I’m running a bit behind in my posting (got distracted by online novel reading) so will try and do a bit of catchup now. I’m trying to get some preparation done for my blueberry patch down the hill. I had covered the whole area with black plastic early last year to clear the weeds so it is now time to get the beds arranged, so I can start planting.
I decided to move the black plastic out to cover the area immediately surrounding the cleared patch. I can either plant more blueberry bushes or other plants there. It will be useful to have a weed barrier of sorts to try and keep the couch and other creeping grasses at bay. There probably aren’t enough stones already selected to weight the plastic down properly. Last year I had the benefit of large branches from the driveway spruce trees, but my intention is to use these to increase the woody content of the beds, so I will need additional weights this year.
Since blueberries need well aerated soil, and the area I have chosen for them is damp and compacted with generations of sheeps trotters, I have forked over the cleared area. I din’t turn the soil, just loosened it, so that it has a chance to dry a little over the coming weeks of spring. I was a bit disappointed by the amount of couch grass that seems to be prevalent over the whole area, despite the light excluding cover. I guess it was kept going by areas outside the plastic, and the fact the water could still get to it due to the fact the plastic is in strips, rather than a larger entire piece. The other plant that seems to have survived remarkable well is pignut, Conopodium Majus. The blanched spring shoots of this are all over the area despite having been covered for the whole of last year.
The thick reeds and other groundcover plants have disappeared to form a vole dispersed layer of compost. The voles are more of a nuisance for attracting the attention of the dog(s). They like to dig underneath the plastic sheets, thus letting in light and wind, so making the sheets less effective at weed cover.
My intention is to create sort of raised beds, with the woody trimmings, bracken remains, and leaf mould/grass clipping compost from the lodge, together with soil excavated to create drainage channels and paths. As I was forking it over, I discovered that the soil depth is not consistent; it gets quite shallow at the downhill side of the patch. Probably this rock forms a bit of a bowl, which is why it seems so damp there. Until the area surrounding the cleared patch is also cleared, I won’t really be able to create the levels properly to ensure bed drainage. I’m hoping that I can clear most of the couch grass out when the soil is drier as I create the raised beds themselves.
I have ordered some more blueberry plants, but haven’t managed to find some of the varieties I wanted. If necessary, I will just sow some annuals to build up the soil structure and keep it covered and pre-order bushes for next year. I know ART will propagate fruit trees to order, so they may do fruit bushes too.
It seems to have been a slightly better year for butterflies and moths this year. I have seen more that I remember in previous years, or maybe I’m just able to be out in the sun at the right time. As well as male common blue butterflies I saw a female this week. Confusingly her colouring is much more multicoloured than the male, and I thought she was a different species until I looked her up.
For the last few weeks I have noticed small black and red moths perched at the top of the gully bank in the sunshine. Taking a closer look at this one the wings seemed quite transparent. I think they are six spot burnet moths.
A bit further down the bank on the heather bush I found this cocoon, so I think these are new moths just hatching and puffing up their wings (I’m sure there is a proper name for that process!). Apparently the caterpillars feed on birdsfoot trefoil, which I have fairly widespread over the holding, particularly where the grass is slightly shorter and the soil shallower.
I was pleased to get this photo of this chimney sweeper moth. They are always quite a number of them at this time of year in the grass, but they are easily disturbed and, being small and dark, slightly difficult to focus on. You can see how they come by their name – like flecks of burnt paper blowing about the grass! The tips of the wings are rimmed with white, but the rest of the insect is sooty black. The caterpillars feed on pignut flowers and seeds – so there is certainly plenty of that for them!
This caterpillar I was also very happy to see. Especially so when I looked it up. It is the caterpillar of the emporer moth. Which is a rather impressive moth with big eyespots on the wings. The moths are usually about in April, but I’ve only seen an adult once or twice previously. At least this caterpillar proves that there are still some adults about. The caterpillars feed on heather, bramble, hawthorne as well as several other trees so should have plenty of menu options here.
Finally a little show of some of the the other moths, butterflies and caterpillars recently seen, that I’ve been able to photograph and tentatively identify. None are particularly rare, but each is a bit of magic.
This was going to be an update on the polytunnel, but I’m excited about some things in the tree field, so those come first.
Usually the dryish weather lasts into the middle of June, but this year it has broken a bit early. There was a nice bit of rain last weekend, and again through this week so the burns and the river are now overflowing.
The first exciting thing then (not chronologically, but logically) is that the pond at the bottom is once again full. During the week it just had a little puddle from it’s own catchment, but either the shallow springs are going again and/or the burn on that side is full enough to have water all the way down (often it disappears again on the way down). This would have been quite exciting, but more exciting (especially to the dogs unfortunately) was what we found on the pond. The dogs saw them first, and then I saw a lady mallard flying off with a squawk over the fence to the river. Left behind were about three frantically cheaping baby ducks. They are very tiny, and I have no idea where the nest is. I’m thinking it must be on the river bank, otherwise the dogs probably would have found it before now. The pond would have made quite a nice nursery swim for the babies if it wasn’t for my bad dogs. The river is in full spate after the rain, so the little ones would be swept quite away. Eventually the dogs came to me. They had been more interested in the mother than the babies, so noone was hurt. Hopefully the mum would soon have returned to the babies again. We’ll have to keep the dogs away from the pond for a bit. This is difficult, as due to some building work, part of the deer fence to the garden area is down at the moment. I was going to put some temporary fencing up anyhow, so I’ll escalate that task for when the rain clears.
On the way back up the hill again I was on the lookout for something that I had found the previous day. On the grass there had been what I thought was a tiny rotten birch twig. I wondered how it had got there and had turned it over with a twig that I was hoping to mark orchids with. To my surprise the twig moved! Not a twig but a largish moth! On that occasion I did not have my camera with me (it was raining!) so I was very glad to find the moth still in the (birch) tree to which I had moved it. Looking it up later I found it was a buff tip moth. Although quite common in the south of the UK it is less so in the north.
The other interesting thing, is that I may have seen this moth as a caterpillar. I didn’t post about it at the time, but last summer I noticed one or two alders that had clumps of caterpillars in them. They were distinctive in the way they formed a mass of caterpillars. I’m pretty sure now that they were buff tip caterpillars, so it is nice to see that at least one made it to adulthood. They pupate in the soil, so that may be why this one was on the ground. It must have just emerged.
The rain has come in good time to keep watering the seedling trees I have planted in the tree field. As well as the tiny spruce, I have also relocated about a dozen tiny rowans (why do they like to germinate in the driveway!), a couple of sycamore (ditto!) and several plums, damsons and apples from shop fruit that was past it’s best, or used for jam making. The latter’s seeds had been placed in small seed trays (actually fruit punnets) outside and I got quite a few germinating this spring. Rather than leave them to starve in the seedtrays I was able to plant them out last week, with a proper double spade square hole. They may not have good fruit that ripens here, but they may at least have blossom to cross pollinate my orchard fruit. I could try and graft good fruiters onto the trunks in the future. I am hopeful that the damson seedlings and the plums that we ate in late september in Devon may have useful fruit, if only for jamming.
When we planted the trees in 2011 we experimented with planting comfrey around some of them to see if they would act as a living mulch. I had found this quite successful in Solihull around established soft fruit so, since we had been having difficulty finding enough time to mulch the newly planted trees, I wondered whether this would be an easy way to keep the grass down. We just stuck ‘thongs’ of comfrey, of which I had plenty growing in the fruit garden, into the turf about two feet from the trees. It wasn’t that successful as it turned out. We found that although most of the comfrey took OK, it was a few years before they could out compete the grass, and by that time the trees were already established. They do make lovely flowers for the bees though through the summer.
I had read in one or two of my books that other people had found that a bank of comfrey several plants deep could be used as a weed barrier around planting areas. Last year I planted several thongs below the newly mulched orchard area to the north of the trackway, in the hopes that these would eventually keep out the worst of the couchgrass. It is dramatic that the only ones that have grown well have been the ones adjacent to the mulch. The ones planted with turf on each side are still really tiny (although mostly still there). I don’t remember there being any difference between them when planted out. So on my mental list of things to do is to mulch between the comfrey there if I get time. It’s probably not a high priority, since the comfrey will probably still grow and in a year or so form a canopy by itself.
The grass has grown lush and green with the rain, and the buttercups and pignut have started flowering. So pretty with the rain dewdrops sparkling in the sun. The buttercups seem particularly profuse in the area just below the orchard, and the pignuts in the southernmost strip along Jo’s field. The midges are here now too, so the rain is definately a mixed blessing. We change to longer hours next week in the shop next week so I will have to get to bed a bit earlier. The sun was still setting at about 9.20 last night. I could still see the sunlight on the hill opposite us.
Pignuts (conopodium majus) are a common wild flower in the tree field here. I had read about them being edible; the tubers are quite pleasant to munch on raw, with a flavour a bit like hazelnuts. When I have tried them in the past, I got a slightly unpleasant nauseous feeling, so haven’t explored eating them much.
I have a fondness for the plants. The foliage is one of the first to show new growth in early spring, and the tiny white flowers cover the field for much of the summer. Rather than repeat what so many others have written I’ll give a couple of links that are interesting:
and a few pictures from the tree field illustrating their growth:
When I was digging holes for the new spruce trees I could not avoid digging up several pignut tubers. Often they were cut in half by the spade. I guess the field is pretty thick with them now, as can be seen in the flower picture above. In the past I have sometimes given them to Dyson to eat (he knows them as ‘nuttys’) and he obviously enjoys them with no ill effects. This time he had the small, or damaged ones and any larger ones I collected in a bag for me. They were quite easy to find with my (gloved) fingers in the soil of the upturned turfs.
Most foraging guides suggest you follow the roots down from the flowering stems to the tuber, so as to be sure what you are harvesting. This would be very hard work in turf like mine! I would suggest also, that once seen, the tubers are quite distinctive and nothing like bluebells or celandine tubers, both of which are quite white in colour, rather than covered in dark brown skin. The lumpy shape of the pignut tubers is also quite distinctive.
I collected about 8 ounces of tubers once they were cleaned and trimmed. The ones I kept were generally just over an inch in diameter, although there were a few that were nearly two inches. Most of course were much smaller, and these I left in the turf (or Dyson ate!). They seem to carry on growing quite happily having been inverted, if left in situ, judging by the later emerging leaves. I believe that the plants form very small tubers in the first year of growth (about the size of a pea) and the tuber grows larger and larger year on year. I suspect some of those I gathered may have been decades old. I don’t suppose they grew very much when the sheep were grazing on them!
Gathering nuts was a by-product of an activity I was doing anyway. I will point out however that digging the turf like this is quite hard work! So although I gathered more than enough for a meal for two in a few hours, this would not compare for ease to say digging potatoes. Also, these tubers took several years to reach this size, so you would have to leave the ground for a few years to recover and regrow sizeable tubers again. They do self seed readily and grow happily without any intervention from me, so it is quite nice to feel there is a bit of a larder there should I need it.
Because the tubers are quite uneven in shape they were tricky to wash. I gave them a quick rinse in a bucket outside, them scrubbed them with a brush under the kitchen tap. I couldn’t be bothered to remove all the skins, which is quite fine, and did rub off a bit anyhow.
We tried a few tubers simply boiled or baked and ate them as an accompaniment to our main meal. They were quite pleasant, with a spongy texture not unlike parsnips, and a somewhat similar mild sweet taste. The resemblance to their rooty relatives is more obvious when cooked. S. preferred the roasted ones, so, having established that neither of us suffered the nauseous feeling induced by eating the raw tubers previously, we had the rest of the tubers roasted in a little oil. Again they passed the test and we may well have them again when I need to dig holes in the field.
At first glance everything appear drab and colourless at this time of year. Admittedly the spring planters at the shop are pleasing this year, with their new crocuses and tete-a-tete daffodils, but generally things appear lifeless….Until you look closer and then some startling colours stand out.
I’m running around spotting the new sign of life and noticing all the things I need to be getting on with. Spring is springing, the days are getting longer and we’ve had a nice spell of weather that looks like (barring an overnight storm) continuing into next week. I’ve been trying out an app (gardenwize) to try and keep better records this year (one of my NY resolutions) but it doesn’t look like it will do quite what I want it to do (although about the best that I found). I think I will have to go back to hardcopy and get myself some index cards and just write a new card for each crop. It’s either that or write my own database, and I always get on better with spreadsheets. At least I won’t have to worry about back up.
I have already managed to sow some of my polytunnel plants in the propagator: the achocha, tomatoes and a chilli pepper. Some of the tomato seeds and the achocha are already sprouting after less than a week. I’ve also got some shrubby seeds that have been stratifying in the fridge for several weeks or months, which mostly may as well be planted out now into seed trays. Then it’s more sowing and potting on ad infinitum!
Plants are definately feeling the spring now. The tree buds are starting to swell, pig nut leaves are out and the first celandine flowers are showing. I must get down the hill and coppice some of the larger alder before the sap risies too much. I’ve got a bit of persuading S. that some of the trees would be better cut at this age. Admittedly it will be a pity to lose some of the shelter that has been achieved, but the trees should grow even better if fully cut back, since all their roots are sized to feed a whole tree.
Other wildlife is also feeling the changing times. There were a couple of lumps of frogspawn down in the pond. I haven’t seen the frogs there. It may be a little early yet, but I expect most of the spawn would survive a light frost anyhow. Hopefully we won’t get a hard frost anyhow because look what I’ve got in the poytunnel:
The Apricot buds are blossom. There is actually a lot more than I thought there would be: it is also all up the main branches. Most of the buds are tightly furled, but they are just beginning to open. I used a tiny bit of cotton wool to dab the flowers. They seem quite scented, so if any of the moths whose pesky caterpillars were eating it last year are about, they may fancy pollenising it for me.
I took a whole lot of elder cuttings since the bush has done so well for me. I have also got some cuttings off three other bushes: One local, one imported like mine, and one purple leaved bush. Some of the cuttings are in the orchard area which I tried to put down to green manures last September. The area now has a fair covering of bittercress and grass. Pictured above is one of the two field beans that seem to have escaped the crows’ attentions.
The other major project that I am hoping to get finished in the next week or so is the driveway retaining wall. I spent yesterday afternoon scavenging round for rocks, since I had pretty much exhausted the initial supply. Where the spade is in the picture above is where I plan to make a pedestrian access to the bank above. I’m not sure whether it will be a ramp or steps – probably steps, since it would be too steep for a barrow anyway, and I can also get to it from the garden to the left. I had to dig out half a big fuchsia bush that would otherwise be a nuisance growing across the path there. That took me most of today, but I have three big lumps of bush as well as lots of sticks to make cuttings from if I want. I think I will propagate some, since the fuchsia is tough as old boots (that bank is quite exposed to the south so gets quite a bit of wind as well as sunshine) but when in flower looks quite pretty. This one has pale pink flowers rather than the darker pink that is more common as hedging plants around here. It sets less fruit, probably due to the exposed position.
This week I’ve been sorting my seeds out. This includes the various seed packets that I have accumulated over the years, and also seeds that I have saved from some interesting plants around the holding.
I no longer grow much in the way of annual vegetables, so have put to one side quite a few seed packets that are in date (or not much out of date) to swap or give away. I’ll put a list at the end of this post for anyone that may be interested. There are a few flower seed packets as well that I have accumulated somehow – probably on the front of gardening magazines from the shop, that haven’t sold.
I also have quite a few seed packets that are so old that I doubt that there will be a very good germination rate. Sometimes these can surprise (I had good germination from rather old courgette seed this year) but more often even rather new seed fails, and I’m sure it’s not always me (i.e. dry compost, too cold etc.). The oldest seed I have is some chinese bean sprouts or mung beans that were supposed to be sown by 2001! I always meant to get round to that stir fry, but I just can’t think three days ahead when it comes to cooking! I also have a pack of “rose de berne” tomato seed, and some late purple sprouting broccoli to be sown by 2004. These and others that are less ancient, but still well out of date I have put to be used as a green manure / ground cover next spring. Probably most won’t germinate, but where I did the same around my blackcurrant bushes in the fruit area this year, I have some recognisable cabbages, rocket (going to seed, because I don’t like the taste), and leaf beet. These have grown amongst the existing seed bank of nettles, docken, chickweed and other ‘weeds’ that have been edited as I feel like. Before I mix the seed packs together, I will give my friend who is coming for a visit next week, a chance to grab any that she fancies (along with the newer seed for swaps). Actually, I gather the technique for sowing a mixture of plants is to sow each seed separately, then you get a more even distribution of each seed.
I have managed to save quite a few seeds from various plants this year. Mainly from local native plants which I hope will also prove desirable as swaps. This year I have tried something slightly different. As well as drying as best I could in a warmish dry place for a few days (usually on a windowsill, although I gather too hot and light is not a good idea), I have sealed the dry seeds in a foil ziplock packet together with some rice grains that have been oven dried. The rice is supposed to act as a non toxic dessicant (like silica gel – which is now considered a baddie I gather) which will hopefully give the seeds a longer shelf life. The advantage of the foil bags is that they keep the seeds dark as well as dry. The disadvantage is that you can’t see the contents without opening the bag. I’ve run out of the foil bags now anyway, so the some of my saved seeds will go into normal polythene ziplock bags.
I’ve crossed out the seed which has already been spoken for.
Seed for swaps:
Various commercial packets. Some opened. I haven’t put details against them, since with the power of the internet, you should be able to find out what the makers say:
Asparagus “argenteuil early”
Asparagus “connovers collossal”
Beta vulgaris – “sea beet”. British native, seems to grow OK for me, but I think I have enough seedlings now
Carrot “nantes 5”
Radish “kulata cema”
Rocket “wild rocket”
Lettuce “little gem”
Swiss chard “bright lights” – pretty colours, but I get loads of self sown perpetual spinach, and I don’t like the stems of chard.
Tomatillo – I wasn’t that keen on them to be honest, and I don’t think I’ll get round to trying them before the seed gets old again
Physalis peruviana: cape gooseberry “golden berry” I seem to have two packs, so one spare.
Coriander “cilantro” for leaf production
Kale “curly scarlet”
Kale “nero di toscana”
Broccoli “autumn green calabrese”
Mustard spinach “komatsuna tarasan”
Cauliflower “all the year round”
Cauliflower “romanesco natalino”
Saved seed from Skye:
Plain leaved parsley – went to seed in polytunnel.
Conopodium majus – pignut. Native forage food – grows happily here in grass like a miniature cow parsley.
Rumex acetosa subsp. acetosa – common sorrel. Native forage food, acid refreshing leaves. Beware can be a nuisance weed, but I love it. Seed gathered from the holding.
Lathyrus pratensis – meadow vetchling. Yellow flowered perennial vetch. Seed gathered from the holding.
Vicia cracca – tufted vetch. Vetch with plumes of blue flowers. Seed gathered from the holding.
Lathyrus linifolius – heath pea see previous post here. Seed gathered from the holding.
Rubus fructicosus – bramble: polytunnel blackberry. I don’t know what variety this is. Probably a seedling off a Solihull plant, but it appears to be an early fruiter since it also will crop outside in a good year. Seed may not come true, but there is no other bramble close, so it must be a self cross. Prickly and vigorous and delicious!
Stellaria media – chickweed. We eat it raw in salads, or sometimes wilted as a hot vegetable. It is often quite large and lush in leaf, I’m not sure whether this is unusual, but if you fancy some weed seeds let me know.
You can email me at nancy at p6resthome dot co dot uk. First come first served, no guarantees, but I’ve done my best at identification and cleaning. I’ll try and update this list as the seed goes. UK enquiries only at this stage (unless you have some astragalus crassicarpus – ground plum seeds for my perennial poytunnel project, in which case we might come to an agreement…).
The most striking thing about June for me is the diversity of plants that strive to take over the tree field particularly. As well as the orchids, there are lots of other flowering plants coming into bloom now. The bluebells are going over now, but the pignut is in full spate. Each flower stem has several umbels, so as one fades and turns to red seeds, another is a white disc of flowers. The buttercups are the other obvious flower that is almost everywhere on the field. We have two sorts of buttercup, the creeping sort (ranunculus repens) is pretty much in full bloom, whereas the finely divided leaves of the meadow buttercup (ranunculus acris) still have a while to go before the flowers open. Lots of vetch (the spell correct changed this to ‘fetch’ of which the dogs would approve!) and other legumes. The first are the pink flowered bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolius), then the yellow birds foot trefoil (lotus corniculatus) on the drier bits. There’s another yellow vetch, Meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), which has bigger flowers and a large blue flowered one: tufted vetch (vicia cracca). Sometimes I can remember their names, but generally I have to look them up each year. Then there are the clovers. White clover, which varies from tiny flowers no bigger than my little fingernail, to blooms as big as the top of my thumb. Red clover is a little later coming out, and can have some massive flowers.
We did have a little black medick near the house, which is an annual, but I haven’t seen it recently. It caught my eye because it had so many four leaved leaves a few years ago. The flowers are really tiny and yellow, so although it looks like a clover at first sight when you see the flowers it then obviously isn’t. Ox eye daisies seem to prefer the drier soil, along the spoil from the cut, and along the rocky cut itself where it catches the sun. The lime green flowers of ladies mantle is everywhere mixed in with the grass. I was quite excited about this at first, thinking it was the more rare alpine ladies mantle, which has leaves divided like tiny fingers, rather then cape shaped ones. I love the way the ladies mantle leaves catch dew drops, the little hairs suspending them as little globes like tiny crystal balls. The thyme and heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile) are starting to bloom on the thinner drier parts of the field – along the former boundary walls and on the hump.
thyme and heath bedstraw
The bright blue speedwell is one of my favourite flowers. I always used to keep my lawn long in the hope that this would encourage the speedwell (now I don’t mow the lawn at all). There are lots of other flowers just coming into bloom – self heal, melancholy thistle by the pond and along the river fence, water avens (Geum rivale) with its lovely drooping blooms, stitchwort, lots of tormentil (potentilla erecta), a dandelion mimic: cats ear (hypochaeris radicata), daisies, and a little eyebright.
There are also a few plants that have planted themselves in the mud of the pond. A yellow one like a buttercup with blade shaperd leaves (Lesser Spearwort – Ranunculus flammula) and a reed like one, possibly deer grass I’m not sure.
Others are starting to show their promise for later in the year including heather – mostly on the sunny gully bank. Meadowsweet and yarrow are quite widespread; the former generally in damper areas and the latter in drier areas. There is also quite a bit of ragwort despite my efforts to pull it out! Ditto creeping thistle. Silverweed (potentilla answerina), is a plant I am getting more interested in. It doesn’t seem that widespread in the field but there are several plants around the house and Byre areas, as well as the ones that I have planted, generally coming into flower now. Maybe it prefers the more fertile soil from the animal houses. Maybe they are remnants from former cultivation, or maybe it couldn’t tolerate the sheep grazing it to within a few mm of the soil!
I haven’t even touched on the grasses, reeds and sedges that are coming into flower at the moment. Different forms and shades of green they deserve a post of their own.
t always amazes me how much things grow during May. The field goes from a thatch of last years’ dead grass to a sea of pignut, grass and bluebell flowers. I’ve selected a few of the latest photos to capture May and some of the ongoing activities to do with the trees and the tree field’
This tree is actually in the front garden and was planted in 2008. It has been flowering for the last three years, last year it set quite a few berries. I made some hawthorne blossom cordial this year following roughly the same recipe as for elderflower cordial. It’s supposed to be good for the heart and digestion. Not a strong flavour, maybe a hint of apples over the lemon that is part of the recipe.
Last year we started to see a problem with several birch trees. They had previously grown well bar a bit of die back. This however is more than just die back! They do seem to be alive, but the twigs are mainly dead with just a little new growth. I’m going to contact the Woodland Trust over this for some advice. Some of the birch seem fine, and others from different planting years are like this to a greater or lesser extent. I need to do a bit of a survey and see if I can tell whether it is betula pendula (silver birch) or betula pubescens (downy birch) that is affected (or both).
This is the second or third year that these pine (also from 2008) have flowered. I’m not sure if it is a lodgepole pine or scots pine. I have to admit I find the new growth on the pines rather phallic in habit! The red tips are the female flowers (that might develop into cones) and the orangey- brown fingers are the male catkins. Note the wind scorched older leaves. I think this is a scots pine, since what I think are lodgepole pine elsewhere are almost defoliated by the salt wind in the winter.
I’m hoping I don’t regret using this carpet underlay as mulching material. It seems almost ideal – it is from our house in Solihull and was under the most disgusting deep pile orange carpet (that when taken up we used as bearskin props in a ‘flintstones’ scene once, but that’s another story) so reused. It is made predominately from felted jute fibres so biodegradable. It is permeable, so will let the rain soak through for the trees, but is mostly thick enough to exclude light and smother out the grass and other plants around the little trees. The only downside I’ve found is that it is only mostly Jute. It also has a very coarse scrim of polymer fibres, presumably to give it strength (or maybe mouldability – I used to work on automotive carpets which were heat formed). These will not degrade in the short term. I suspect that the grass will grow through and over the mat in the next year and the fibres will be concealed but ever there…..suggestions welcome.
This is just a picture showing the density of pignut, conopodium majus, in the tree field. It is a native wild flower here. I have only tried the tubers raw so far, and although pleasant to eat, they tended to give me a slightly nauseous feeling afterwards. I haven’t tried it cooked. I love the dainty blossom which is like miniature cow parseley (of which there is very little in this area). It’s not in full bloom yet, but quite lovely.
This patch is where one of our Land Rovers (Lara the croft rover) had been parked for about two years previously. The grass has been entirely shaded out, but there is plenty of pignut and creeping thistle as well as sheeps sorrel and a few buttercups that have survived, all coming back after about a month. Perhaps an example of mortal tree’s ‘a bit blunt’ method of mulching. I don’t think I’ll be encouraging more long term parking in the tree field however….
The bluebells (hyacintha non scripta) are just about at their peak at the end of May, start of June. They have done really well this year. You can see how they are concentrated at the field edge where there is the remains of a stone wall and ditch, so probably not well ploughed. They also survived several years of being grazed and trampled by sheep prior to the trees being planted (these in 2011). Compare to next door’s grazed field – I bet there are bluebells under there as well! Also you can note that they are quite happy in the sunshine. The ground is so damp, they don’t need the shade of trees on Skye. When we bought the land, I couldn’t even tell that we had bluebells.
I found this plant growth quite amusing. This is one of my ‘orchard’ apple trees, which actually bore an apple last year – although it disappeared before I had a chance at it (crows, wind, dogs….). These trees were all mulched last year, with my favourite sheet mulching method – sheets of cardboard from our shop, overlapped and weighed down with suitable stones. This is quite effective, and lasts about a year. It is quite obvious that it has worked well on the grass, but less well on the buttercups! Whether these were not killed (they do sprout right through when buried in a few inches of soil) or have just spread over the cardboard more quickly than the grass, I’m not sure, I suspect the former. I don’t know whether the buttercups are going to be a problem with the trees however. We try and get rid of the grass mainly because of it’s alleopathic effects – it is known to have a detremental effect on tree growth for this reason, rather than direct competition for resources. I think I’ll try and mulch the trees again anyway, since they are still very small. I still have quite a bit of earth moving to do in the orchard area. I’d like to try and finish the landscaping here this year, so I can get on with underplanting the trees next spring.