Home made bird box and bee home (c) Rianne Mason

November garden journal

This month I’ve been getting hands on with bird boxes, compost bins, hedge trimming and root cuttings.

Trimming my first hedge

The whole class set to work hedge trimming in our high vis jackets! I felt like Edward scissor hands. There’s something a bit addictive to hedge trimming, once you start it’s difficult to know when stop perfecting it. I had a lot of fun and you get instant satisfaction which is quite rare when gardening.

Building a bird box and bee house

Favourite class so far! In under three hours I created a bird box and a bee house using left over wood. I really enjoyed sawing and drilling away. I left the workshop whistling 🙂

Here’s the RSPB guide to building a bird box.

Soil testing

We learnt how to use a soil testing kit and soil structure test for my RHS course. I have to say this was the most difficult part of the course so far for me, it seems to be very subjective! You sift your soil and add a little water to form it into a small ball. Then you’re feeling for sandiness, silt or clay and you answer a series of questions to find out what soil type you have.

You also use a soil PH testing kit to identify whether it’s acidic, neutral or alkaline. Ideally you have neutral but there are methods to alter the PH of your soil over time if you need to.

Neglecting plants

I think it’s important to recognise and learn from your failures. I’m ashamed to say I completely neglected my basil collection this autumn. I neglected my thyme and oregano too but they’re much hardier. I’m not sure if the basil would have survived winter but I wish I’d collected it before the frost got to it – then at least I’d have some delicious pesto to eat.

Lesson learnt – the biggest role of a gardener is simply giving attention to plants.

Clearing out the pond

This was pretty fun to do. This time of year means lots of seed heads are ready to pop, so any unwanted ones should be removed as soon as possible. In the case of aquatic plants that means removing any Iris pseudacorus seed pods. They’re real ‘thugs’ in the garden and take over your pond if you let them.

Creating a leaf compost bin

If you have a few people on hand to help out this is pretty easy. We happened to have a few posts and chicken wire free so we created a home for all of the dead leaves in the Inspire community garden.

Why gather and keep dead leaves? Leaf mould makes an excellent soil conditioner. Apparently the best leaves to use are oak, beech or hornbeam. Don’t forget to put a textile sheet at the bottom before adding the leaves to prevent unwanted weeds getting mixed in.

Taking root cuttings

This just seems like witchcraft to me – taking a bit of root to turn into a plant! This method is suitable for herbaceous plants such as Acanthus, oriental poppies and Phlox. It works on plants that naturally produce new plants (suckers) from their roots. The method for thin roots is slightly different to thick roots. Read full RHS advice on root cuttings.

Taking hardwood cuttings

This is a great method for growing a range of deciduous climbers, trees and shrubs. You do this in Autumn, where hopefully you have a little bit more time to spare. Read full RHS advice on hardwood cuttings.

Learning about beneficial animals and insects

Normally I have to learn the botanical names and identify plants for my RHS course, but this month was focussed on animals and insects. I really enjoy this because it’s a reminder of how nature works hand in hand with all other species to survive.

Here are the ones you want to attract to your garden in England:

  • Frog
  • Toad
  • Earthworm
  • Brandling worm
  • Shrew
  • Hedgehog
  • Starling
  • Song thrush
  • Swallow
  • Blue tit
  • Wren
  • Whitefly parasite
  • Brown centipede
  • Solitary wasp
  • Honey bee
  • Bumble bee
  • Hoverfly
  • Violet ground beetle
  • Ladybird
  • Lacewing

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