school garden

school garden

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Harmlessly staring...

"What is this world if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare..."

written by William Henry Davies in 1911 and taken from his book 'Songs of Joy and Others' .

With Christmas fast approaching and a time to perhaps think back over the past year,  staring out from the Memory Garden earlier revealed small white flecks on the stems of the Rosemary plants there. They were in flower. These modest little white/mauve flowers  had braved the last few days of cold and gale force winds.

The Memory Garden

 These inconspicuous little flowers are hardly visible until you get up close..

The Rosemary in flower

As you lean in closer  to look at them your clothes brush against the plant and as you walk away you realise that the plant has won. You smell the Rosemary on your coat and your hand! Clever stuff. Nature is like that.

"A poor life this is if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare"

The poem is called 'Leisure'. Well worth a read in todays computer driven world.

Meanwhile in the pixie encampment things are stirring. They are getting ready for Christmas. They have kept a low profile since the school garden open day back in the Summer but now they are making themselves busy. What mischief awaits!

The pixies have been busy

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Done and dusted - or should that be composted!

This morning another 14 bags of horse manure were filled from nearby Martleaves Farm -  for which  we are very grateful - and transported to the school garden. All the class beds have now been treated along with the salad leaf beds in front of the garden HQ and the smaller beds to the right of the HQ.

The salad leaf bed

The garden club small beds

The worm rich manure

Detailed close up of the organic compost

During the afternoon activities a single squirrel was noted on the fence of the WW2 garden. It was probably checking out the edible possibilities of the compost but it will be disappointed!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The fox pays a visit!

Working in the garden over the weekend it became obvious that the fox had made a very recent visit to the garden. He, or she, had  left behind a lot of pheasant feathers by the willow classroom. I have seen and heard pheasants in this part of Weymouth but  the fate of this bird will remain a mystery.  On a more positive note a Red Admiral butterfly was on the wing, a large bumble bee was seen buzzing around and even a very late hoverfly was feeding on one of the bristly-ox-tongue flowers in the WW2 garden.

 There is still no sign of the squirrels. There were some 20 Jackdaws smothering the fatballs this afternoon. It is no wonder that we get through ten to twelve fat balls a day in the bird feeding station,

Some lovely fungi clumps of late in the garden and around the school grounds

Today we started to put some organic compost on the classroom beds. This should be finished within the next day or so. The compost will remain on top of the soil for a week or so to let the weather break it up a little and then it will be dug in.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Not a squirrel in sight!

This morning for over four hours not one squirrel showed itself! Plenty of Woodpigeons flew away on arrival but no squirrels. This is because they have eaten everything. They cannot get at the fatball holders for the birds now because the wire has been strengthened and they cannot reach down and get at them. They have moved on- for the time being.

Around the willow classroom is the biggest fairy toadstool ring that I have ever seen. Strangely all the toadstools seem to be on the outside of the classroom with just one or two inside.

The Strawberry bed has been moved. The plants will get more sunshine and warmth in the new position which should improve the crop. It will also be easier to cover and keep those hungry Blackbirds off the fruit as they forage about in the early mornings.

The new Strawberry bed   

The strongest remaining colours in the garden come from the magnificent wind vanes constructed by Mrs Palmers' class during last term. Most of them have withstood the weather and still fly proud over the garden beds.

The magnificent wind vanes  

Over the next few weeks we will be topping up the class beds with more top soil and also digging in some organic manure.All will be ready then for next Spring when the gardening starts again!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Those Living Stones

Just a couple of photographs taken this afternoon of the Living Stones.  The drop in temperature has spurred them into flower. Well worth a look if anybody passing by the greenhouse. The flowers do not last long

They will need re-potting next Spring and we can enjoy them again next autumn

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A touch of gold!

Whilst easing the doors of the greenhouse earlier and removing the debris which had almost jammed the door shut the fabulous colours on the leaves of the pear tree nearby caught the eye.

Before starting work  on the greenhouse the net was set at the bird feeding station as a lot of Goldfinches could be heard in the tree tops.  Four birds were caught straight away.

Juvenile Goldfinch - red head feathers just appearing

Adult female Goldfinch - red feathers stop short of the back of the eye

Adult male goldfinch - red feathers stretch beyond the back of the eye

The bill of the Goldfinch is a wonderful piece of engineering. The bird can extract thistle and teasel seeds with this. As can be seen the tip is very fine with a very delicate point to it. Some of these birds could well be moving to France for the winter. We shall have to wait and see if anybody in France finds one of our 'Holy Trinity' birds

At the back wall there were a few fruits on the passion flower.  The plant responded well to a severe haircut back in the spring.

The Passion Flower

Passion Flower fruit

Finishing on a possible high note. Underneath the Passion Flower a small delicate antler like fungus was spotted.  This is one of the Ramaria type.  An evening with the field guide later is needed to sort this one out and identify the species. Some of these are rather rare!

The Ramaria fungus

Monday, 17 October 2011

Late autumn colour

A stock taking walk around the garden after filling the bird feeders this afternoon revealed that there was still a lot of colour left in the school garden. The most outstanding flowers at the moment have to be the wonderful cosmos. They were very  late in flowering and should only have been 18 inches high.

The plants failed miserably on both counts. Some of them stand  6 foot high in places and have just started to flower. They have stems like small trees. A great bonus is that the squirrels have not eaten them! Below are a few pictures of the magnificent flowers.

Returning to the bird feeders. The Goldfinchs have at long last found the nyjer seed. There were twelve birds perched on the feeder this afternoon. The fat balls are disappearing at nine a day.

Male Greenfinch

On sunday a net was positioned over the pond to catch the leaves as they fall from the Sycamore trees. It was positioned high enough to let the birds in under the net and drink. Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinchs, Goldfinchs Greenfinchs and Pied Wagtails all regularly drink at the pond

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Living Stones

As promised this update shows the flowering Living Stone plants in the greenhouse.  The plants were not discovered until 1811 by a botanist called William Burchell.  They occur mainly in Namibia and South Africa and are found in the deserts. Usually they receive less than 700 mm of rain a year and some rely only on dew formation on the plants themselves for moisture.  The plants will not survive overwatering in this country.

Next year it is hoped to have a small desert garden in the greenhouse with other small succulent plants and cactii. These small delicate plants deserve great attention. They survive in very tough conditions in the wild and astound us with simple and delightful flowers.

Don't mention the squirrels! Too late. They have now found the few rotting pumpkins and have started to eat these as well.

The squirrels do not know that the seeds taste even better if baked in the oven

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A strained relationship!

The squirrels are now pushing an already rocky  relationship just a little too far. They continue to eat anything and everything that they can find in the school garden. They have finished eating all of the sunflower seeds and  have now moved onto the sweet corn cobs. In the space of just a few days they have caused a lot of damage to the sweet corn crop. Some squirrels are eating the cobs whilst still on the plants. There are now half eaten cobs all over the garden and one cheeky squirrel even removed a cob on sunday morning during a work party and proudly carried it into the willow classroom and sat on one of the log seats and enjoyed a late breakfast.

This is pushing things a little too far! Perhaps a recipe of squirrel pie pinned to the door of the shed might deter them. There are some lovely boletus mushrooms on the school premises which would flavour the sauce wonderfully.

Before the squirrels have a chance to investigate the pumpkins we have now harvested most of them and stored them in the garden HQ shed. There are a few left to ripen but already three have started to rot so it its time to put them to one side until we decide what to do with them.  They are under lock and key so the squirrels should not find these.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Leek Moth

A visit to the WW2 garden to cut the grass yesterday revealed that the leek bed had been devastated by the 'leek moth'. This very small moth is very much a coastal species.  It was not known to attack leeks in Dorchester .  It emerges twice in the year. The Spring hatch causes minimal  disturbance but the Autumn emergence really is noticeable. It is the larvae which cause the damage.

The Leek Moth

Leek Moth larva

The loss of the leeks is a shame but on a positive note there is still much colour in the garden.

Californian Poppies

On the vegetable front the specialist species of sweetcorn which  we were trialling has produced some cobs. This is the species which is attributed to be developed and grown by the Hopi Indians in North America. The cobs are multicoloured.

The specialist species of Sweetcorn

Our rice plants are now producing plenty of seed heads loaded with rice seeds. A look in the greenhouse will also reveal that the Living Stones are about to flower.(picture later)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Who is eating the Sunflower seeds?

I am!

Grey Squirrel
This morning three grey squirrels were disturbed from the garden and as then ran away they were clutching chunks of sunflower seed heads. The squirrels are also eating the sweet corn cobs. They are becoming public enemy number one along with the public enemy number two - the eleven Woodpigeons which flew off this morning.

Autumn is coming. A wander around the garden revealed mother nature at her best. Who else could create paintings like these?

Leaf from the Grape Vine

A Nasturtium leaf

As the wind dropped the mist net was set at the bird feeding station. The sun on the net did not help but ten birds were caught and ringed in an hour.

A Chiffchaff

Three Chiffchaffs were caught. These very small birds - they weigh about 8 grams - are on their way to West Africa.They get their name from their call. A melodious 'chiff chaff chiff chaff'

A couple of adult Blue Tits were also caught

Blue Tit

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A couple of firsts!

The first thing to highlight was the identification of a new species of spider in the school garden by our weekend entomologist. The six-eyed spider is coloured bright red. However the most noticeable feature on the insect are the long fangs. Females spiders of this species are known to bite - but it is no more painful than a pin prick!

The spider was very hard to photograph and would not stay still for very long. A close up in the next photograph shows the long fangs

The spider rests up under stones. It was discovered whilst digging some compost into the new bed for flowering shrubs to help attract bees and other insects.

The second first for the school garden was the discovery this evening that several of our rice plants have actually produced rice. At present the seeds have yet to fill out but we are almost there. The plants have been looked after since May with a late change of mind in July as to how they should be cultivated. The rice paddy approach was shelved in favour of keeping in pots and well watered. The rice paddy idea produced too much moss on top of the very damp soil surface which may have affected the outcome.

The newly developed rice seeds

Leaving the garden there were three Migrant Hawker dragonflies darting around the pond.