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Green Magpie

Latest posts by Green Magpie

feeding wild birds

Posted: 16/06/2012 at 12:07

I had the impression when I saw that feeder that it was designed for looks more than practicality. Would birds really get the hang of which port to search for to find the food they liked best? And if they did, wouldn't they just empty the sunflower hearts first, so you'd have to take down the whole thing just to top up one section, probably resulting in unnecessary spilling of nuts and seeds? I'm sticking with separate feeders for now.


Posted: 16/06/2012 at 11:46

I would think they's be OK even if they don't get to you until August. They are mostly hardy perennials, and there should be enough warm weather between August and winter for them to get established, even if they're still small. But if you want something to brighten your garden this year, then it may have to be a tray of bedding plants! Morrisons still has some good-value plants - I've just bought a tray of 4 little fuchsias for £2, and they had trailing petunias at 3 for £2.

all veg and herb and what to do now

Posted: 15/06/2012 at 20:50

Wow, you really seem to have hit the ground running! It hasn't been an easy year for gardeners so far, but you seem undaunted by the fickle weather.

A few attempts at answering your queries:

The herbs all behave a bit differently but most of them will come back after cutting. Mint and lemon balm are vigorous and will take over if you don't watch them (mint in particular is better in its own pot. But you can move some to a separate pot.) Rosemary will grow to a sprawling bush and will also need a space of its own eventually.

Chives will grow back after cutting, although you may have to wait a while, so it's best just to cut a little as you need it. Coriander is an annual and will die this year, but if you let it set seed you'll probably get new plants coming up next year, or you can save some seed and plant again. It doesn't really come back much after you cut it. All the rest  will carry on growing after you cut them, and will over-winter with no problems. Mint and chives and lemon balm will mostly disappear in winter but sprout back again in the spring.

Root veg should start to be ready any time now. If you have early potatoes, have a little grope around the roots and see if you can find any potatoes. You can pull out the first ones without disturbing the plant, and leave the rest to grow on. Carrots: we've just pulled the first ones, which are just finger-sized babies, but that helps thin out the crop and we leave the others to ger bigger. Beetroot will probably need more time yet, you'll have to feel around the shoulder of the plant and see whether it feels like a decent size.

Oninons and garlic are ready when the leaves start to die back and collapse (probably August).

Cabbage and lettuce - yes, when they look big enough to be interesting, you can eat them. You can start by eating baby ones and leave some to get bigger.

Mangetout: you have to wait until the flowers die down, and look out for the pods. Ours are only about 2 ft tall, the height varies according to variety. You pick the pods when they're still thin, before the peas swell, and eat the whole pod. We've just eaten the first of ours this evening, also our first potatoes. There is nothing like the thrill of eating your first crops!

Hope this is some help. I am banned from the living room this evening (England are playing Sweden) so might as well come here and chat about gardening. Good luck with your veg!


Posted: 15/06/2012 at 17:16

I am still waiting for the perennials, ordered at the end of April. I e-mailed T&M this week, pointing out that their confirmation e-mail said "Dispatch by end of May" They have now replied and said this was a mistake, and that the note in the advertisement said that delivery would be between late May and end of July. They say they are confident thay will be able to meet all orders by then.

So don't hold your breath!

slug pellets

Posted: 15/06/2012 at 10:12

I'm pretty sure slugs and snails don't feel pain. They don't have a central nervous system, and I think probably all they experience is existing or not exisiting (if that). If I find live snails I stamp on them, which means it's all over in a spit second. Slugs I either drown in salt water or throw into the compost heap or the "brown bin", or take away from the garden altogether.

I do put pellets down near susceptible plants (especially this Spring, as all this dampness encourages them) but I also try to patrol the area and remove dead slugs and snails regularly, just in case a bird decided to eat them.

We do have plenty of "wild" areas in our garden where the birds will still find lots to eat, so I don't think I'm depriving them of a significant food source. There are very few hedgehogs in our area, but I think this has more to do with a heavy badger presence than with the use of slug pellets. That, however, is another issue...

slug pellets

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 17:33

To make sure snails don't return, 90 feet (say 30 metres) is a minimum. To be sure, it should be 100 metres (300 ft). I will paste in here the research that showed this, and if it prints as coded rubbish, just take my word for it:

<Now, Radio 4 is launching its search for the next BBC Amateur Scientist of the year.

Last year, 70-year-old gardener Ruth Brooks won the award for her research into the homing distance of garden snails.

She found that Helix aspersa, the common garden snail, can find its way home from up to 30m away. But for gardeners to be sure that their snails will not come back, they should be moved over 100m.>

First early potatos

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 17:26

Earlies won't store very well - they are small and lose moisture easliy, and they'll lose some of that lovely earthy freshness. Just use them as you need them - you don't even need to pull up a whole plant at once at first, you can just feel around in the soil and pick out a few potatoes, leaving the rest to grow on. If you're keen to clear the space, I suppose you could try storing some in a bucket of soil for while, but I've never tried this.

Photinia Red Robin pruning?

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 16:49

Thanks for that. Now all I need is for the rain to hold off long enough, and I'll be out there with the secateurs.

Photinia Red Robin pruning?

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 09:33

I have a well established Photinia Red Robin, which had lovely red shoots that are now maturing and turning green. I know that if I prune it back this will encourage new red shoots, but I can't remember when to do this. Is now a good time?


Posted: 14/06/2012 at 09:29

You're supposed to to the transplanting/dibber thing when the leeks are about as fat as a pencil. Mine are not that fat yet but I've transplanted some anyway, and I think they'll be fine. You make a good deep hole and drop the leek in, so that all the white and some of the green is in the hole. Then you water them in (or at the moment you just scamper indoors), and gradually the hole will fill up.

If yours are still very skinny, it might be worth thinning them out a bit if they're growing very close. You can use the thinnings like chives, or heel them in a corner somewhere and they may grow to a useful size. Then let the remaining leeks grow on a bit until they're big enough to transplant.

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