Archive for May, 2014

Ants and Nests.

Bright days all around us at the moment, with frost maybe showing its face on Friday night/Saturday morning. The blossom on the fruit trees doesn’t seem to be affected. There’s none on the Opal plum tree, but the dessert pear is absolutely loaded.
Up on the plot Saturday morning. The rotary lawn mower that had been left out for the “tatters” and intercepted by me on an evening stroll is absolutely perfect for walking-and-cutting the paths between plots after a bit of adjustment and oil. It was, to be fair almost brand new. The grass on the paths has been allowed to grow too long (my fault entirely!): the strimmer’s automatic feed stopped feeding and this mower is brilliant. Well, it will be now that the grass is short again.
Used the spade to put a proper edge to one of the plots (the other two are edged with board – but it ran out) and the red handled fork to fetch out the buttercups. Then, wearing gloves sprinkled some Perlka on the ground we intend to put the cabbage plants into. They’re hardening off now after germinating successfully in the greenhouse. This Perlka is supposed to be the “bee’s knees” but I have also read some fairly controversial stuff about it. Any opinions or extra information you can supply will be seriously considered. We are trying to be generally eco-friendly and at least some of the articles I have read suggest Perlka helps soil microbial life. But also, convincingly it also said that it helps against club root. Snake oil salesman or what? Watch this space.

I hoed the stuff into the ground and we have to wait a couple of weeks for reactions to take place before planting. It needs moisture apparently to start a chemical reaction that releases hydrated lime and this benefits the plants, especially brassicas. I wore gloves – which I found to be awkward, but better safe than sorry my Nan used to say.
Moving a board which had been left on the plot in the process I discovered that within a very few days ants have built a nest underneath it. The white eggs and young ant larvae are quickly picked up and shuttled away by the industrious workers. I cannot begin to imagine the alarm that accompanies the lifting of the lid on an ant’s nest.


There is a local robin that was soon on the scene. Opportunist in an allotment: what a perfect spot. We believe it has a nest somewhere near. It was certainly collecting food to take away this morning. I pause to watch his – or, forgive me – her efforts.

DSC_0436    DSC_0435    DSC_0439

Elsewhere we see the first high-flying swallow looping around the buildings opposite. Reminder of the season’s moving ever on. The dandelion flowers are also turning into “clocks” at an alarming rate.
We heard the cuckoo some weeks ago – while walking on Cannock Chase.
Lots of material to go onto the compost heap: weeds, the unrotted leaves from the leaf mould bin; the rest spread out as a thick top dressing: full of fat worms. Where is that robin?
We sow carrots in raised containers to ward off carrot fly (it has worked in previous years and marvel at the tops of potatoes showing through the soil. Strangely the Charlottes we planted last seemed to be the first – and strongest so far.
Back at home the grass needs cutting and the hover mower seems heavy: funny that. The seeds in the greenhouse are germinating very successfully: beetroot, leeks, wildflowers, sweet peas, sweetcorn, courgettes … in short everything. The pelargonium cuttings are taking their turn to harden off too.

I have to confess, however, that while I was busily blundering about fetching seedlings out of the greenhouse to harden off I inadvertently scared a nesting robin from a wall mounted nestbox near to the greenhouse. I am saddened by the desertion as I seek to attract such marvellous wildlife into the garden at every opportunity. She clearly felt that the site was not ideal, made the instinctive decision and went, I guess, to another site. I wish her luck, of course. Meanwhile, not so easily disturbed, the great tits continue to inhabit the hole-fronted nest-box (oft-repaired) on the front of the garden shed.


Answers in the Soil ?

Watching TV yesterday early evening (more correctly probably channel hopping, the curse of the grasshopper mind, the need to be organised (!) and too many channels) and heard the magic word “Allotments” on BBC Midlands Today (a daily local-news/magazine show which follows the national news).

That got my attention – of course. It seems that a plotholder – plot 23 to be precise -on some  Great Barr allotments  dug up a military medal while turning over the ground in 2007 and subsequent investigations by a determined group of people have discovered that it belonged to a soldier killed during the Great War (1914 – 1918). The allotment association have since decided to create a small memorial garden as a mark of respect and are naming it after the soldier whose British Service Medal had been found.


Private William Richards was a member of the Kings Own Shropshire Light Infantry who was killed in the third battle at Ypres (in present day Belgium) which took place in 1917. He was born, the programme said In the Welsh Rhondda valley and died at the age of twenty six. There are only theories as to how the medal ended up in the soil at the Thornbridge (a splendid name for an allotments eh?) allotments but, so far, no living relatives have been found.

I love the way the organisation responded to the find, that they are using it to create a small community area (turfed and with benches) which will remind people in the community of the sacrifices and lives of people in our recent past. So much more appropriate this year – a hundred years since the conflict started. They are planning a ceremony  (I think) to return the medal to the regiment and are also continuing to search for any news of relatives (it is thought that his family may have moved to Birmingham to work in the collieries around here … but this is, kind of grasping at straws as there are so many other possibilities). I wish them luck with the project.

Linked to this, at least by my own imagination, is the whole range of unexpected things we can find when we dig ground: the let’s-say-lucky metal detectorist coming across what is now known as the “Staffordshire Hoard”( in a field I have driven past for decades on my way to and from work. Treasure indeed, but of  a different kind. And so important historically, with questions and theories still being posed.

The old-penny coin that I myself turned up on our allotment. The past and some of the answers may well be in the soil.

Keep digging; as we used to say (and laugh about it) the past and some of the answers may well indeed  be in the soil.

The Good Life Crewe

Adventures in the life of an English allotment

Mark Explores

Nature + Health


Award-winning gardening and self-sufficiency blog.

Allotment Life

Welcome to my world: digging, harvesting and other stuff

How to Provide

for your family

Crockern Farm

The evolution of an old farmhouse, an American woman, an Englishman and their dogs.

Niki Meadows

Sharing moments of life + motherhood to encourage fellow mommas

Green lights ahead

If you could go anywhere you wanted, where would you be headed right now?


surfing my tsunami


blowing through the cobwebs of my mind

Milenanik3's Blog

Just another weblog


Life after the Care Farm

The Cynical Gardener

The most Dangerous plant to sleep under is the water lilly


Local History for Great Wyrley and Surrounding Areas

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns

Cornelia's Blog

Just another site