Friday, 22 March 2013

Tarka Returns to Thetford

We stood on a muddy river bank, under a dull grey sky, with the threat of snow in the air but there was a smile on every face.  The otter had found a group of photographers and was putting on a show for the cameras.

When we arrived there had been one lone photographer but no otter.  Two more guys were wandering up and down the bank and in the distance we spotted two more looking excited as an otter frolicked on the bank in front of them.  We quietly hurried across and caught a brief view as it swam away.

It was when we were returning from our walk we got the best views.  There were about fifteen photographers following this lively creature along the river as it swam and dived and ate and popped up to look at us.  Brilliant!

Otters were on the brink of extinction after their numbers fell by 95% between 1950 and 1970 but our rivers are now cleaner and the otter is a protected species so the population is rising again.  It is doing so well some fishing groups are calling for a cull!

Further down the river we found the Black-bellied Dipper.  It was first spotted by the BTO Director of Services, Andrew Scott, back in November 2012.  It has stayed in the same location ever since and has
become one of the most-recorded individual bird in the BTO BirdTrack in 2013.

On the home front I spent an hour tidying up a border yesterday and spotted all the jobs I wanted to get on with if only we didn't have a forecast for snow over the weekend!  So frustrating!  The greenhouse is in full swing though so plenty of pottering to do and a giant hole to fill in ....

All the photos by Andy Mason because I forgot to take a camera!


ALDI are selling packs of vegetable plug plants for £1.99 this week - choose from tomatoes; lettuce; peppers and cauliflowers.  They are also selling fruit plants - pack of six Elsanta strawberries for £2.99 or fruit bushes in 2lt pots for the same price - redcurrant; raspberry; red or green gooseberry; blackberry; blackcurrant or blueberry.  For £4.99 there's a choice of ten ornamental trees or for £5.99 there are five different Rhododendrons in 5lt pots.

Rooko at Don't Lose the Plot tells us B&Q are selling off seed potatoes (£1.50 per bag of 25 pots).

Monday, 18 March 2013

Euro link

Remember the large hole I mentioned last post?  Well, yesterday I walked into the greenhouse to find a huge pile of earth:

Mole sprang to mind. 

Apparently there has been a mole population explosion recently. Back in 2006 Brussels restricted the sale of strychnine to the annoyance of old fashioned murderers and mole killers alike.  Since then the mole population has been steadily increasing.  The wet weather has also helped: it makes it easier for the males to tunnel through the earth in search of a mate and it meant the worms have stayed close to the surface making mealtimes easy so more young moles survived.

If it was a mole I was facing a bit of a moral dilemma ... did I want to kill the poor thing or could I live with it tunnelling under my greenhouse until the floor collapsed?  They don't like mothballs or Jeyes fluid but neither do I!   They don't like Stinking Hellebore or garlic but I have both of those growing nearby!  I couldn't possibly use a trap!

I moved a box to get a better look and discovered:

Not a mole then .... a railway tunnel!!

I still think a rat is the culprit.  We placed the outdoor camera near it last night to see what popped out but the images were far too light (the flash bounced off the glass and overexposed) so I will have to wait a few hours and try again.

  • The winner of the BTMR (British Tradional Molecatchers Register) Molecatcher of the Year Award caught 8453 moles in 2011.  The winner in 2012 caught 2146.  Forty years ago a million moles were regularly being trapped every year across Britain as most parishes employed molecatchers.
  • In 1702 King William III died after his horse stumbled on a molehill: many Jacobites toasted "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat".
  • Moles do not have good eye sight, they can't hear or smell very well either but they are extremely sensitive to vibrations.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow ...

This time last year I was creating a path in a sunny Spring garden with seventeen frogs seranading me from the pond and a harvest mouse in residence in the greenhouse.   

A year on and things are very different ... by the 25th March 2012 my garden was bursting with blossom .... buds are just beginning to appear now but I think we are about two weeks behind last year.

The greenhouse is full of seed trays (some of which are showing signs of life at last) and when I went to check on the heater earlier this week I discovered a large mound of freshly dug earth on the floor ... a brief inspection revealed a rather large hole under the staging ... has my sweet little harvest mouse piled on the pounds?  I doubt it. I smell a rat!  Where's that cat when I need her!

Well, the grape hyacinthes, minature irises and daffodils are gracing us with their presence. 

The snowdrops and hellebores are still flowering too, as are the primulas and periwinkle.


With Spring bulbs I have tended to plant them and leave them to mutiply by themselves but blogging has taught me a few things!  Let's begin with crocuses.  As you will probably know, they grow from corms.  Over the season the corm sends out the shoots, flowers and shrivels as the nutrients are used up.  Under the old corm a new one develops which will produce the following year's plant.  Around the edge of the new corm there are offset cormels which will also sprouts leaves in the first year and develop into full corm to flower the second year.  To assist propagation you need to dig up the plants after die back, separate the new corm to replant in the original position and plant the cormels in a nursery bed where they will grow to full size by Autumn ready to be transferred to another part of the garden.

Daffodils are easy to propagate as the bulbs divide themselves but did you know you can assist this process by scoring?  This involves lifting the bulb and making two cuts at right angles across the basal plate to a depth of about 5mm.  The bulb then needs to be kept in a warm place (about 21 degrees C) for 24 hours.  Dust with fungicide and place on a raised wire mesh or a tray of dry sand again in a warm place.  Within 3 months new bulbs will have developed on the cut surfaces.  Now you plant the parent bulb upside down so the new bulbs are just below the surface of the compost.   In March put the pot outside and the new bulbs will begin to develop while the parent bulb disintegrates so passing its nutrients to the young ones.  The new bulbs need another year before they will flower.  It sounds like a real faff but it produces 3 or 4 times more bulbs than leaving them to their own devices.

This is a good time to divide snowdrop clumps while they are still in the green.  Lift the bulbs very carefully and divide them into groups of three/four bulbs to replant around the garden.  In a couple of years these tiny clumps will have filled out ready to be divided again. 

Propagating Hellebores is a different matter as they are not grown from bulb.  I will leave you with this link which I found quite useful:

This post is linked to May Dreams Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.