It’s time to get busy in the garden
AS I OPENED the car door the calls of the busy rooks welcomed me. They are nesting in some tall sycamore trees across the road from the farm.
They have become very active during the last week with lots of new bulky nests appearing in the tall trees. The females are also hungry as they develop their eggs and at home I have putting off a high protein diet and the birds eagerly devour it each morning.
I slipped into the garden with my head buried deeply in the waterproofs. The whirl of wings greeted me as I opened the polytunnel doors. A wren was flying rapidly towards the back door of the tunnel that was slightly open.
The bed had been dug the previous day and this had exposed a rich bounty of insects and their larva. This is a vital source of protein and energy for birds after the cold sapping nights and good preparation for the breeding season.
I have noticed that as the temperatures go up more insects are appearing. I have seen several Cranefly or daddy long legs dancing against the roof of the polytunnel. There is also aphids or as they are commonly called greenfly appearing on some of the salads. They are particularly noticeable when we are harvesting the salads.
I was recently asked by a group, Do we mind birds in the tunnel? Birds are a vital part of our natural pest control as they eat the adult insects and also their larva like eggs and caterpillars. While they occasionally pull up a plant, this is especially true of the blackbirds, they do far more good in the spring and summer.
The rain was still heavy outside and the wren landed near the door and disappeared into a bed of lettuce. As I slowly followed his path through the tunnel another wren flew out and the pair disappeared out the door and into the base of the nearby hedge.
This pair have found the ideal feeding ground. The tunnel makes a safe feeding place as they can’t be attacked by aerial predators and the doors are securely closed when they is no one on the farm.
The wrens along the hedges have gone very quiet during the day as they are focused on building their nests. Earlier in the season they sang loudly to attract a mate but now they are staying silent. This change in behaviour means they won’t reveal the location of their nest to a predator like a cat.
Wren populations can be decimated by cold weather but they quickly bounce back. This could be one of the reasons why over half of all male wrens have more than one breeding partner. They also have a large number of chicks with eight not been uncommon.
The male will be build several nests and as one is occupied by a female he will try and entice another to take over one of his empty nests. The female marks her acceptance by lining the nest of her choice. This is one of the last actions before egg laying.
The male wrens can be very fickle and can little or no part in their rearing of their families.
With the birds active it is also time to get busy in the garden and this is one of my favourite times of the year. While it is a bit early and cold to direct sow seeds outdoors you can start seeds indoors and transplant then outdoors when the soil temperatures improve.
This rule of transplanting works for most vegetables and flowers except carrots and parsnips. They are long rooted and once they have started to grow they don’t like to be disturbed. The roots will generally curl up once they hit the bottom of the seed tray.
I have been practicing up-cycling and have kept all of my deep fruit trays and yogurt pots. With the addition of a few holes for drainage they are perfect for starting seeds on a warm windowsill or even better if you have access to a polytunnel or greenhouse.
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