Monthly Archives: March 2018

  • Wind chimes … sweet sounds or a discordant din?

    Wind Chimes. How do they chime with you? It seems they split opinion right down the middle – people either love them or they hate them.

    They don’t always hit the right note with neighbours, that’s for sure. They’ve even led to legal action, where the chimes have been so loud, they breached noise nuisance levels.
    Wind Chimes
    In fact, a survey of UK homeowners a few years back found that of all the noises caused by our neighbours, it was the constant tinkling of wind chimes that irritated the most.

    So why do homeowners choose to have them in their gardens? And why were they invented in the first place?

    Wind chimes have been used for thousands of years. Ironically, given the mixed modern-day attitudes towards them, wind chimes were believed to promote feelings of peace and well-being when they became popular in Southeast Asia in ancient times. They were also regarded as important within Buddhism. The Romans, meanwhile, used bronze wind chimes, which they called tintinnabulum, as a protection against bad spirits.

    You name it, and wind chimes have made out of it: wood, bamboo, metals, earthenware and, notably in Japan, glass. Archaeologists have unearthed wind chimes from 1,000 years BC that were made of bones, stones and shells – materials all widely and freely available.

    At some point, wind chimes headed West and became popular in homes and gardens in the US and Europe. It’s thought that they might have had a practical purpose in farming, scaring birds away from crops.

    Today, they are often used for feng shui, which is why they’ve become indoor as well as outdoor features.  But they’re not called wind chimes for nothing and their natural habitat is outside.

    What makes wind chimes so wondrous to those who love them is, of course, the music they make. Tubes of varying lengths are suspended by string or wire from a circular platform. In the middle is a clapper. The pitch of each tube depends on the length, as well as the material. Big, long tubes create deep notes; slim, short tubes hit higher notes. But although metal and wooden tubes can be fine-tuned, their music will still retain a randomness, with the wind acting as their conductor.

    The biggest wind chime in the world is in Casey, Illinois, USA, where they have a metal wind chime suspended almost 50ft off the ground. It has five pipes between 42ft and 30ft and was made by a local man, James Bolin, as a way of putting the small town on the map. He succeeded – it has become a major tourist attraction.

    Our top tip? Probably best not to do this at home – that will upset the neighbours! And if you do choose to have wind chimes in your garden, for the sake of harmony, you might want to consider bringing them indoors at night.

  • How to help our hedgehogs as they awaken from their winter slumber

    How to help our hedgehogs as they awaken from their winter slumber

    Time was when hedgehogs were regular visitors to our gardens in the UK. Not any longer. According to The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 Report, Britain has lost half its hedgehogs since the millennium.
    Hedgehog
    March is when the prickly creatures start to re-emerge again, following their winter hibernation. But it seems we’re less likely than ever before to catch a glimpse of them.

    It’s a huge loss. In 2013, the much-loved hedgehog topped a vote to find a national species for Britain – but now, we’re in danger of losing them. Latest estimates put their numbers at around a million. In the 1950s, there were 30 million.

    Habitat destruction caused by land development, and a lack of landscape-scale connectivity are among the main reasons. The use of pesticides on farmland and in gardens is another factor, greatly reducing their food supply. In towns and cities, fences they can’t navigate through, and the loss of compost heaps are all hitting hedgehogs hard.

    The Woodland Trust is doing what it can by creating and restoring woodland, planting hedgerows, and working with landowners to manage their land in hedgehog-friendly ways.

    But there are things homeowners and communities can do, too. Trees, hedges and wildflower patches help hedgehogs as well as other wildlife. Make hedgehog corridors by having a small hole in your fence to allow hedgehogs into your gardens or have a tunnel at the bottom of the fence.

    Hedgehogs are big eaters – they can eat their own bodyweight in food every night! They eat beetles, larvae, caterpillars, worms, slugs, snails, eggs, berries and frogs. Creating a herb garden with mint, dill and fennel attracts some of the insects hedgehogs love and a compost heap will provide earthworms as well as a cosy home.

    We can also do our bit by putting down food that’s good for them – hedgehog food, tinned dog or cat food – but not fish-based – crushed cat biscuits, cooked mincemeat, and chopped boiled eggs. A good tip is to put food into a plastic box with a lid, measuring at least 30x40cm. Cut a hedgehog-sixed hole into one end and place the food at the other end, so they don’t tread in the food. Place a heavy stone on top of the box. This will ensure other animals such as cats and foxes can’t get to the food.

    Always put some fresh water down in a shallow dish if you do feed them. Never give hedgehogs milk, as this upsets their stomachs and can make then very ill. And bread is no use for them either.

    You can make your garden even more of a home from home for hedgehogs by having log piles, leaf piles and ponds – but only if the ponds have gentle slopes for them to get out safely.

    Hedgehog hazards include slug pellets, as they are poisonous for them, and garden clear-outs can prove dangerous, too. If you’re about to clear your garden of leaves, make sure you don’t accidentally throw a hedgehog out with them.

    If you do see manage to spot hedgehogs in your gardens this spring and summer, you can count yourself very fortunate. Tell-tale signs are small paw marks or dark droppings.

    The People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have joined forces to launch a campaign, Hedgehog Street, to help us to help our hedgehogs. www.hedgehogstreet.org

  • Mothering Sunday

    The story behind Mothering Sunday

    In the UK, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian calendar. It comes as no surprise then, to learn that the origins of Mothering Sunday had more to do with the church than it did with mothers.
    Mothers Day
    Hundreds of years ago, churchgoers would, on one Sunday each year, attend service at their ‘mother church’ – defined as the church in the parish where they were born. The fourth Sunday of Lent was the chosen day.

    Over time, Mothering Sunday evolved and gradually became a day for sons and daughters to say ‘thank you’ to their mums. This might well have been because Mothering Sunday had become an annual family get-together.

    Historians believe that many boys and girls – working in other parts of the locality as domestic staff or apprentices from an early age – would pick springtime wild flowers on the way to church on Mothering Sunday and present them as gifts to their mothers. And so Mother’s Day as we know it today, was born.

    In those early days, the flowers were often sweet violets because these would have been widely available to pick along the lanes at this time of year. Later, carnations became the most popular flower to give on Mothering Sunday, because it was seen as a symbol of mother love.

    Today, mixed bouquets are the order of the day, bought from the local florists or store. But it’s still possible to retain the spirit of those days when people would hand-pick spring flowers.

    Ask your florist to create a seasonal bouquet with flowers such as Lily of the Valley, Magnolia, Forsythia and Hellebores. Other colourful flowers to add to the mix are bright yellow Narcissus and vibrant tulips.

    For a beautiful scent, include roses in the bouquet, too. And by adding some seasonal foliage – from your own garden if possible – you’ll be able to create that natural, ‘just picked’ look.

    If your mum is a keen gardener, why not buy her bulb flowers that are still growing? They’ll look lovely indoors in a pretty pot, and the bulbs can then be planted in the garden. Again, choose local flowers that are in season.

    Using seasonal, British flowers is much better than buying flowers with a big carbon footprint – and it’s thoughtful to make that extra bit of effort.

  • March - Scarification

    MARCH – at last! Even if the weather is poor, there’s something in the British gardening psyche that says it’s time to get going! And the great thing is that while it may be too early to do much else, it’s a great time to get your lawn set up for a fantastic year ahead. Better still, get ahead now, and you’ll have more time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your work in a few month’s time.
    Scarifying

    SCARIFICATION – PRUNING YOUR GRASS:

    If there’s one thing you can and should be doing now, it’s to renovate your lawn after its winter sleep. And that means scarifying – and yes, even if you don’t have moss!

    Many people think scarifying is simply to deal with moss, but they’re wrong. Instead, think of it is pruning. You see, mowing deals with the top of the grass plant, the ends of the leaf blades and encourages better growth, but it does nothing to sort out the mess lower down, closer to the ground. And it’s down there, with our bents and fescue grasses, that you need to thin out the dead organic matter that forms excess thatch. Some thatch is essential, but too much is disastrous. Scarifying thins this out and prunes the plant to let air and light back into the lower parts and also to regenerate new plant growth. A double whammy!

    Proper scarification is a light intervention – and must be done with the correct machine. Yes it makes a mess but only for a short while; the grass will soon thicken back up all by itself and look healthier than ever. Surely that’s better than having to rely on reseeding?

    Start scarification by setting the machine high on the first pass and then lowering if need be on the second pass. Don’t ever try and remove 20 years of dead material in one go and always do it in a diagonal direction to the main mowing direction.
    Mid-Scarifying
    Once you have finished scarification and cleaned all that mess away, apply a moss control and then a quality feed. This will allow the grasses to thicken back up, helped by the other form of ‘pruning’ we have to do, mowing. In fact, a great tip when you have finished scarifying your lawn is to try not to change your mowing regime at all. Apart from maybe the first week afterwards, keep the mower set at your normal height (or a fraction higher) and continue to lightly ‘top off, even the smallest of growth.

    AERATION – BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR LAWN:

    After-Scarifying
    You can still hollow tine aerate your lawn too; it’s not too late. And you can do this before scarifying so that you needn’t worry about filling up those holes (unless you cylinder mow of course, in which case you’ll need to add some top dressing material to restore a smoother surface).

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    So, seize the moment! Make March the month for getting the ‘hard’ work out of the way. It’ll make the rest of your year much easier – and give you a much happier lawn.

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