If your pinks (dianthus) are looking a bit leggy you can get them looking good again by digging them up and then planting them much deeper so that all the straggly bits of stem are below soil level. They will send out new roots along the buried stems and lose that air of neglect. You can do this with lavenders too. A top dressing of gravel will stop the stems springing up again.
The bags of freshly chipped bark that are waiting to be spread on the paths in the garden have provided an unexpected benefit. When I noticed how quickly the bark was heating up, it occurred to me that I could use them as giant propagators. The broad beans that had shown no sign of germinating in the greenhouse started to shoot after 3 days in their cosy new quarters. Very satisfying. There is an extraordinary amount of bacterial and fungal activity in the chippings, so much so that I’m taking the precaution of wearing a face mask when spreading it to avoid inhaling the smoke-like clouds of dust. For the photo I moved one of the seedboxes to one side to reveal the network of fungus that has formed.
©CJ Wildbirdfoods Ltd
With the annual ‘National Nest Box Week’ running from 14-21 February this is the perfect time of year to site a nest box in your garden. The event aims to encourage everyone to put up a nest box in their local area and help in the conservation and breeding of British wild birds. CJ Wildlife’s Education & Research Officer, Martin George, explained “The wet weather conditions in 2012 impacted on breeding and many species had fewer young so it is more important than ever this year to provide as many breeding sites as we can. Siting a nest box now in preparation for the start of the breeding season means that the birds will become familiar with it and include it in their territories, making it more likely they will use it when the time comes to set up home.”
Traditionally nest boxes are made from wood but they are also produced using other materials. CJ Wildlife offer the WoodStone® range, constructed from a mix of wood fibres and concrete to offer a longer lifespan and maximum insulation. It is the opening on the nest box that determines which bird it will appeal to most, with Blue Tits, Great Tits and Willow Tits preferring a smaller entrance between 25-28mm whereas Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds prefer a large section of the front to be completely open.
When setting up nest boxes location is key. Like us, birds are looking for a home that is safe, secure and warm so position your nest boxes at a height between 1.5m and 5.5m (out of the reach of predators), away from prevailing winds and direct sunlight.
CJ Wildlife has a range of nest boxes suitable for a variety of species to ensure that all your garden birds are well cared for across the seasons. Visit www.birdfood.co.uk or call Freephone 0800 731 2820 to request a Free handbook of garden wildlife.
I’m not a huge fan of summer displays in hanging baskets, except for growing salad, strawberries and tomatoes, but nonetheless I do find them fantastically useful and buy old ones whenever I see them.
© Michelle Garrett
• They are perfect for positioning over newly planted plants so you don’t tread on them by mistake
• Will stop cats rolling on catmint
• Prevent squirrels from digging up bulbs
• Used with fleece will keep snow off vulnerable plants
• Antique wirework hanging baskets are attractive enough to be garden decorations in their own right
The cultivated blackberries never have quite the intensity of flavour of the wild ones, but they are certainly less effort to pick. Just three make a handful and as I’m picking around ten a day we are currently topping up our Vitamin C and antioxidant anthocyanins on a daily basis.