April 30, 2017
You may have noticed the new addition to the preschool’s planting (in the third bed from the war memorial) –suggestions have included ‘an arty stick sculpture’ and ‘large immobile stick insects’. In fact we’re trying to discourage the local cat or cats who think the preschool’s vegetable area is an ideal cat litter tray; we couldn’t let the children do the planting themselves this year, as there were so many messes around the plot. But they watered the peas in well, and sowed carrots, and hunted for sticks to support the peas and protect them, so they had a good time in the garden again.
April 30, 2017
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has just published their report on ‘Gardening in a Changing Climate’, which covers many aspects in considerable technical detail, all fully referenced. Very interesting, with a lot of useful advice, particularly in the section ‘Garden management and design within a changing climate’. It can be downloaded free of charge here https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/pdf/RHS-Gardening-in-a-Changing-Climate-Report.
They also have a simpler guide at https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/gardening-in-a-changing-world, which covers many of the topics that guide the way we manage these Memorial Gardens, such as using (less) water, and avoiding the use of peat. There’s also a section on how you can recognise waterlogging and flooding in your garden, though as we’ve only had one short shower since 22 March, that’s not our problem here at the moment!
04 April 2017
Several flowers this time – grape hyacinths (Muscari latifolium)and the first bloom on a native wild flower, water avens (Geum rivale):
Bees don’t usually visit daffodils, but they make an exception for these smaller, white ones called ‘Thalia’:
And here’s real bee heaven – a good-sized patch of grape hyacinths, a native red deadnettle and forget-me-nots:
This is yet another in a series that should be called ‘Photos taken just after the bees flew off’ … there were half a dozen different bumblebees on these three plants mid-afternoon today. Bees like to find a lot of one flower – a crop, in effect – and the gardens are really beginning to provide that.
04 April 2017
Our interpretation boards mention that we don’t use peat, and we’ve been asked a couple of times why that is. There are three main reasons. Firstly, it’s a non-renewable resource – it takes thousands of years for a peat bog to form, but it can be cleared completely within 50 years. It’s also an increasingly rare habitat with its own unique flora and fauna. And lastly, peat bogs act as carbon sinks by storing large amounts of carbon dioxide; when they are dug up large amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change. The carbon stored in UK peat bogs is equivalent to about 3 years of total UK carbon emissions.
About 70% of most ordinary multipurpose compost is peat; the horticulture industry is one of the main users of peat. Yet gardeners only began to use peat about 50 years ago; until then, many gardeners just mixed their own composts. There are many benefits from buying in sterile, consistent compost mixes, but they don’t have to contain peat.
There are an increasing number of alternatives as the technology generally has moved on since the 1970s, and more and more brands of peat-free compost are becoming available. There’s still a bit of an urban myth around that they aren’t any good, but this isn’t really true any more; many gardeners and commercial growers manage fine with the newer peat-free composts, with great results.
Here at the Memorial gardens we do also use a mix of garden compost and leaf mould for cuttings and growing on small plants as it’s very cheap, which makes our various projects more sustainable. I checked with two local suppliers today – Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre will have their peat-free compost in sometime within the next couple of weeks, if it’s not already in (when I rang the pallets were just being unloaded, and they weren’t sure exactly what was on those, and what was coming in the next few days); and the National Trust’s Ascott House on the Wing road sells New Horizon compost at a fiver a bag or 3 for £12 – it’s by the kiosk in the car park, and if you tell the car parking attendant you just want the compost, they won’t charge you for entry to the house or gardens!
And one last reason to try and avoid peat – this is what often happens to the roots of plants grown in a peat-based compost when they’re planted out into the kind of heavy clay we have round Leighton Buzzard and Linslade:
There are ways of persuading the roots to move outside the area of its original pot, but we’ve found that the simplest is just to use a peat-free compost. You can also buy plants grown in peat-free composts from some suppliers – we bought perennial wallflowers from the market stall near Peacock’s in the High Street.