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Sue's Wildlife Gardening Blog for February

Posted: Thursday 25th February 2016 by My-Wild-Garden

(c) Wildstock

A thrush took off from my allotment as I approached with my squeaky wheelbarrow and there, in a flash of brown, was a prime example as to the reason why I garden in a wildlife-friendly way. Only a few moments before the same thrush would have been busy cracking open snail shells to get at the soft bodies of molluscs that like nothing more than to munch through my tender seedlings later in the spring. I’m hoping this winged snail slayer will return when I’m not around to sort out a few more.

Work on the allotment has been hampered by the wet weather but the brisk winds seem to have dried the ground a bit.

I’m still trying to avoid standing on the soil that I dug over during the autumn but have gone back to breaking a bit more of the unworked ground and pulling out the couch grass and bind weed roots before they get the chance to multiply to create a dense mat.

I’ve also started preparing the ground for my runner beans, which involves digging a deep trench – well, as deep as I can manage given the stones lying a foot or so under the soil! – and then filling it with fresh kitchen waste.

These potato peelings, apple cores, banana skins and tea bags will gradually rot down while simultaneously providing a moisture store for the runner bean roots to tap into. I’ll cover them over with plenty of soil before I plant the beans in May.

While the soil was too wet to stand on, there was no reason not to set about moving the allotment compost heap, especially as the tree behind it is due to be coppiced shortly.

I used the unrotted roots and other debris from the top of the heap to make a ‘hot bed’, which I’ve covered in horse manure and leaves. In time I’ll add a thick layer of the compost from underneath ready for sowing pumpkins in May. The idea is that heat generated from the rotting roots and manure will generate heat to encourage the pumpkins to grow quickly.

I’ve also used well-rotted homemade compost to top up raised beds and fill deep boxes ready for sowing carrots in a month or two. ‘Early Nantes’ will probably be the first carrots to go in. I plant them in deep boxes in the hope that the crops will be too high off the ground to come to the attention of carrot fly, which is a major pest on our allotments.

Winter is the time to prune fruit bushes, such as blackcurrants and red currants, and I’ve been making the most of the opportunity to do this. Pruning improves the flow of air, which means fruit is unlikely to go mouldy, and it encourages heavier crops.

I’ve also invested in some new strawberry plants to replace my existing ones, which seem to be coming to the end of their productive lives, and have planted them in raised beds to make it more difficult for slugs and snails to help themselves. This time I’ve gone for ‘Marshmello’ and ‘Buddy’, which I’m told are particularly good for flavour. Picking a sun-ripened strawberry is one of the joys of growing your own fruit and vegetables and the taste is unlike anything found in a supermarket.

The sweet peas I planted a few weeks ago are coming up well and are benefiting from the sunshine we’ve had recently.

Meanwhile the potatoes that I’m chitting are developing some nice plump shoots ready for when they go into the ground next month.

Winter is coming to an end and there are signs that the allotment is waking up, with leaf buds appearing on my raspberries and roses, daffodils coming into flower and the sound of birdsong in the air.

This week’s task is to sharpen up my hoe ready to start taking the tops of weed seedlings before they get the chance to turn into full blown plants, a process that happens surprisingly quickly once the weather warms up.




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