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Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

Talkback: Garden spiders

Posted: 04/10/2013 at 17:48

Skye, around 1991. School holidays, so, of course, midge season. I already liked spiders.

That big yellow-bummed one eats cockroaches, so if you don't like cockroaches she'd be a good friend to have in your garden. I wouldn't want her crawling on the monitor screen while I'm playing a video game, though.

Why I will never Use peat free compost

Posted: 04/10/2013 at 17:36

I just took a look at that article Blisters linked and nearly lost my cup of tea when I saw "2,4-D" in it.

The words that brings to mind for me are "dioxin," "agent" and "orange," and if you don't know what that stuff does ... well, don't check out on a full stomach.

Fortunately, my local garden centre's one brand of peat-free compost (Erin Eco) appears to be doing just fine for sprouting bulbs and germinating seeds and has nothing chunkier in it than an occasional soft bit of twig. I got mushrooms once, but they could have got into the top layer some other way. We have them in the lawn, after all.

As for sterilising it, yes, I'm afraid the oven is what I meant. Gas mark 4's up there at 180 centigrade, though, and I think that's unnecessary. Not a lot survives 90. 110 will dry it out. If you don't want to smell up the kitchen with terra demicotta, I suppose you could use a bonfire or barbecue ... or haul an electric oven out into the garden for the day.  I'd suggest using the old baking trays and having new ones in the cupboard before you start, for the sake of continuing diplomatic relations.

Talkback: Garden spiders

Posted: 03/10/2013 at 20:26

Does anyone else think the markings on Glen's back look like eyes? He look like a really surprised chibi ... er ... something.


My personal favourites are the missing sector orb weavers. They make their webs as horseshoe-shapes from the outside in, leaving a gap where there's a thicker line, then they lurk between bricks or something, out of sight of birds, with just two feet on that line and wait for it to start trembling. When something is caught, they rush to the middle and start shaking the web. They can feel the vibrations bounce back off the caught insect. It's like sonar. Sometimes, if they find a good place to lurk well back from the front edge of a deeply-recessed window, they'll have the web at the front and live well behind it, and then they don't need a whole missing sector around the signal line so they make a few full circuits at the outside before they start with the ever-smaller horseshoe-shapes. Clever little architects!


Anyone who finds them creepy ought to avoid the golden silk orb weaver. They're great to have around, especially if you do not like cockroaches, but if you don't like British "big" spiders you'll have issues with the golden silk kind.,_Tallahassee_20021216.jpg

 The USA's variant is also known as a banana spider or writing spider and, as far as I know, totally harmless ... to humans 

Australia, being Australia, has one that's only slightly less lethal than a black widow, so, by Australian standards, it's extremely mild.

Why I will never Use peat free compost

Posted: 01/10/2013 at 17:28

First response was a google search for articles about Legionella and it got a lot of results, so it's been widely reported ...

... which doesn't necessarily mean it's true, of course, but ...

Anyway, I have a suggestion: sterilise it. 90 centigrade, 30 minutes. This prevents flies and slugs from hatching out of the seedling trays and invading your living room too.

Eating weeds

Posted: 28/09/2013 at 11:21

Anyone who wants to come round here and eat the himalayan balsam is welcome to do so. There's quite a bit of it, so you may want to bring about a thousand Syrian refugees with you to help you eat it all.

The demise of our native songthrush.

Posted: 25/09/2013 at 18:17

Thoughts on bird populations: too many people, too much concrete, not enough woodland, not enough moorland, too many poisons.

I only use slug pellets indoors.

I'm serious. The slimy little gits got in under the bath before I redid the wall and were eating my seedlings and crawling onto the kitchen worksurfaces in the night.

I only use fungicide where it's clearly needed, too and insecticide only on things that aren't going to flower soon.

I've been trying to leave dense cover for birds while turning a useless, overgrown, straggly hedge into a proper, low, dense hedge that'll be good cover for them in the future.

I've spent £1067.11 on the RSPD and livefoods websites in 27 months.

As a result, I have some birds ... but not as many as I used to have. We're just not leaving them anywhere to live. Still, I get snail shells by the corner of the house and there's one female blackbird that comes to be fed. Maybe in spring they'll get more numerous again when they have babies to feed and all trek from miles around to come to my garden.

A side-effect is, of course, cats, pigeons, rats and squirrels. Unfortunately, I can't just shoot the cats. Maybe I should plant citronella. Would that work? Maybe I should just plant cyclamen bulbs everywhere the cats like to poo. Grrrrrr ...

House martins we do have in town, and bank swallows / sand martins by the river a little way downstream, and I've seen a red kite around here recently, but we don't get the huge mixed flocks of small birds that used to be around. I think you can still meet them up the Dales sometimes.

hedges should be trimmer in October, when they've finished breeding but haven't yet started digging in for winter.

Large Canvas

Posted: 15/09/2013 at 22:55

Narrower beds in front of the decking and their E end and the SE raised bed curved around each other to make that corner smoother, plus a big curve in the raised bed in the SE to make the lawn less pointy and give you space for something spectacular like a sunken water feature with cascading water on all sides (except where the hedgehog ramp is, of course) or a group of choisya that'll smell fantasic when they're in flower.

 Any plans for the fence at the south? Are you going to spread the climbers from the pagoda all the way along it or hide it behind shrubs, for example? If that's a 6' fence and those are 3' beds, it'll only be 3' of visible fence anyway, a bit short for climbers.

Large Canvas

Posted: 15/09/2013 at 22:41

3' retaining wall? Got one of those to rebuild at my father's place.

I'd make a small change in the NE corner by pulling the fire pit and benches a little away from the perimeter fence and having some plants in there so you'll be more "tucked into the garden" than "tucked into the corner of the property."

It also looks a little like "over here or over there" between the fire pit and pagoda. It may be nicer to have them more separated so they're separate groups rather than two groups that don't mingle.

  I've added two beds to the decking, or a bed all the way round it except three access points, if you want. It's less likely to give people stage fright that way. I've also moved the fire pit forwards and added a bed in front of that to make it a more intimate space.

I'm not really happy with that though. The lawn looks a bit fragmented.

What does everyone think

Posted: 15/09/2013 at 22:13

Well, I think the water feature being a different colour and standing proud of everything else isn't good, actually. First impression was that you'd left some crumpled tarpaulin or something on the near side when you took the picture.

That'd be fixed by filling it with plants enough to stop it standing proud and hide the other rocks, but then you'd be hiding the other rocks, and you'd probably lose the three feature items there too in the process.

I think it'd be better with the water feature one pond edge further back, draining across rocks that match the rest of it, with the rockery built up around it so it's more like a natural gorge, and a lot more green on the rest of it. The plants you've got kind of look like they grew from bird- or wind-borne seed after you built it, rather than like they're part of the design, because the main impression is of an expanse of sterile, white gravel.

Sorry, but, well, you asked!


Get it off your chest

Posted: 15/09/2013 at 12:18

Maybe I should go round and flirt with her husband. That ought to scare him.

Discussions started by Charlie November

Holy glyphosate, Batman! What's that?

Huge thing with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves 
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Last Post: 24/06/2014 at 16:52

Rose cuttings: timing

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When is honey fungus not honey fungus?

At least I didn't spend anything. 
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Last Post: 26/10/2013 at 16:46

Apple tree with white leaves

It seems to be healthy enough, if slow-growing 
Replies: 2    Views: 350
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 18:34


Not a lily. Not an apple tree. 
Replies: 6    Views: 518
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 22:29


Planning? Measuring? Me? 
Replies: 17    Views: 915
Last Post: 07/05/2014 at 16:57

Leaving tulips in the ground

Can they be left in if the drainage is good? 
Replies: 14    Views: 2250
Last Post: 13/05/2013 at 08:09
7 threads returned