Sharing your allotment & National Nest Box Week

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We already share our allotment with a family of foxes, a very bold cat, a large robin red breast and an army of slugs.  For me I have always thought of the allotment to be a shared space with wildlife not without.

This week is the National Nest Box Week in the UK (14-21 February) which is enough of an excuse for me to put up a bird box in our allotment.  Ever since we have had an allotment I have wanted to support bird life and add feeders, pockets, boxes etc.  But isn’t that counter intuitive?  Isn’t there a reason why farmers put up scarecrows, why allotment holders arrange CDs around their plots.  Aren’t birds more foe than friend.

Oh well, I did it anyway.  A small bird box at the far end of the allotment, an RSPB feeder in the far corner and a few roosting pockets 9purchased from Baileys) where possible.

Lets see what happens now and if in a few months time if I will be building a scarecrow.

Advice about positioning your next box (From BTO – British Trust for Ornithology)

  • Not too close to another nest box – nest boxes of the same type should not be sited too close together as this may promote aggressive behaviour between neighbours.
  • Shelter your box from the weather – the front of the nest box should be angled vertically or slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box. Make sure it is sheltered from prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight.
  • Height from the ground should be 3 metres – small-hole boxes are best placed 1-3m above ground on tree trunks, but avoid sites where foliage obscures the entrance hole. If there are no trees in your garden, the next best option is to place your box on the side of a shed or wall.
  • Open-fronted nest boxes should be hidden from view – attach your box to a wall or fence that has shrubs and creepers growing against it.Make sure cats cannot get into the box – ensure that it is not easily accessible to predators (cats and squirrels).
  • Consider a metal plate around hole to deter squirrels – this preventive measure that can be used to deter squirrels from gaining access. These plates are available commercially and can be purchased from any good garden centre or bird care company at very little cost.
  • Keep nest box away from bird feeders – as high levels of activity of visiting birds could disturb nesting pairs.
  • Use galvanized or stainless steel screws or nails that will not rust. If fixing boxes to trees, galvanised wire can be used to tie the box to the trunk or hang it from a branch. Make sure to regularly inspect these fittings to ensure the box remains securely attached.
  • Traditionally, nest boxes for small birds are put up in the spring – pairs begin to prospect in the latter half of February, so a box put up at the end of the winter stands a good chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box, as some birds will use them to roost in during the winter months.

Advice for positioning a roosting pocket (From RSPB Online Shop)

  • Roosting pockets are best in a sheltered place, preferably facing south or east, out of prevailing wind that could drive rain into them. They should be fixed to a firm surface like a post or a tree trunk (using the wire clip provided), not swinging free in the wind. Choose to leave either the large entrance hole or small entrance hole facing out, as that will allow smaller or larger birds inside. Don’t leave it with both holes open, as this could allow a through draft.
Roosting Pocket at Allotment
Roosting Pocket at Allotment

 

 

 

 

National Day of . . . Cabbage

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Today is the day of the cabbage.  What that means in this social media world is just a hashtag #NationalCabbageDay.  There is very little evidence of any other activity.

The cabbage however deserves more than a quickly forgotten or ignored marker in the internet cloud.  Last year, completely unexpectedly, the Greyhound Cabbage was a prized jewel in our allotment.  Even though we were on constant watch for Cabbage Whitefly or Cabbage Root Fly we were able to harvest a few heads and produce some fantastic meals.

Encouraged by last year’s success we are trying Minicole (Autumn), Savoy (Winter) and Red Jewel (Summer / Autumn).  We will see how we go – we may buy more to ensure a year round supply but lets not get ahead of ourselves.  Therefore, the battle with the various flies will be hard fought but if last year is anything to go by the reward will be great.

Therefore cabbages deserve much more than an empty gesture from some marketing department and you should consider them for your plot all year round.

How To Grow

RHS advice on Cabbages

BBC Gardening Advice – Cabbages and Brassicas

Gardeners World – Summer Cabbages (Video)

Quickcrop Advice on Cabbages (Video)

Essential Kit

Brassica Collars

Recipes

The Guardian’s 10 best Cabbage recipes

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Cabbage Recipes

BBC Food – Cabbages

Abel & Cole Cabbage Recipes

A fresh start

Day 1: 4 April 2016

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A sophomore allotment owner.

The first year the allotment was an escape from the horror of my workplace, a coping mechanism for me as I tried to handle the deteriorating health and eventual death of my father, a social network platform as we arrived in a new village and a shared activity for my wife and myself as we worked together to build, grow and develop something afresh.

The second year who knows . . .