, sketches and we tried food colouring in the carnations water. Red and yellow didn’t take, but the blue has given them some edging.

2. Bleeding heart

Or Lamprocapnos spectabilis for those of you who remember the new name. I like the fresh growth of these. They come up as strange bony fingers and spread. The leaf colour stands out amongst the darker heuchera and ophiopogon.

3. Crocus Joan of Arc

I had doubted their existence a few weeks back. It didn’t look like many of these were coming back in the front garden. But I’m glad to say many of them are poking up now. The first bees have been coming in to enjoy.

4. Snowdrop planting

The lack of signs of crocus at the start of the month had led to me ordering more snowdrops from Gee-Tee bulbs as they snowdrops were coming up stronger. We got 100 nivalis into the ground last weekend. It sounds like a lot but it isn’t really when you put a few to a hole. Alice helped plant them and then we gave them a good water as it had been dry for a few weeks. This has, of course, meant it has rained all week since.

5. Mud kitchen

And we got to play in the mud kitchen for the first time in a few months. Despite her face in the photo she was actually enjoying herself.

6. Iris reticulata ‘George’

I think this has been one of my favourite of the early irises. The dark colouring and patterning is gorgeous. I planted these in pots and in the planters at work, so these are on display as the hundreds of parents and kids come around the site. Pretty little morning treat for those who notice.

Forecast is pretty grim for today with rain and wind. The rain I can stand but the wind is a hazard for sorting roses. So may give that a miss today. We are looking at frogs next week at work so I’m preparing the activities while Alice trials playing with it all. I went in the garden at night earlier in the week and could hear them all croaking away. I hope you all have good weekends whatever you are up to.

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Nature Schooling: Butterflies

Next weeks topic in the nursery is butterflies. As ever I’m looking at the topic with Alice before the lessons in the nursery. I’ve covered butterflies quite a few times with Alice so it’s getting harder finding new ways to cover the same information. Her knowledge has gone up and she is naming specific butterflies now. But she knows about the lifecycle and many details like the body parts now. So I’ve done a bit of extra research to find some different ways to engage her. Obviously, this time of year is a bit useless for going outside looking for butterflies so it has mainly been outdoor activities. I’m going to start by recapping two previous ideas.

Butterfly life cycle

We made this life cycle as part of 30 days wild. It was a simple piece of craft but one she has kept on the notice board and still talks about regularly.

 

Butterfly printing

Butterfly printing is a nice activity to look at colour, pattern and symmetry. It’s a nice activity even with younger kids as the child will usually end up with something that looks good so they come up away with a sense of achievement.

The very hungry caterpillar stage show

So, returning to look at butterflies again I wanted to find something different. Any topic on butterflies in education inevitably makes use of the very hungry caterpillar. It’s a great story with many opportunities for art, maths, music and science. The very hungry caterpillar stage show is currently available to stream. It is a bit pricey for what is essentially a rental but Alice enjoyed it a lot. It’s not like we are getting out to the theatre currently. The show features several Eric Carle stories. The puppetry is great and Alice sat engrossed.

To make it more of an occasion I made a set of tickets and put them in an envelope for Alice to find. We set up the front room as a theatre with the curtains shut and the lights down. We had watched the snail and the whale as a live stream a few months back so Alice is getting used to theatre this way. I had bought a cheap set of butterfly wings for the event thinking Alice would enjoy dancing and twirling in them. She loved them and spent several days after as a new superhero ‘butterfly girl’.

She obviously enjoyed it as I got a few days of her performing her own shows and her drawing pictures.

And she linked to the previous rainbow topic asking to make a rainbow of butterflies with the Sizzix machine.

Baker Ross crafts

Looking back through the blogs gives the impression that we largely do very close-ended craft when in reality Alice has access to lots of art materials and usually decides what she wants to make. Pictures like her very hungry caterpillar above and her rainbow of butterflies. However, I saw two Baker Ross sets I thought she would like on offer so I ordered them. The first was a butterfly mobile. I like this one as it has the pulling mechanism setting it apart from previous models we’ve made. She made the decision to use felt tip as we’d painted a lot of wood recently and she didn’t want to wait between coats or have to paint multiple coats. She focused very well and it took a good section of an afternoon.

The finished effort hanging in her bedroom.

The Baker Ross kits often come in threes which suits us perfectly as a family as we each get to make one. Here is my effort.

The second kit was for a hanging feeding station for bees and butterflies. I’m not convinced most of these ever get used by the intended species but I enjoy involving her in the garden and I believe wildlife is one of the best hooks for getting children gardening. It’s still a bit cold for hanging them but we have them ready for as the weather warms up.

Maria Merian

Recently, I have been trying to find decent role models for Alice to look back on. Her current interest is art and for many months now she has been telling us she wants to be an artist when she grows up. The story of Maria Merian is one I stumbled upon but I have become quite fascinated by her life. She challenged the accepted belief in the 1600s that butterflies came from ‘spontaneous generation’. They believed butterflies sprang from the mud. Insects were seen as evil. As a child, Maria had studied caterpillars first hand and linked many caterpillars to the butterflies they became. Her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations laid out her observations on metamorphosis. David Attenborough has commented on her being one of the most significant entomologists in history. His series Natural Wonders has an interesting episode in series 2. We’ve watched a few different kids videos together on her life and I found one book written for children about her life. It’s been interesting looking at with Alice as it has presented the idea that people previously believed something that was wrong. It’s also shown Alice an artist who painted the natural world which is what Alice often chooses to paint pictures of.

Loose parts

I made a few butterfly outlines from cardboard and left with a few different items for Alice to find.

Once found she set about decorating them. She is becoming very precise in her artistic endeavours insisting on exact symmetry and pattern.

She went back to it a few times over the day. I’ll probably use this in the nursery for a settling activity and then leave it out for child-initiated time.


Book recomendations

There is no shortage of butterfly books for children and books are as ever one of our most useful teaching resources, particularly at this time of year when it will be harder to find butterflies except the odd overwintering one in the sheds. The hungry caterpillar is obviously popular, though I don’t like to focus too much on the story as it is one they often have at home. A butterfly is patient is beautiful, though has no plot to speak of and the text isn’t that engaging with the very young. Its value is looking through and discussing. What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly is great for getting across key facts in an accessible way. Summer birds tells the story of Maria Merian for kids.

Butterflies are always a nice topic and the kids should be fresh after the half-term break. Looking forward to teaching it with them. I’ll leave you with a video made for the children home learning. Hope you enjoy it.

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Six on Saturday: 13.2.21 fun in the snow

It will come as no surprise why today’s six theme is. Last week it appeared everywhere in the UK was snow covered but us but it came eventually. Not as thick as elsewhere. Being coastal it doesn’t tend to last long.

1. Snow

The snow started light but it got heavier over a few days. The front garden is north facing and thus shaded so it isn’t melting away there.

2. Snowdrops in the snow

These nivalis are looking particularly pretty with the Ophiopogon behind. The snowdrops seem to be doing well in the clay soil with lots returning. I’m not sure as many crocus will come back as not seeing as many coming through.

3. Birds in the snow

The birds have been in lots this week with me keeping the feeders well stocked.

4. Snowman

We didn’t have very long for making a snowman. All we managed was this little lump before school. But it put some of my sprouts to use.

Alice was happy anyway.

5. Iris reticulata Katherine Hodgson

The first of the Iris reticulata are in flower. This is one of my favourites. It grows in one of the hosta pots. These flower and shrivel and the hosta then comes up for summer. The feathery pattern is particularly beautiful.

6. Birdwatch competition

We had some nice news that Alice was picked by nest friends to win a bundle of prizes from learning resources UK for her birdwatching efforts in the big garden birdwatch. She is now asking when they’ll be delivered.

The snow is gradually melting away but for a day or two the pavements will be lethal as it changes to ice. We are on half term now so will probably shelter inside for a day or two while it melts away. Snow is fun, ice less so. My chest is gradually feeling better after Covid. Still a background headache but all manageable day to day.

I hope you’re all keeping well. The weather and lockdown not causing too much disruption for you all.

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Six on Saturday: 2.1.21-Vine weevil

Happy New Year! I should really start a new year of six on Saturday posts with something inspirational and uplifting but I’ve been meaning to write about this subject for a while, so this is what you are getting. But gardening isn’t all positive and we roll with punches. We have ups and downs and by sharing the negatives I may help someone else in future.

1. RHS pests and diseases

I have started the process of revising for my next RHS exams. In the next round of exams, I am taking two exams. The first on soil and composting, the second on plant health, pests and diseases. I purchased the RHS pests and diseases in preparation for my revision and I have found myself browsing it in odd moments for the many ways our plants can be attacked. The book is a good guide to promoting plant health and while it does list chemical solutions it largely pushes more nature-friendly methods of promoting plant health. My current garden concern is vine weevil which I will spend the rest of my six looking at in more detail.

2. Vine weevil

Vine weevil are a fairly common pest. They are more of an issue for plants in pots which I think is where my problem started. I had two pots of heuchera that I discovered a few months back were infested. I disposed of these pots but there have been signs that they are in the ground too. So far the problem seems to be just in the front garden and the back seems to be unaffected. I could dig up the plants affected but this may mean removing almost everything and even then any new additions could still be attacked again. So I am trying several approaches to tackling them.

Vine weevil are a beetle Otiorhynchus sulcatus. The larvae are plump, white, legless grubs with brown heads that can be found around the roots of plants. While I have an interest in most aspects of nature you will find few positive odes to the vine weevil grub. Most people would describe them as repulsive. Knowing what they are they are not a welcome sight. They live in the soil where they nibble through the roots of your plants. In some cases, this will just stunt growth. In more extreme infestations they will cause the death of the plant.

I knew I had vine weevil when moving a pot I moved the plant and it came away in my hand. The larvae had eaten the whole of the stem and roots detaching the crown. It is possible to clean these off and re-pot but I didn’t want to take the risk so I disposed of the plants in pots. If you would like to read how to clean off infested plants read Plantsagogo advice. They attack a wide range of plants but heuchera are a particular favourite with hostas, hydrangea and cyclamen being on the list of vine weevil diet. Pretty much the list of what I grow in the front garden.

The larvae mainly cause damage through autumn and spring. The adults emerge late spring and summer. They are about 9mm long with dull black bodies and antennae that form a right angle. They are slow-moving and eat notches out of the leaves. They are flightless so you can set up barriers around your pots. If you grow plants in pots you can keep them in a saucer of water as the vine weevil don’t swim. The adults will lay many hundreds of eggs over a couple of months.

3.Non-chemical control-nematodes and predators

There are a handful of chemical controls for vine weevil but many of these pesticides are unsuitable to infestations in the ground. The pesticides can be applied as a compost drench but all the products I have looked at involve neonicotinoids which will kill more than just the vine weevils. Instead, I have used nematodes. These are natural predators that will attack the vine weevil larvae. They are delivered as a powder that you mix into a solution that you add to a watering can to water over the area. I gave the front garden a treatment in autumn and then again late on.

I have also encouraged natural predators of vine weevil to try and control the numbers further. The front garden does get frogs visiting despite no pond. There are a number of dark damp spots such as under the water butt where they can hide. I have been intending to look at making a mini-pond for the front garden to encourage them further but this is probably a job for spring now. I have also put a fat ball feeder in the front garden to encourage a few more birds in. I feed the birds with many different feeders in the back garden but I don’t really bother in the front as there isn’t much cover around for them. Once we get to late spring I will start to check the plants in the evening to see if I can remove any of the adults myself.

4. Encouraging healthy plants

The nematodes may not prove effective enough though as they don’t work as well as the temperature gets colder. They stop working at temperatures below 5 degrees. I applied the last dose about 2 weeks before the temperature dropped to this point. So I have taken a dual approach of looking at biological controls but also looking at promoting the health of the plant. Back in autumn, I gave the front garden plants a scattering of bone meal. Bone meal is a good autumn feed as it encourages plants to toughen up for winter and root well. As vine weevil mainly cause issues with roots I want the plants to be in as good health as possible. The bone meal is sprinkled on the surface and lightly forked in.

5. Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial fungal that form associations between roots and plants to give the plants better access to nutrients. The RHS profile page partly dismisses them as the use of lots of fungicide and other fertilisers can disrupt the process. However, as we learn more about the effect these fungi the more gardeners are seeing the benefit of using this funghi. We still know relatively little about how these relationships work but they are truly astounding. I am reading Merlin Sheldrake’s entangled life and it is fascinating reading all the things fungi are capable of doing. Empathy sells many different mycorrhizal products for the gardener aimed at many different functions. They have products aimed at acid lovers, roses, evergreens but I went with the general rootgrow product. This is ideally spread on the roots when planted but as I have already got the front garden planted up the plants received a sprinkling around and it was forked in around some. So this will, hopefully, allow the plants attacked by vine weevil manage to grow back strong enough to survive any future attacks.

6. Mulching

Mulching may not seem to have much to do with vine weevil but let me explain how this may potentially help. The front garden is heavy clay. So heavy you can sculpt with it. Bricks were made locally from it. I have discussed my efforts to improve the soil previously here. Nematodes do not work as effectively on heavy soil in part because the temperature drops colder. So in order to make sure I get the most from the nematodes I need to improve the soil. I am using a no-dig approach of applying top dressings. The soil organisms will gradually take it into the soil improving the structure of the soil. I have used Dalefoot clay buster which I can get delivered free locally. This is a lovely product for enriching the soil. Not cheap, but it feels and looks beautiful. Most gardeners will appreciate this while any of the non-gardeners reading this will think I’m crazy. As well as improving the conditions for nematodes, the mulch can also help improve the drainage while also helping water retention which may seem contradictory. It also provides the plants with some additional nutrition. Clay soil is rich in nutrients but it is not always accessible to plants. All of this should improve the health of the plants to make them more resilient to vine weevil and other problems.

I hope you have found some of this of interest. We’ll see next month if vine weevil come up on my exam. If they do I feel pretty prepared for answering a question on them. The one time I’ll actually be wanting vine weevil to appear.

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