Phacelia: Bee-Kind & Soil-Kind

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If you want lots of bees and hoverflies in your garden then phacelia (native to the Americas) is a good choice. It can be sown from spring to late summer and its mauve flowers, delicately scented, provide nectar all day long for foraging insects. The hoverflies can return the favour by also eating the aphid pests.

On the soil front, I grow it at the allotment as a cover crop. This year I sowed it in mid summer after I had harvested the broad bean plot. It is always good to keep bare earth covered, and the fleshy, ferny vegetation supresses weeds and holds on to nitrogen.

I also grow it as a green manure (other examples: clover, mustard, rye, alfalfa, fenugreek, field beans). Traditionally phacelia, like mustard, is ‘dug in’ before it flowers to stop it seeding. But I prefer the ‘and’ and ‘and’ approach, so I leave it to become bee pasture. Also, I’m trying not to do too much digging, an activity which apparently disrupts the soil’s natural fertility-enhancing systems. Instead, I let it over-winter, or at least until the first frost when it will simply collapse. I‘ll then leave the resultant ‘mulch’ to go on protecting the soil surface from leaching and fertility loss. Meanwhile the root system will rot down and help to improve soil structure.

With any luck, come next spring, I should be able to plant or sow directly through it.

If I’ve sown the seed too thickly, which is easy to do as it is very small, I thin out some of the excess growth through the growing season to feed the compost bins. Or best of all, pick a now-and-then bunch of flowers and bring them home for the kitchen table.  Such a generous, life-enhancing plant.

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KindaSquare #1 October is here and Becky bids us to show her all ‘kinds’ of squares. Please pay her visit to find out more. As ever, the main ‘rule’ is the header photo must be square.

The Changing Seasons: September’s Reasons To Be Cheerful

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Words have been eluding me this month – words that are publishable that is.

Here in the totalitarian state of blighty our lives continue quietly, if bizarrely. Tomatoes have been featuring heavily in our lives, which just goes to show what happens when panic causes the human mind to overreact and envisage a global shortage of some deemed precious item.

The good side: I’ve given loads away. Even so, the last few weeks have involved repeat bouts of soup and sauce making, most of the crop now rendered into frozen bricks stacked up in the freezer. In fact there has been much vegetable processing all round, the kitchen looking like an exploded harvest festival; not necessarily in a good way.

But out in the autumn garden, there is much still to please, the helianthus yellow retreating before the Michaelmas daisy purples and mauves, the deepening russet reds of the crab apples and Coxes pippins. Last week we even had several days of sunshine weather just when we thought summer was done.

So, this month’s  thought for sanity survival: striving to be thankful for life’s small but blessedly lovely things is the only way to go.

From the September garden:

And from the other end of the spectrum:

 

The Changing Seasons: September 2020

A big thanks to Su for continuing to host this monthly photo posting.

Knowing Our Onions…

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…and a fine piece of domestic cooperation: Sturon onions grown by me in allotment raised beds, then neatly strung up by he-who-builds-sheds, though only after an online refresher course on how to do it. Anyway this is the sum of my onion crop, organically produced, planted out as sets in March and harvested at the beginning of August. You could call it pandemic produce, though I’d rather not, as at present it appears to be wholly disease free.

Sturon onions anyway are supposed to be good keepers. On the other hand, onion consumption in the Farrell household is so considerable, they will probably not last long. A field full would better cover a year’s culinary requirements. Still, when we’ve eaten these, there will be the leek crop to start on. That should see us through to spring when hopefully the world will not be so demented.

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Lens-Artists: Creativity in the time of covid   This week Tina at Travels and Trifles has set the challenge. Please go and see her very lovely photos.

The Changing Seasons ~ July 2020

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The last day of July and it’s HOT! And rather a shock to the system. For much of the month, the Edge has been cloud-bound with low light and at times even chilly. Every now and then I’ve grown confused and thought it must be September. The wheat in Townsend Meadow is already looking overdone. (So soon!). The vegetable plots seem confused too. Many plants, especially the climbing beans, seem to have gone into a trance – as if they’ve given up before they’ve hardly begun. But then it’s a sign of the times, if not the status quo – confusion.

And at least the potatoes and onions have remained steadfast and productive. There should be tomatoes soon too. August also comes with fresh cultivating possibilities. I’ve been preparing to sow Chinese greens, endives, spinach and Swiss chard for the autumn and winter. Maybe some carrots too – the stubby little Paris Market variety, which can be sown late. And then when the potatoes are harvested it will be time to sow over-wintering green manures: mustard, annual rye and field beans. So the round of soil nurturing continues. It’s all part of a process of extending gratitude for keeping us Farrells, (friends and neighbours too) well nourished. We seem to be keeping the insect world pretty well fed too.

Now for scenes from the gardening fronts. On both sides of our garden fence the yellow helianthus and golden rod are bursting forth among the hot reds, pinks and purples. It’s a gaudy scene, and though I don’t care for the colour of the pink phlox, in the present heat wave it smells wonderful – a sweet warm meadowy scent. Meanwhile up at the allotment, the communal fruit trees are already showing signs of prodigious production, and I’ve brought bundles of very fine onions home to dry:

The Changing Seasons: July 2020

Some Peacock Perspectives

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Today in the Sheinton Street garden we have both sunshine and warmth, elements that have been lacking so far this month. And so amongst the Doronicum we also have a profusion of peacock butterflies, sip-sipping like mad at the tiny compound flowerlets. I watch them as I hang out the washing – the survival imperative played out before our very eyes.

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Square Perspective #30

A Prickly Perspective

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This thistly entity is a teasel flower. It is borne aloft a magnificently statuesque plant most often to be found on waste ground. It seeds promiscuously and every part of the plant is prickly. In past times some of those prickles were put to good use. The dried flower heads were split and pinned to a cruciform structure, called a teasel cross or card (a bit like a table tennis bat) and used in the weaving industry to raise the nap on finished cloth.

There are photos and more information HERE.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you what kind of little bumble bee this is; the ID charts defeated me though my best guess is a carder bee. (Which would be appropriate).  I anyway like the way its colour scheme ‘goes’ with the teasel’s ashy tones. I also admired the way it picked its way so gingerly through the spiny elements to reach the nectar in the tiny segmented florets.

This scene was captured over the garden fence in the guerrilla garden, where all is presently thriving. Here is a field-side perspective with the teasel bringing up the rear. I transplanted it as a seedling found on an abandoned allotment plot. I might just regret the introduction, but for now it’s looking rather splendid.

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Square Perspective #27