school garden

school garden

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.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The School Garden Gets Some Good News

At the beginning of the summer holidays an invitation was extended to the National Garden Scheme to visit the garden to see if it would be eligible for inclusion in the famed Yellow Book. For those who do not know about the NGS it is a national organisation that raises money for charity by helping people to open their gardens to the public. Last year they raised £2.5 million pounds for nursing, caring and gardening charities. Their patron is the Prince of Wales. A visit was made by the local Weymouth representative, who was thrilled with the garden. A second visit by the Dorset representative, took place on Monday, before the gales. The conclusion was that they both loved the garden and would like us to open next summer for the gardening public. It is a mark of what has been achieved in the garden that the NGS are interested, they only accept gardens of a certain standard.

Whilst tidying before the visit on Monday I took some time to get some up todate photos of the garden, just as well as the gales did a fair amount of damage on Monday night and into Tuesday. Only got part of the garden before the visitors arrived but its looking good.

The grape and kiwi pergola

The Watering Station

Pumpkin Patch

Annual Nicotiana Plants (did very well this year)

Passion vine finally going strong on the back wall

Sweetcorn trials on the right

Raised beds

Pond Pergola

Sunday, 4 September 2011

An insect morning

Whilst tidying up for an hour yesterday a new butterfly species for the school garden was noted. A Small Copper. They do not stay still for very long but this one did for a quick photograph.

Small Copper
There were a lot of wasps flying around and also plenty of look-a-like-wasps- hoverflies, which are quite harmless.

Wasp -note thick antennae and round body

Hoverfly- flat body, large eyes and short stubby antennae
On the cherry trees there were also signs of recent activity. Many leaves now have leaf mines in them. Insect eggs laid on the leaves hatch and bury themselves into the leaf. As they grow they create wonderful shapes around the leaf until they create a small exit hole and drop out onto the ground to pupate and hatch afterwards. Sometimes they overwinter on the ground in this state.

Leaf mine trace

More leaf mine traces

The shape of the mine can possibly identify the insect which is making it. This particular one looks like the Apple Tree Miner but expert identification is called for.

Finally proof of another species of dragonfly breeding at  the pond is this  photograph of a female Southern Hawker egg laying on the vegetation yesterday morning

Female Southern Hawker laying eggs