Category: The Yard: Front & Back Garden

Our Home Harvest 2016

one-of-our-potted-tomato-plants

Our Home Harvest 2016

 

When we were both still gainfully employed,  😉 it was hard to maintain our fairly long back garden, where the lawn must be mowed, the bushes regularly trimmed, the pond life fed, the garden furniture repaired, etc., the list went on.  We, therefore,  paved over parts of it, but still kept some smaller flower& plant beds and a good size lawn.

A good idea in any size garden is to use plant pots or troughs to grow plants, flowers and vegetables.

Some of the larger pots are fitted with small wheels (like castors) on the base.

some-of-our-newly-picked-tomatoes
This means that we can easily move large plants, such as the tomato plants, to follow the sun as it moves, to maximise exposure to the light and heat.

This spring, and as in previous years, Jean & I decided to try and grow some tomato plants in three of our large pots.  Tomatoes are quite inexpensive and plentifully sold in shops and supermarket during the summer, but growing your own has its own reward.  You can be sure of the freshness and they seem to taste better 🙂

 

one-of-our-small-apple-trees

 

This year’s weather has been mixed in London & SE England.

A rarely frozen and wet winter was followed by rain alternating with hot sunny days in summer, extending well into September. This combination has resulted in a nice crop of tomatoes. some have ripened and hopefully the others will soon as well.

Our two potted small apple trees have produced their ripe fruit nearly a month early this year.

They are ‘Jonagold’ apples, which are sweet and a little bitter to taste but simply delicious.

We found that If you have two potted apple trees, keep them near each other in order to get at least one good crop, this helps cross fertilisation from the bees etc.

We find each year that one tree produces more apples than the other.

However, this year both tree have a lot of apples, thanks to the weather.

our-pear-treeWe have one potted Conference variety pear tree, near the end of the garden, and as with the apple trees we also need to get another one as this lonely tree only produces a pair of pears each year.

Our wild blackberry bush has also produce a bounty of berries this year too!

We wonder if this year’s winter will be cold and wet again. Snow has not fallen to settle on the ground here in nearly the last two years, much to our grandson’s disappointment who is wishing of building a snowman in the garden!

Visitor to our garden pond: Damsel Fly

Damselfly -photo by PH Morton

Damselfly -photo by PH Morton

Damsel Fly

Today, as we were repairing one of the statues of  Buddha that serenely contemplates our garden fish pond,  I walked down the garden to the pond. It was a fine warm sunny Saturday in late May. On one if the small slate slabs I was arranging with other rocks around the pond (work in progress!), I notices a most colourful exquisite flying insect soaking up the sun on the slate.

Luckily, I was holding my trusty Nikon Coolpix camera, which has a decent macro lens.  I like to wander the garden with it, hoping to catch the flora and fauna that resides and visits our oasis of calm.

I carefully set the camera and moved slowly towards the insect, I balanced precariously on some rocks, nearly stepping on a fern which Jean was frowning  about as she watched me manoeuvre nearer the insect. The insect took flight and hovered with it’s wonderful gossamer like wings.  luckily  it landed in the same place and appeared unperturbed as I edged closer.

I  managed to get a few close up photos as it seemingly posed for me 😉

We seemed to stare at each other (me through the camera lens).

When I viewed the photos and ‘Googled’  for flying insects common to the UK.  I thought that it might have been a  May Fly appropriate for the month!

In fact it was a delightful Damsel Fly, a fairly rare visitor to our pond.

It was wonderful and a privilege to see such a beautiful creature close up and I hope more such visitors come during the approaching summer.

 

 

Money Plant

Money Plant

Money Plant, Photo by JMorton

Peter and I got these money plants at Ikea in Wembley late last year.  I have had money plants in the past but they tend to die after a while. Perhaps because If I don’t forget to water them, I used to over-water them thinking it would save me watering them again for a couple of months!  🙁 🙁  What can I say? I was busy then, I worked full time and run a house but now that I am retired, I have all the time in the world.

And hopefully, the money plants become true to its name and bring me, or rather us, a lot of money. Why is it called a money plant? To hazard a guess, I think it has something to do with the shape of the leaves. Circular like coins. Chinese Fung Shui seems to advice that round and circular things attract wealth. Well true or not, these money plants are so pretty in our window sill.

Money plant is also known as a jade plant but its scientific name is crassula ovata.  It belongs to the succulent family and makes a perfect houseplant.  Apparently with proper care, the money plant can have a very longevity.  I saw a mature money plants whilst in the Philippines a couple of months ago.  The plant was really pretty, with thickened branches and jade green fat leaves.  It reminded me of a bonsai,  very structured.

 

The First Day of Spring

The First Day of Spring

 

Today, 20th March 2016, is officially the first day of spring in the UK.

Well, winter seems to still be keeping a cold grip so far. with only two or three sunny warmer days last week.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in our back garden reading and drinking a breakfast coffee, when I spotted delightful House Sparrows frenetically flying about among our garden bushes, looking for food and more importantly for them, nesting material to build their nests. I have watched starlings do the  same too.

Three Robins collecting nest material in our garden

Male House Sparrows foraging for nesting material – photo by PH Morton

This activity always signals that spring is in the air, especially for nesting birds;)

I witness the antics of the birds coming to grips with various sizes of twigs, dried grass/leaves and other suitable material foraged from our and other local gardens.

Some birds seem daft as they hold the material in their beaks, then get the urge to communicate with other birds tweeting away nearby, and so drop their hard-won twig etc often from our house roof gutter!

Each spring, sparrows used to nest in a small hole in the eaves of our house roof in our back garden. These sparrows were subsequently dispossessed by larger starlings, who will once again move in this year.

We are fortunate to have a reasonable size population of House Sparrows in our local gardens as sadly they are in decline in many parts of the UK.

We think that having many bushes, and some trees in our and neighbouring gardens which provide food, safe habitation and location for nests for garden birds helps keeps the local sparrow population stable

We also have our garden robins, who also nest in the bushes.

Our pet budgerigar hears these birds singing through the window and will noisily cheep & twitter back 🙂

Autumn Apple Harvest

Autumn Apple Harvest

 

October is here and we have just collected the autumn apple harvest from our two small potted apple trees in our back garden/yard.

They are ‘Jonagold’ sweet and a little bitter to taste and  delicious.

Ideally you should have at least two potted apple trees near each other to allow cross fertilisation. We find each year that one tree produces more apples than the other.

One of our October 2015 harvest of apples

One of our October 2015 harvest of apples: photo PH Morton

 

One tree on its own will produce less if any apples.

There are about 7.500 varieties of apples and  cooking apples are used to  make delicious apple pie.

The apple trees produce beautiful blossom in the summer

Ants drinking in abpple blossom after the rain

Apple Blossum on our trees with ants drinking rainwater after a shower : photo PH Morton

We normally get about 30+ apples from the trees each year, October in the UK is general harvest time for farmers and keen gardeners. The cold frosts of winter are nearing in November and December.

We give some apples to our good friend/neighbour Mick, who provides us with a  bounty of vegetables from his allotment throughout the year.

 

 

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

As astronomy is a hobby & keen interest of mine, I eagerly awaited the lunar eclipse. This lunar eclipse had more publicity due to the fact that it coincided with the appearance of the so-called Supermoon.

Lunar Eclipse

Astronomers don’t really prefer to call it a supermoon.

 

The term would be perigee new moon or perigee full moon.

When the moon change in its orbit and is closest to earth, this is called a perigee (within 98 per cent closest to the earth).

When it is a full moon and it is 98 per cent of its closest orbit (perigee) to the earth this is commonly called a supermoon. There can be 4-6 supermoons in a year.

There won’t be a perigee full moon in 2017 because the full moon and perigee won’t realign again (after November 14, 2016) until January 2, 2018. The next supermoon lunar eclipse will be in 2033.

As I have just retired from my work career,  I could fortunately stay up Sunday evening to the early hours of Monday morning. 🙂 I had my trusty camera ready and waited in the garden. weather conditions were ideal, as not too cold after midnight with some wisps of white cloud that conveniently disappeared; so a clear dark sky for the show to begin!

Around 2am, the top left of the moon was starting to be covered by earth’s shadow as it crept across the moon’s surface.

Lunar Eclipse begins - Photo by PH Morton

Lunar Eclipse begins – Photo by PH Morton

 

Totality and complete earth cover happened at around 3 am.

Total Lunar Eclipse (Totality) - Photo by PH Morton

Total Lunar Eclipse (Totality) – Photo by PH Morton

totality

A lunar eclipse totality lasts much longer than the spectacular  solar eclipse that is over in a few minutes. I watched the eclipse for 3 hours. The moon’s surface facing the earth becomes an amazing  coppery colour. Some cultures call it a ‘Blood Moon’ because of the reddish hue and regard it as a bad omen.

Of course the colour is caused by the sunlight being scattered through the earth’s thick atmosphere so the moon is never blacked out like the sun becomes briefly  in a solar eclipse at totality. The moon does not have an atmosphere anywhere as thick as the earths to scatter any light.

At sea level on Earth, we breathe in an atmosphere where each cubic centimetre contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; by comparison the lunar atmosphere has less than 1,000,000 molecules in the same volume.

It’s faint trace of atmosphere contains molecules including helium, argon, and possibly neon, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. There is no oxygen as abundant on earth.

I managed to get some reasonable photographs as  the eclipse was finishing  around 5am.

Lunar Eclipse ending - Photo by PH Morton

Lunar Eclipse ending – Photo by PH Morton

During my eclipse vigil in our back garden into the small wee hours as we say, a curious urban fox came close to me to see what I was up to then wandered off!

I could hear an owl hooting in the distance and field mice moving in our Blackberry bush/tree. The garden is indeed a fascinating place at night 🙂

A Flower Petal That I Saw

Recently on a pleasant summer day and late afternoon we were in our back yard/garden.

We were generally pottering about, pruning some bushes, feeding our pond fish and tidying up the end of the garden.

A Flower Petal That I Saw

From nowhere,

There came a light cooling breeze of scented air,

From a nearby bush behind me,  a delicate petal lifted itself free,

and came to rest on the good earth in front of me,

I smiled when I saw it and looked up at my Precious, Darling & Wonderful Wife,

In my mind, the words were already on it;  declaring the True Love of my Life…

MY Heart

Robins our Garden Guardians

 

As spring turns into summer in the UK, we have enjoyed the budding flowers and trees. Also the first visits to our gardens  of a family favourite, the robin red breast bird.

The European robins (Erithacus rubecula) are descended from Old World Fly catcher birds Muscicapidae.  

A robin  will select a particular garden to live, feed and sometimes nest.

They prefer a garden that has lots of bushes and plants  for them to hide and live in & also provides supplies of ready insects, worms, slugs and snails for their meals.

Robins are fiercely territorial and will sometimes fend off intruding birds to ‘their’ garden.

Every year, we enjoy seeing our cheeky little garden robin hopping about among our bushes and plants. They are also not aversed to having a bath on the running falls by our pond.

He/she is not scared or wary of us and follows us about when we are in our garden,  He or she would remain still watching me mow the lawn and he would happily dart down curiously to the freshly cut grass.

I photographed our robin last week, then yesterday while sitting in my mate Mick’s garden, we saw and I photographed his garden robin 🙂

Our garden Robin

Our Garden Robin!, Photo by PH Morton

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden. @ Mick’s garden, Photo by PH Morton

 

 

Skulking Mr Fox

 

Skulking Mr Fox

Last Saturday night around midnight,  James & Stacey went out for a walk towards a local shop that was usually still open, as it was a pleasant spring night. When they walked back to the house, they found that they were being followed by a curious urbanite, Mr fox .

It was quite amazing to see this little fellow (or vixen?) sniffing around and inspecting  our front garden. We guess the fox was hungry too.

The fox appeared to be in good condition with fine fur and bright eyes.  Many urban foxes sadly look underfed. Urban foxes have been common in many parts of London.  With a dwindling habitat and food sources becoming scarce in the country side due to modern farming practices and population increase spreading, foxes were driven into more urban areas to seek food.  They normally come out late at night or pre dawn, and their distinctive howls, barks and yelps sound eerie in the wee small quiet hours of a morning. Foxes have always been in London for at least 80 years. It is estimated that there are around 10,000 foxes now living in London.

Urban foxes can be seen also during the day but are very shy creatures. Normally they run away when approached, but can become bolder and aggressive (rare) if hungry, looking after their cubs or trapped. Foxes like gardens or allotments, they may sleep or have a den to raise their cute cubs. Some  people see foxes as a nuisance, however many do like to see these former countryside creatures roaming about.

We were privileged to see this fit young fox up close for about half an hour. It sniffed my shoes as I was lucky to take photographs. It did not seem shy or scared by us. It came near to our front door and I think it would have even come into the house if we had let it !