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Garden Life – A Spiky Friend – Gill Ford

A Hedgehog making a visit in my garden

As the weather was so glorious in June, I spent many hours wandering around my garden barefoot on the lawn, which is very peaceful and, as I am keeping the grass much longer these days some wonderful flowers have appeared, such as yellow vetch. I also noticed that the daisies and buttercups close their petals at night. This is because they are protecting the pollen and other reproductive parts that are inside the flowers, from the cold and rain. Also, many flowers are pollinated by insects and birds that are active during the day, so there is no reason to be open at night.

Unfortunately the late frost and cold weather has damaged most of the fruit blossom, so there will be very few apples and pears. However, the wild area under the trees is full of amazing little insects and toads. Also, a lovely little hedgehog appeared one late afternoon, which was a real treat.

Hedgehogs eat all kinds of pests – they particularly like big, crunchy beetles and slugs, making them a gardener’s best friend. Insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk, so the wildlife friendly area has attracted them into the garden. However hedgehogs are disappearing faster than tigers! Numbers have fallen by nearly a third since 2002. In 1950 the UK population was roughly 30 million, but fewer than one million hedgehogs are now thought to be left.

The decline of hedgehogs can be blamed on the loss of hedgerows, the over-management of parks and gardens, loss of green space to paving/decking and the use of chemical pesticides, leading to fewer insects for hedgehogs to eat.

Sir Captain Tom’s Rose

July is a wonderful month for roses and Harkness Roses has bred a new one called ‘The Captain Tom Rose’ (Harspirit) named after Sir Captain Tom Moore, whose fundraising efforts raised more than £35 million for NHS charities. There are lots of repeat flowering roses available, which continue to provide us with excellent displays in the summer months and sometimes through to the autumn. Two of my favourites are James Galway, which is a vigorous climber with strikingly beautiful, scented pink blooms and Lady of Shallott, which is a shrub rose with scented orange/custard yellow, chalice shaped flowers. Both of them are available from David Austin and of course they will benefit from banana skin and coffee applications!

The sun has already been very strong and my greenhouse has been overheating, even though it has vents and opening roof panels. So, I have covered the roof in a white sheet, which has reduced the temperature considerably. This was not an easy task as the greenhouse is over 6’ high by 8, long! So I held onto one end, threw the other end over the top and then eased it along with the end of a long handled broom! It was then secured to the frame with plastic clothes pegs! The alternative is to run the hose over the roof glass; the water does run down into the water barrel, so it is not wasted.

My vegetables are growing really well this year and it is not too late to sow another crop of herbs, French beans and lettuce, as they will germinate quickly in the warmer weather. I have also put copper tape around all the veggie beds, which works really well in deterring slugs and snails. I have also covered the brassicas with fine meshed netting, over a frame to prevent the Cabbage White butterflies from laying their eggs on the leaves and demolishing the crop! All the plants are now thriving in the warmth and gentle rain, so they are jostling for space with the weeds. So, I am still weeding but have decided to accept that some of them really are rather beautiful and have such quaint names, such as the yellow flowered St John’s Wort and Lady’s bedstraw, Yellow Archangel. However, I am still uprooting thugs such as nettles and brambles and putting them in the brown bin rather than in the compost.

So, enjoy the fruits of your endeavours and relax in the peace and tranquillity of your garden however big or small.

Read all of Gill’s garden articles and latest tips HERE.

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