May is a time of great excitement on Sue Bradley’s allotment, from the sound of birdsong to the promise of plenty of fruit and vegetables over the coming months.
What made it all the more moving was that the spot in which the recording was made had once been silent; a bare and empty expanse that was transformed by the planting of hundreds of trees, together with the making of a garden.
It’s hard to think of a greater achievement in life than bringing birdsong to a place where previously there had been none, and a wonderful legacy of a time well spent on this earth.
Spring sights and sounds
Birdsong is a constant soundtrack on the allotment, especially at this time of year when nest building is in full swing. Meanwhile a rich variety of insects have been putting in an appearance, from scores of ladybirds to butterflies, such as the comma I saw fanning its wings in the warmth of the spring sun.
Maybe the wild flowers growing on the plot have got something to do with the increasing variety of invertebrates I’ve been seeing, with red campion and green alkanet coming into bloom in recent weeks. Neither was deliberately planted - and some may even look upon them as weeds - but they’re proving popular with pollinators and undoubtedly providing plenty of nectar for bees.
Other flowers that I’m especially glad to see are the sweet-smelling blooms on my broad beans and the pretty white flowers of the strawberry, which means it won’t be long before they’ll be cropping.
Speedwell, groundsel and various other weeds are also making their presence felt, although a quick scratch with the hand hoe is usually enough to stop them from casting their seeds across the soil.
Will Jack be back?
It’s a time of excitement and anticipation, yet while the days are longer and the weather sunnier, only a fool can afford to be complacent over the possibility of late frosts.
The long periods of warm weather have encouraged lots of growth from my potatoes, which I’ve been covering up with waste straw to protect them from Jack’s icy nip.
Elsewhere the carrots and lettuce sown in old dustbins are coming on a treat, and I’m especially pleased to see pumpkins emerging from the ‘hot heap’ – a pile of manure topped with homemade compost on which I scattered a few seeds saved from last year’s harvest.
The ‘nectar bar’, an area of flowering plants on the corner of the allotment that I’ve created to provide sustenance for butterflies and bees for 10 or 11 months of the year is coming together well, especially with the addition of a few ornamental grasses picked up from the ‘dead and dying’ section at a garden centre.
On the home front
Trays of seedlings being grown on at home are doing nicely, with courgettes, sunflowers, sweetcorn and runner beans all emerging through the soil.
I’ll be looking for them to reach a good size before they go up to the allotment to ensure they don’t become easy pickings for slugs and snails, and I’ll make sure there are a few containers of beer nearby to entice the molluscs away from tender leaves.
At the same time I’m hopeful that the centipedes I see in the homemade compost left on the allotment woll also contribute to the fight against pests, and time will tell if hedgehogs come back to the plot
Last year was by all accounts a good summer for these prickly animals, with some producing two litters due to the long periods of warmth. Yet two of these precious newborns certainly wouldn’t have seen it through the winter had it not been for a keen-eared friend, who found two dramatically underweight hoglets last October after investigating a strange squeaking sound.
It wasn’t looking too good for the pair, which each weighed just over 50g, but Jane put them in a box and took them to Help a Hedgehog Hospital in Kings Stanley, where Carole Deuten took them in and lovingly nursed them through the winter.
A few weeks ago Jane was pleasantly surprised to receive a phonecall letting her know that her hedgehogs were ready to return home, and astounded to be presented with two strapping animals weighing more than 1100g each!
There’s been a 95% decline in hedgehogs since the 1950s, with one in three lost since 2000. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Hedgehog Way campaign is working to bring together communities in urban areas such as Kingsway, Swindon Village and Charlton Kings to improve the ways in which habitats are connected.
Meanwhile the Trust wants to hear of hedgehog sightings so that it can build up a better picture of where they’re living. Keep your eyes peeled and visit here if you see one.