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Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

The daftest thing you've done in your garden

Posted: 30/06/2013 at 11:31

Not so much daft as a close call:

Was digging out the bottom of the compost heap. It's been here longer than I have, it's huge and it's covered in sticks, but there's good compost at the bottom, albeit mixed with rubbish. Put shovel into heap, loosened compost, got it on the shovel, took it to where I needed it, deployed it and went back for more several times, then hit a dry, soft patch. It fell down beside the head of the shovel, and ... moved. I realized what I'd hit a split second before the angry buzzing sound started, dropped the shovel and ran. I bought compost at the GC and gave them a week to calm down before I went back to the heap.

Slightly daft: attempting to push back the Himalayan balsam from the stream banks, I uprooted two sackfuls of it. The obvious place for this great mass of soggy greenery was the top of the compost heap. I uprooted it before any flowers had formed, and it still managed to form flowers, attract insects, get pollinated and produce seed just running on what it had. I have since had to uproot more plants from the compost heap.

what do you think is the best make of bird food you have bought?

Posted: 27/06/2013 at 17:06

Garden Bird Supplies were my supplier, and have always been good to me, but I switched to the RSPB for most foods and for the mealworms (in 2kg boxes!) The RSPB send me a special offer every week, usually for something of which I just got a month's supply.

Peanuts: forget it. The woodpecker is the only bird interested in peanuts.

Treat pellets with insects, aka buggy nibbles: top food in winter. Fill a peanut feeder with this stuff and watch it get mobbed.

Treat pellets with berries, aka fruit nibbles: second or third choice. They really prefer the bugs.

Seed mix: everyone's got a favourite. I put out the feeder mix with dreid mealworms and the starlings threw the lot on the floor to get at the mealworms. I put out the feeder mix without the mealworms and the finches threw the lot on the floor to get at the sunflower hearts. Currently, I have the "feeder mix extra" and it gets cleaned up. The least popular bit is the little, reddish balls. They go, though.

Live mealworms: currently everybody's number one food. If you want a bird to land on your hands for food, this is the food to use. Even the finches are ignoring seed to hunt these nutrient-rich wrigglers. This is how you feed baby birds. Smaller ones are more expensive, and the birds are quite capable of dismembering a large one to feed it to their babies a chunk at a time.

Treat blocks aka cakes: the same as nibbles, but they charge VAT on the cakes. The big cube of a "squirrel-resistant" feeder is also starling-resistant, which the oval one isn't, so if you want other birds to have a chance, use the cube one ... or use one of each.

I did an experiment with treat blocks, cutting up blocks from the local fruit shop, the supermarket, Garden Bird, the RSPB and a big DIY place and putting them all out in the feeder together, in different patterns. No matter how I arranged them, the birds would find the GB and RSPB blocks and demolish them. They went through three whole blocks from those suppliers before they'd bothered to eat even a tenth of anyone else's block.

Fat balls? Nobody was interested. Nothing wanted them.


Footnote: feeder cages! I got the barrel-style cages from GB, and the squirrels lifted the tops off and went down inside the tubes to get at the food! This wrecked the lids and the mesh tube. Also, the rain tended to get in and flood them, so the bottom of the plastic tube was always jamming up with soggy, rotting seed mix. I made porches for them, and very elegant little porches they were too, but between big birds, squirrels and a few windy days they got smashed off. I also had to put wire around the bases to stop the squirrel hanging off the bottom of the mesh and reaching in to sweep food to the edges.

Now, instead, I have Homebase feeders with bell-jar cages and plastic cone bases. They can be screwed on either way up. On the seed mix feeder, I have it set to shed the mix over the sides onto the ground. Yes, this creates a patch of sunflower seed husk, but that's part of the price of having bird feeders. On the "peanut" feeders (full of treat pellets with a few peanuts on top that have been there all year) I have the bases "dish" way up, to avoid spilling such good food on the ground where rats and pigeons can get it. There is a slight drawback to this: the wire hoop is barely long enough, so getting it on and off the hook is a bit fiddly. Obvious answer would be an S-hook, but so far I've coped with it being fiddly.

A rat did find its way into one. It even managed to get back out after I startled it, too ... but the second time I startled it I startled it by blowing a 4.5mm hole through it from left kidney to right shoulder, so it didn't get very far.

To buy or not to buy

Posted: 25/06/2013 at 17:18

Putting feed in the same spot several times a day will attract all sorts of things to that spot. I have a dozen places I put bird food and the birds always check out those places plus the deep shade under the hedge. If you put food somewhere appropriate like a gently sloping area partway up an earth mound at one end of the polytunnel, you'll find that all sorts of wildlife is drawn to it. You can then set up cameras for close-ups of songbirds feeding or, if you do find you have a rat problem, set yourself up in a comfortable spot with a good view of it and wait. Rats are not bulletproof, but a three-foot mound of soil (no rocks!) or sand is. .177 will take out a rat. 5.56x45mm will stop in an adequate earth mound. Use whichever you prefer. I'd recommend ear protection for the 5.56mm.

Cats in my flowerbeds

Posted: 25/06/2013 at 17:06

I'm pretty sure you can legally just put a 4.5mm hole through a grey squirrel, as long as you've got the landowner's permission and you're really careful not to send pellets beyond the boundary ("squirrel fell off other side of fence with pellet embedded" is probably okay) or to startle anyone by shooting from within 50 feet of the centre-line of a public highway.

Yes, really, within 50 feet of the centre line, whether it's a single-track farm lane 9 feet wide or the A1 at Peterborough (where you'd be on the hard shoulder).

I suspect the fairground airguns were ordinary airguns with an adaptor to hold the corks. As long as you're over 18 and it doesn't shoot over 12 foot-pounds of energy, you're okay owning such a weapon in most places and can lend it to anyone over 14, if I'm remembering correctly. Be aware that a 0.5g .177 pellet with 11.9 ftlb of energy in it is a lethal projectile, and hazardous after a ricochet, so be careful with it.

Rather more effective than the corks would be a paintball marker, but you may get complaints from owners, who feel their precious little sociopaths should be allowed to torture your songbirds to death without fear of getting a sticky mess in their fur and a bruise.

 Did you hear about the scientist who crossed a Scotsman with a Quaking Aspen and got something that can hold onto a grudge for 30,000 years and its wallet for more than twice that long?

Climbing plant for arch

Posted: 23/06/2013 at 11:46

If it's "only" 6 feet high, you probably don't want a wisteria, as those flower spikes would be hanging down to chest height.

My big honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica halliana 'Cream Cascade') is only green on the sunny side, and a bit of a mess of sticks from the north. I'm not sure what it'd look like on an arch. I'd expect green outside and dull from inside.

The Akebia is green all over, but it's inclined to feel around and explore its surroundings, so you may have issues keeping that out of your face too.

My only problem with Clematis is that all three of them died, two in year 1 and one in year 2. I lost 1 of 3 roses and no Lonicera or Akebia.

japanese beetle

Posted: 22/06/2013 at 00:30

Thought I saw one of these at work, so stamped on it. White markings weren't quite the same as in the pictures, but it was the right size and looked right otherwise, and the native chafers don't have those markings.

That RHS link is for citrus longhorn beetles. I tried their custom google search for the Japanese beetle and found this sponsored link:

Discount Japanese Beetles

Get cheap Japanese Beetles & save! - the shop

Aaahhh ... no.

I think I'd rather pay extra and get a British beetle.

Cats in my flowerbeds

Posted: 20/06/2013 at 17:45

Holly cuttings, pyracantha cuttings, maybe barbed wire at 5cm intervals? I'm pretty sure the water pistol's legal. A paintball marker might be less so.

Evening walk

Posted: 20/06/2013 at 17:43

If I go for an evening walk it's going to turn into a recce patrol, noting locations of giant hogweeds.


Posted: 18/06/2013 at 18:50

I've got white leaves too, but it's not whole swathes of plants. It's a cluster of leaves in the middle of an otherwise very healthy Akebia and one apple tree next to some healthy lilies, healthy privet, healthy elder and annoyingly healthy ground elder. The Akebia has five lobes per leaf stalk and in some places half of one lobe is white and the rest is green, or two lobes are white and three are green. It's weird.


Will anything grow in full shade?

Posted: 18/06/2013 at 18:48

Around here, what grows in shade is a mixture of Himalayan balsam and nettles.

The balsam stalks are actually pretty good, cracked open and turned inside out, for wiping away nettle stings.

Both are, supposedly, edible.

Balsam stalks' straight sections have a softer celery texture and a sweet lettuce taste, and are actually rather nice on a walk. Just break off above dogs' hip-height.

The knots where the leaves are taste rather more bitter.

There are plenty of recipes for the stuff, too, and I think you can pretty much use its leaves instead of spinach in a vegetable soup.

Bees love it ... to the point of not bothering to pollinate anything else while it's in flower!

I can't recommend planting it, as it has this tendency to take over the world.

Discussions started by Charlie November

Holy glyphosate, Batman! What's that?

Huge thing with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves 
Replies: 16    Views: 623
Last Post: 24/06/2014 at 16:52

Rose cuttings: timing

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Last Post: 31/03/2014 at 17:26

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: 369
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 18:34


Not a lily. Not an apple tree. 
Replies: 6    Views: 538
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 22:29


Planning? Measuring? Me? 
Replies: 17    Views: 936
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: 2331
Last Post: 13/05/2013 at 08:09
7 threads returned