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Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

Talkback: Birds: helping garden birds in spring

Posted: 26/04/2014 at 11:59

Sparrows and blue tits use the same boxes, so yes, that's normal. What you need is, of course, more boxes. North-facing, ten feet up, with plenty of clear space in front of them so the birds can see around before they leave. I'd say they should be somewhere with low traffic, but I've seen house martens nest in pub doorways and blue tits nesting by a farm's main door.

Experiment still not done: RSPB's cheaper treat blocks, RSPB's mroe expensive treat blocks, Garden Bird Supplies' treat blocks, the GC's treat blocks and the local shop's cheap treat blocks, in multiple feeders, rotated every couple of days, to see which ones the birds like most.

To protect blackbird chicks from marauding magpies, I recommend an underlever .177 at 11.5 ft-lb, a fixed magnification scope (if you get a 2x50 you can see into shadows with it), plenty of practice on paper targets at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 metres ... and sharp reflexes, because those baby-snatching b*****ds are fast. I still suspect they're psychic. They can tell when you're thinking about aiming at them.

Can anyone identify this invader?

Posted: 26/04/2014 at 11:47

Definitely an elder tree. I've got ... well, I had a dozen yesterday. There was one in the hedge before I cut it back (from 20 feet high and 8 feet thich to 4 feet high and 18 inches thick) where it apparently managed to grow between hedge and fence. I cut it back to a bare trunk and had to prune the new growth in JUNE to stop all the green branches falling off under their own weight. Then I pruned it again in November and it's already a big bush above the hedge. I left mine in because the birds like the berries. Where I put bird food on tree stumps there are rings of elder saplings coming up, planted there by birds. I haven't noticed a pest problem, unless you count pigeons.

It feeds birds and the domes of white flowers are pretty, but it could be considered one of the UK's tallest weeds.


Posted: 12/04/2014 at 11:19

They're working on it!

Akebia quinata 'Shirobana' bought in October 2010 is quite definitely flowering this year.

 The crocus flowers are gone, but their striped leaves are still showing.

The rest of the flowers are a pretty solid bank of greenery, slowly beeing flattened by the neighbours' cats. The lilies are still only ankle-high at the back. They're always the last ones to the party. I've already killed two adult lily beetles. Guess it's time to start the daily patrols again.


planting trees in clay soil

Posted: 02/04/2014 at 17:31

First things that spring to mind are to dig the hole even deeper in the hope that the water will only pool "so deep" in the bottom, then fill it with gravel or quarry run-off to above the water level before planting on top of that ...

... to dig a dirty great ditch along the line of the holes and down to the stream and fill that with gravel from 18" down to 12" down then put the soil back in on top of that between the holes ...

... or to build *up* instead of digging *down*. Fill with rocky junk until the water's out of sight, then cover that with (optional hessian sack and) compost and plant on top of that, then build up a little wall around each tree so that you can get it properly buried above ground.

 This way the roots get to invade the water but the water doesn't get to invade the roots.

What you plant around the outside of that little wall to make it look prettier is up to you. I'd suggest something without thorns.

Rose cuttings: timing

Posted: 31/03/2014 at 17:26

 That one's been there since Valentine's Day. Looking good so far. Not sure the nearest branch is growing at all, but the other two are.

Talkback: Birds - make your own bird box

Posted: 29/03/2014 at 18:21
I worked out my own design based on RSPB specs, which called for an entrance hole 150mm above the floor and a 125 x 100mm floor, if I remember correctly. It uses a 1'x8' plank. It's mostly the same, but a bit taller. I gave it a 45-degree roof slope to shed Yorkshire rain, and attached the roof to the side walls using lengths of 25mm square wood screwed to both roof and wall from the inside. I used the same to attach front to sides, meaning there are no visible screws up to that point. The back wall and back edge of the roof are cut at 45 degrees so the roof fits on the wall top. The sides are screwed to the back wall directly. On the house, the ivy hides those screws.

The floor is slightly smaller than the internal area of the box for drainage (again, Yorkshire rain). It's got two rails under it that aren't square, and they're screwed at slight upward angles into the side walls. To clean it, you remove those screws and drop the floor out.

Having made it, I had a single piece about 5cm x 50cm left over. This I drilled at both ends, took up a ladder and used as a template to get the screw-holes in the right places on the wall. Having done that, I screwed it to the back of the bird-box. This way I didn't have to hold the weight of the whole thing while marking the wall.

A note on mounting: if you mount them on a wall, fine. If you mount them on a tree, the screw threads are holding onto the wood inside the tree, the heads of the screws are holding the box and the living outer layer of the tree trunk *between* those places is growing and producing more layers of wood. This will push the box outwards until it falls off, leaving the screws completely buried in the tree. One of mine fell ten feet onto clay and made a square hole in it. :)

Rose cuttings: timing

Posted: 28/03/2014 at 18:20

Yes, air-layering, and it's precisely because cuttings strike easily.

Sssssstrrrrike one!Sssssstrrrrike two!
Sssssstrrrrike three! They're out! Try something different.

Yes, they've been separated from the parent. With the honeysuckle, it was in a clear tub (left over from buying dried mealworms to tide the birds over until the live ones got delivered) of compost and I fairly quickly got a visible root network against the sides of the tub. With these roses, it's been the inner bags of breakfast cereal packets, taped up and wired to the trellis, and they're just not producing roots, even in a whole season. They grow, somehow, but sitting in the bags they're not producing any roots I can see. For all I know, I am taking cuttings.

Sounds like they'll be staying with me this year, eh?

Rose cuttings: timing

Posted: 26/03/2014 at 21:41

I've got layered cuttings from my "climbing" rose. One's been in a pot for weeks now, and is clearly growing despite a total lack of activity after being potted. The other one's only been in its pot a few days, and didn't seem to have any roots on it at all when I transferred it from bag to pot but still has healthy-looking leaves.

According to one guy's video, it only takes two weeks to get a good root system established in the bag ready for cutting. I gave them months and didn't see the mass of roots that the honeysuckle put out when I layered it. (Nice of the honeysuckle, really, to put fat, white roots against the sides of the clear plastic jar so that I could see it was ready to be moved!) Still, they seem to have survived.

Next step: giving them to someone else who wants to plant them next to an arch in the hope they'll grow up it. The big question is how long to leave them in their pots to develop roots before I hand them over. I'd like to be sure the new one's not going to shrivel up and die on her, and I reckon that means leaving it to get over the trauma of being cut off the parent plant and put out its own roots. The other one, I suppose, would go now. It's been in that pot a month and is obviously growing. If I wait too long, though, it gets to be a bit late in the year for planting rose bushes, doesn't it?

Should I give her the older one now and hang onto the new one until autumn, give her both now, hang onto both until autumn or next spring or what?


Posted: 23/03/2014 at 16:23

Planting the shortest ones along the front starts to look more sensible once the others join in.

 The really tall lilies along the back aren't showing up yet, but when they do they tower over everything else except the trees.

Just to the right of there, the white-flowered chocolate vine has apparently decided it's a good summer:

 It's covered in little white "silk lantern" flower buds. If they all turn into delicious-smelling flowers, the hyacinths will have some competition.



Posted: 07/03/2014 at 17:07

Brave display improved by addition of anemones. They're a little late to the party, but they're joining it.


The new batch of crocuses are more elaborate than the ones already there.

 I could upload that picture at 4288x3216 if anyone really wants it.


Discussions started by Charlie November

Holy glyphosate, Batman! What's that?

Huge thing with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves 
Replies: 16    Views: 650
Last Post: 24/06/2014 at 16:52

Rose cuttings: timing

Replies: 7    Views: 451
Last Post: 31/03/2014 at 17:26

When is honey fungus not honey fungus?

At least I didn't spend anything. 
Replies: 18    Views: 1754
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: 397
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 18:34


Not a lily. Not an apple tree. 
Replies: 6    Views: 563
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 22:29


Planning? Measuring? Me? 
Replies: 17    Views: 961
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: 2469
Last Post: 13/05/2013 at 08:09
7 threads returned