The extra bits...(Under construction).

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Allotment - Post 7 ....

     Would you Adam and Eve it but it has been nearly 12 months since I last worked upon my allotment, with my last report on it to be found here. Several issues contributed to this travesty included the Black Dog, moving my place of abode for the umpteenth time in a couple of years, work, Winter and to be honest it had been buried in the deepest part of my mind with no thought about it at all. Yes I have been paying attention to my tiny wildlife garden at home (I love being able to say home after so long adrift), but the allotment failed to register to the degree that I did not even harvest any apples for cider, bugger indeed.

     But my friend Casey from across the pond recently decided to post about his own journey of creating a wildlife haven within his back garden using native plants only, blog found here. I have said many times about my own small patch that it is truly a small piece of compromise wildlife gardening and many of the plants are picked for their benefit to wildlife and not because they are native, although that is changing as the garden evolves. Damn thing is that Casey's patch starting me thinking about ripping out my own and starting from scratch just to provide a totally native garden. But common sense took over and the garden will remain a compromise. But Casey's words reminded me of Plot 2A, my forgotten and neglected allotment and my plans to create a Cider orchard above a carpet of wild plants. Way hay, so the other day after the grind I payed 2A my first visit in months to be greeted with this.....


      Not exactly what I had in mind when I first took over the plot, at first I couldn't even see one of the six young cider trees planted last year and I feared that they had all failed. My first thoughts were to strim the whole plot down and then mow it very short for the next few seasons to allow the soil just to breath and recover from past cultivation. The grass to be raked off to prevent the soil becoming any richer and to replant cider trees. I could see that the few sprouts planted last year were flowering and overrunning the raised bed that I had erected, I headed towards them right away to clear them out so that at least I would feel that a start had been made. As I started walking through the tall grass towards them I began to notice that perhaps plan A of stripping the plot down to the ground perhaps was not the path I should tread...

Common Vetch had arrived

Buttercups in abundance

One of several ladybirds

The flowering sprouts were just irresistible to bees with over twenty feeding off them, not to mention the aphids.


Common Vetch


The Cowslips planted last year were doing well and hopefully will set some seeds




Clover meanders through the grasses

All of the young Cider trees were found to be healthy

Herb-Robert

The two mature trees look to have the makings of a bumper crop

     So even though I may have faltered in my care of 2A the signs were there that it could well become the native haven for wildlife I desire. So plan A has been dumped and plan B is now being implemented. I returned the next day with my strimmer and cleared out the area around the still very sexy compost bin and then turned my attention to the path. If you remember that last year the plot had a straight path up the middle with branches off to each tree, well although very nice for the normal allotment owner this was definitely a mistake for 2A. Luckily the straight paths have all but vanished so now I have cut a swath out that meanders from tree to tree and as the trees grow this should make walking the plot much more pleasant. The raised bed will not be cleared until the sprouts have finished flowering and the emerging meadow will be strimmed at about the end of August and then cut until the weather turns cold enough to discourage growth. Two plants that I will be concentrating on reducing by digging out are Dock and the clumps of scutch grass. Come the Autumn I will sow Yellow Rattle throughout the meadow to weaken the grasses and provide a better environment for other natives to take up residence. Also over the Summer I'm hoping to grow some natives and plant them in plug form once the meadow is cut.

Meandering path

Still damned sexy

Getting there


    Further long term plans include a shed behind the two mature apple trees with the water run off it's roof to supply a small pond like the one in my wildlife garden. The plot's boundaries require definition and this will be done with 'edible hedges' using different fruit trees. I'll be back there again this weekend to clear the area around the two mature trees ready for laying a base for the shed and the six young trees require the area around them clearing to enable them to flourish more. Oh and almost forgetting, on driving home from 2A I called into the 'not so super market' to pick up something for supper when I noticed they had three Crab apple trees in their patio tree section. Well I have been thinking that I could squeeze one more tree into the garden at home and a Crab apple fits the bill in that its flowers attract Bees and the like and then there is fruit in the Autumn for Blackbirds and perhaps Cider. So checking the tag it read £10, Mmmm perhaps not I thought (yeah I know tight arse John) and carried on into the store. As I left I happened to drift passed them again and thought "stuff it I'll have one". So grabbing one I made my way to the dedicated plant till (yes we are not totally backward in Wales) and had to catch my breath as the rather buxom and very pleasant young lady on the till informed me "that will be £3.50 please" After a pause to catch my breath (breath caught because of the price not at the sight of her bosom, although .....)  I said "hang on a minute" and promptly dashed off to grab the remaining two trees. Well that's one for the garden and two for 2A, result me thinks.

      So a hearty thank you to Casey for prodding my mind and helping me remember Plot 2A, I just hope that this time I'll stick to the task in hand. Til the next time take care,

John

32 comments:

  1. A small orchard is always nice. I used mostly wild Plums for my edible hedge but some Mulberry and Hackberry as well. Not sure what the attraction to native only is but at least in England you have a chance at actually doing it without ignoring the personal exceptions (they don't count ya know), so that may be interesting. I look forward to seeing and reading about your progress.

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    1. Thank you PP, I think views are divided as to the benefits for fauna about planting a wildlife area with totally native flora or including importing non natives into the space. I tend to lean on the fact that an area planted with just native flora will be of more benefit to native fauna as the two have evolved together. Of course my knowledge is limited upon what is native and what is introduced as both flora and fauna have been 'imported over many years and this also leads to the question as to where is the line drawn in time between imported and native? So a minefield if one wishes to be a purist and include exclusively native plants. Already I have failed in a way as my orchard trees are certainly not wild native cider trees but the orchard was my first thought before considering a more favorable approach for wildlife, and also I have to justify the use of the allotment to other allotmenters and to the council whom I rent it from. So straight away 2A is a compromise as I think unfortunately all wildlife projects have to be in this overcrowded world.

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    2. I can only guess when it comes to England but I would imagine going full native is possible there. Not so much in N. America because as you say where the line is drawn is important. N. America benefited greatly from the introduction of real pollinators so that even plants some claim to be "Native" were not actually all that widespread. Trees especially fit that category like the Honey Locust, Black Locust and wild fruit trees. The biggest issue is season long forage for honey bees though as there is really no "native" plant that produces enough nectar to sustain honey bees on a year long basis. There are certainly flow crops that are "native" although very few but without introduced clovers and legumes honey bees would die out in N. America and most of the "Native" species people like would dwindle considerably as well and it would go back to coarse grasses.

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    3. So Honey Bees in North America are an introduced species PP?

      I think that many issues are overlooked when non-native species are introduced, the reasons behind many introductions are purely for financial gain, be it for food crops, pest control or perhaps sport such as fishing. The issues may be long term in becoming obvious but many flora and fauna species when 'relocated' can have devastating effects upon native ecologies, especially if they have no natural predators there. Just the removal of one species from an environment, perhaps because of predation by or simple unable to compete with an introduction, can cause massive imbalance in that environment.

      It does raise the question as to whether or not mankind's influence upon the environment on a global scale is now irreversible PP. I suppose if mankind was to suddenly vanish evolution would, in time, restore a balance. But it still beggars the question do we wish to remain a parasite and kill the very world we rely on for life or do we become stewards of both ourselves and the planet. Sorry my man, late here and I'm rambling a tad.

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    4. John - Well I would say N. America is way beyond any sort of re-nativization and in fact at this point and time attempting to do so would literally destroy the world. Honey Bees, Horses, dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats, pretty much anything associated with man and food or civilization are introduced species to N.America. The fodder used to feed said animals from clover to actually tasty (to the animals) grasses for hay were imported. What was so called Native to N. America isn't fit for anything but buffalo and prong horn antelope. The are very few native legumes and none that supply sufficient nectar to keep honey bees alive all year. Most of the trees and grasses that originally covered N. America are almost all wind pollinating or self pollinating as the native bees like bumble bees and stingless bees and flies never produced enough numbers to keep a vibrant cross pollinating eco-system going.

      I agree introducing species was often done without thinking about the consequences and should never be done lightly but, and this is a big but, usually when it causes bad side effects it isn't really the introduced specie doing it on it's own. It's usually because of another specie that compliments the introduced one. For instance pro native activist complain about a Legume named Crown Vetch often. It is insidious and takes over BUT the honey bees love it and it blooms all summer. The reason it takes over is because it will crowd out the native grasses when they are mowed. If left alone it eventually dies out on it's own. Therefore it isn't the plant it's the fact that all these people want safe highways that make the plant invasive.

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    5. It's a subject with many tentacles to it PP and the ifs n buts can be tossed around forever my friend. I guess that we, as a species, fail to look at the implications of many of the actions we perform in the name of progress. The answer to native planting or not when trying to encourage wildlife is far more complex than I understood it to be when I started this journey but talking with people like your goodself helps expand my understanding of the complexities of trying to be a steward of my little piece of earth. With so much to learn it is quite daunting but at the same time highly enjoyable.

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  2. Hi John ,sounds like you have it all worked out. I'm sure it will be looking great before you know it...lovely to see the beautiful flowers are around and the bees are there.
    I ate my second orange off my tree yesterday, it was small but very juicy and sweet (valencia ) ,lemons are coming along slowly. Passion fruits are still there ,yellow ones finished, dark ones ,there are at 20 still on vine, very sweet! Maybe I should try an apple tree!
    Good luck with everything! :)
    Bron * *

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    1. Ah your climate does allow the growing of such wonderful fruit m'dear, tis early days with 2A but at least I am re-motivated and have a direction of where the plot is going, just time and effort now. Thank you, as always, for your kind words Bron

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  3. If you get bored, sow clover. Bees love it and it enriches the soil. By the way...

    Sappy Birch tree to yew
    Sappy Birch tree to yew
    Sappy Birch tree to yewwww dear John
    A Sappy Birch tree to yew

    Dat's a Canuckian birthday song :)

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    1. Ahh now this made me smile Cheryl, thank you indeed. ;-)

      There is already some clover meandering through the grasses although more won't hurt m'thinks.

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  4. That is a BEAUTIFUL patch of sunny earth you are stewarding there, John. Look at life flourishing! Regarding the crab apples for cider...using the fruits for cider or flavoring cider with the blossoms? I've had cider enhanced with elderberry flower and wasn't real thrilled so I thought I would ask.

    The pics are awesome. Would these come from the new camera?

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    1. Thank you Casey, hopefully plan B will continue to improve this small habitat.

      The Crab apple fruit will be used in various quantities as I experiment with them in Cider, I'm not one for messing around with flowers or other fruits in me ale. The pictures are still from my old camera as I am not at all confident with the newer one Casey, just need to set some time aside to practice with it I guess.

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  5. I've never seen the garden of Eden, but this must be a close match! Now, Eve, stay away from those apples!

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    1. Why thank you Elsewhere, Eve better had stay away from my apples they're just for cider!

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  6. It seems that you are well on your way to achieving your goal, I hope that it all pans out for you. I would love an allotment but there are none within a reasonable distance.

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    1. Thank you Pam, I'm fortunate that the allotment is just 3 miles away, a good walk on a nice day.

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  7. Fab bargains! I only hope the fellow allotmenteers are not getting irate with your wildlife haven!

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    1. Fab bargains indeed Rach, I hope to sooth the other allotmenters as 2A matures into a small orchard with a myriad of pollinating insect luring plants under their fruit laden branches.....that or get them sloshed upon cider.

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  8. I bet your allotment neighbours worry about all the 'weeds' you are growing! Good luck, sounds very interesting and will in the end, benefit them as well.

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    1. As a said to Rach DC, I'll be at pains to educate them into the benefits that this small wildish area will bring to the other plots.

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  9. Isn't it wonderful how nature takes over and colonises wild spaces at every opportunity. Your photos are lovely, such a wealth of insects and native plants and you have a banded snail! We have those too and last year we had hundreds on one shrub, all tiny babies which were pretty to look at but which nibbled everything in sight! It was like a bird restaurant though!
    Hope you have had a good week, John.
    .



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    1. Thank you PP, hopefully as 2A develops the wildlife will come flooding in. And yes the week has been kind to me, I hope the same for you m'dear.

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  10. well, it looks quite brilliant to me, as it stands! if the other allotmenters kick up about your style, you can tell them you're practicing wild permaculture....;) xo

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    1. Thank you Mel and a good idea to boot, though cider bribes might too do the trick as well ;-)

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  11. Wonderful selection of wildlife in your orchard John :) I love reading about your future plans - and those apple trees were a bargain :) It sounds as though it could be a real haven for wildlife and provide a few apples too!

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    1. Thank you Robin, I'm glad you are enjoying my rambling posts.

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  12. Phew! I'm glad you had the second thought and didn't rip all out to start again :o) If it helps put your mind further at rest, I'm reading a very interesting book (Where do Camels Belong? By Ken Thompson) that challenges current thinking about non-native plants and species. Also, a recent study showed that pollinators were as happy to use some non-native species as native ones. That's not to undervalue our native plants in any way, just to suggest that for some species (non aggressive ones) there is a place in our gardens.... Glad you're back to allotmenting :o)

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    1. Thank you CT I may well look that book up. I think the discussion between native and non-native may be tad late though because as a specious we have already changed the world's balance so much. I certainly try to use native species more so as my journey into wildlife gardening unfolds but to be honest I feel a tad lost when it comes to determining which are native or not. In Compromise Garden (a name that seems to suit my tiny back garden) there are many introduced species and although I will try to tip the balance towards more native ones as long as the plants attract wildlife and are not too aggressive in their growth and spread then they are welcome but down at 2A besides the fruit trees that will form the dwarf woodland and provide cider of course and perhaps some vegetables in a couple of small beds I'm trying my hardest just to use native as again I feel that our flora and fauna has evolved together....hopefully both small areas will support more wildlife than a desert of a manicured lawn.

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  13. My folks have a very fine Bramley tree, which provides a rich source of very large apples which my stepfather has finally figured how to turn into crumbles, often in combination with the blackberries I pick for them.

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    1. Apples crumble? I'm drooling just at the thought Simon.

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  14. Thanks for the pictures John, and Yay Bargains! There is always a super sense of victory when you find the unexpected one.

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    1. My pleasure TB, oh and I was certainly skipping with the Crab apple trees out of the store at that price... :-)

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Feel free to comment but no blaspheming now...