Greenfingers - October 2012

A warm dry afternoon in late summer, when there's time to relax and watch the dragonfly hover and swoop, patrolling, prowling, pouncing, peerless – well almost - I saw my first hobby earlier in the summer, a small fast falcon capable of taking dragonflies as well as swifts. And time to watch the field mouse, collecting seeds from under the feeders, flung by the foraging sparrows. To enjoy the sight and sounds from a large family of swallows or goldfinches, pausing in their migration to make the most of the evening's flying fare or seed heads. And later, listening to a frog somewhere in the pond, invisible amongst the clutter of lily pads. And as dusk falls, a pair of bats fluttering around the tree tops, listening for tell-tale echoes from their supper.
 
But these musings don't cut no grass, or apply a few spots of weedkiller to the dandelions, andBee maybe worry the moss with a glimpse of a lawn rake. It will soon be time to put the garden to bed for the winter, so a few dry days over the next month will be very welcome.
 
Plants and hedges have put on a lot of growth this year. In most years, I cut the berberis hedge twice during the year, but I've just completed the 3rd very necessary trim. The hedges around the garden will also be cut back this autumn. We planted a native hedge 5 years ago, consisting of about 24 bare-rooted blackthorn, hawthorn, yew, holly, guelder rose and lonicera, to which we added a pair of spindles grown from seed. They are now about 6ft tall and thickening up nicely. There are even a few sloes to pick.
 
There are plenty of other jobs to be getting on with, including preparing beds for autumn planting. My garlic, planted traditionally on the shortest day has been disappointing, whilst a friend has large bulbs, having planted in the autumn last year. Also, the dahlias which were left out in the garden over winter performed poorly, probably due to a combination of pests and weather, and whilst those lifted and over-wintered in the greenhouse or garage also saw some pest damage after eventually being planting out, at least they have flowered.
 
Finally, an apology to all those of you who looked for the International Space Station at the times I gave. By the time the magazine was distributed, the ISS had raised its orbit to compensate for atmospheric drag, resulting in a steadily increasing time error. Please contact me if you want a short-term (7 to 10 days) forecast.
Peter Smith