I recently blogged about frogs in the koi pond, pleasantly surprised to see several ‘frog couples’ I quickly realised their spawning efforts would be in vain. Forty (or so) Koi most likely enjoyed frog-egg suppers and breakfasts. I did go spawn-spotting but never got the chance to save it.
The main pond
Just a few of our Koi
A few days after the frog visits we spotted a smooth newt swimming to the rocks (sadly my camera wasn’t to hand), this was very exciting indeed. Pond life activity increased on and in the koi pond during the recent warm weather, water boatmen and pond skaters have arrived too. We decided to help our amphibian visitors successfully reproduce by introducing a small wildlife pond near the main pond, with plenty of mature plants and large rocks to act as hiding places and cover, the elevated position inside the rockery will protect it to a degree from frost.
The rockery surrounds the koi pond, the wildlife pond is just inside the rockery in the photo
The wildlife pond is quite small, just a puddle in comparison to the main pond, but that doesn’t matter. We placed rotting wood logs nearby and planted grasses, foliage and creeping plants such as Ivy around the pond edge. Inside the pond there’s floating oxygenating plants, floating and potted water cress, water forget-me-not, a submerged lily and marsh marigold. Gradually the plants will mature and provide extra cover around the pond edge, the corners have shallow levels to make it easier for wildlife to climb in and out.
Happy frog in the new wildlife pond
Already a frog is visiting the new pond daily, every evening a pair of sparkling golden eyes blink back at me from the water. We realise it’s probably too late for spawning frogs now, but it’s there, ready and waiting to welcome pond life throughout the year.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 10, 2013
Our garden is a visual and audible treat at the moment, even though spring arrived a little late this year everything appears to be catching up. The huge pine trees are a nursery to many garden birds right now, twiggy nests can be seen in branches.
Blackbirds are nesting inside the rockery conifers surrounding the pond, occasionally I hear the ’peep peep’ sound of hungry chicks throughout the day, eagerly awaiting the return of their parents with food. At dusk we are treated to an aerial display of bats hunting, if we listen really carefully we can just make out the distinct clicking-sound. Another nocturnal visitor to our garden and a favourite of mine is the hedgehog, they can be heard snuffling around the lawn at night, on a clear moon-lit evening we might catch a glimpse of one, scurrying off into bushes.
I’ve noticed squirrels digging in the lawn, taking off for the pine trees when I approach. I love watching them leap from tree to tree with the grace and skill of a gymnast. Some of the fruit trees are ablaze with blossom, attracting bumblebees in their numbers, daffodils are just finishing now and Forget-me-nots are taking centre stage, creating a pretty blue haze.
I saw my first ladybird of the year yesterday and a number of butterflies on the wing are passing through the garden too, mainly Peacock. Here’s a great website for those unfamiliar with UK butterfly species: http://www.britishbutterflies.co.uk/index.asp
I love nature, especially during spring. I hope you’re enjoying watching and listening to nature/wildlife in your garden too.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 2, 2013
I’ve seen at least three frog-couples since the weekend, sometimes sat at the edge of the pond and other times swimming around. Each morning (and some evenings by torchlight) I check the pond for spawn but so far nothing. Last year, before we moved house, frogs spawned in the wildlife pond we made, we enjoyed watching the spawn develop into tadpoles and eventually froglets.
The pond here at our new property is deep with no shallow areas (although frogs can get in and out without any problems) and is home to large Koi, if the frog couples I have seen are spawning then it’s very likely the Koi are eating it. There are no other ponds nearby, so I’d like to help our froggy-friends by introducing a small shallow pond within the rockery surrounding the large pond. Under cover of shrubbery and surrounded by rocks and crevices, I’m hoping females will eventually choose to use it.
If you’ve found spawn in your pond, pop along to Big Spawn Count 2013 and use the online form to record your findings.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 18, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 10, 2013
Watch the birds visiting your garden or local park on the weekend of 26 – 27 January 2013 and submit your sightings (bird sighting form will be open from the birdwatch weekend until 15 February 2013) to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I take part every year, it’s very easy and only takes an hour of your time! http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/
Register to receive a free birdwatch pack full of tips:
You can also download and print out this handy bird ID sheet to help with your birdwatch:
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on January 14, 2013
I was admiring how well the onions were swelling the other day, suddenly I noticed some of the leaves had been chewed in a neat circular way. Something had completely sliced open the tips of the leaves (bulbs are fine), so I did a bit of investigating to see what it could be. It didn’t take long to find the culprits way down inside the hollow leaves, complete with lots of green poop. Nice.
After a bit of research it appears the podgy caterpillars I found inside my onion leaves are cutworms. Cutworms are the larvae of several species of night flying moths, they’re not actually worms at all. Apparently, they’re a common visitor to the vegetable garden but I’ve never noticed them before, I mean, they’re not exactly easy to miss.
They hide in soil or under leaf litter, feeding on crops and other plants at night (more common early in the year), often cutting young plants or seedlings straight down to ground level. I guess that’s how they get their rather cruel name. When alarmed they curl into a C-shape, my personal observation is they have very sticky feet, making them difficult to pick off plants. They’re large and meaty so I didn’t fancy squishing them (I’m useless at killing things anyway), they’d make a heck of a mess. I simply moved on the ones I found and did a bit of hoeing to see if I could spot any lurking in the soil.
Gardening organically and living where I do I’m always going to have the odd ‘pest’ problem here and there, that’s how it goes. I don’t use nasty chemical sprays, my preferred method of natural control will be to keep a close eye for more, picking them off if I see them, digging the onion bed over after harvesting to expose any I may have missed. Cutworms have many natural predators including wild birds, our chickens will scratch in the onion bed later on in the year too.
Cutworms, your days are numbered.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on August 13, 2012
As you look upon your soggy vegetable beds with pity, spare a thought for our struggling butterflies and moths too. I’m sure you didn’t need me to point out the distinct lack of them this year, it’s a real concern, our native species are already in trouble. With your input the charity Butterfly Conservation can keep a really close eye on how our butterflies and moths are faring this year.
Pop over to the Big Butterfly Count to find out how you can help: http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/about
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on July 16, 2012
There hasn’t been much going on in the vegetable garden lately, persistent heavy rain and gusty winds constantly prevent any real activity from happening. The greenhouse is heaving with plants crying out to be planted out, I’ve yet to sow a bean seed, carrots are just a disaster and I’ve just about given up trying to keep the summer raspberry canes tied in to their support, they’re trailing on the ground again and that’s where they’re probably safe to be honest. More high winds are set to batter our region this weekend.
Aside from letting the hens out early in the morning, some days I haven’t bothered to venture outside for fear of a tree landing on my head. Our neighbour suffered substantial damage to her fence and garden when a huge tree came down, the noise and destruction was horrific but luckily nobody was hurt. But, there’s some good news with all this wet weather we’re having; potatoes, strawberries and onions are thriving, the lawn is looking the best it ever has and lots of small frogs are regularly visiting the wildlife pond, and being quite brazen about it too.
I don’t miss all the watering this time of year usually requires, but, please, a break from the wet and wild weather would be nice. I’m starting to lose enthusiasm.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on June 15, 2012
Today was the first day of spring and a beautiful one it was too. I spent a few hours in the vegetable garden, getting a few jobs done. I couldn’t help but notice the 7-spot ladybirds breeding, my garden is a magnet for them at the moment.
They certainly seemed to be enjoying the warm sunshine. Ahem! Record your ladybird sightings at: http://www.ladybird-survey.org
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 20, 2012
Ladybirds are everywhere at the moment, lots of them too. They’re in the greenhouse, peeking out of the bug boxes I’ve provided, grouped together on shrubs, fence posts and they’re even spilling out of the joins of my wooden raised beds.
I’m hoping they stick around and zap all the aphid this year.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 12, 2012