Derek – Friday 10th April 2020

As the days are warm, I have moved some trial rice into the greenhouse. I have been growing this at home, and it is pallid, some barely alive. I think it is lack of light, but I can’t be sure. The problem with the greenhouse, which is unheated, is that it gets chilly at night. But there is the added heat in the day due to the greenhouse effect, so I cross my fingers for the rice. I say this is trial rice as I intend sowing some in May as part of the cereal project. This earlier planting, sown on 14 January, was to test the seed. I know at least the seed works, but I know too that rice doesn’t like being planted so early in the year, even indoors.

In the pond, all the tadpoles have left the spawn and they are swimming freely. I noted last year that after a few weeks they had all disappeared. Let’s see if the same happens this year. Also in the pond, a few days ago, a newt was seen. This was a real surprise as we have not had any before. Of course, unless there is a breeding pair, this is just a singleton with no possibility of offspring.

Newts, like frogs, once they have metamorphosed to lung breathing, four legged juveniles, leave their pond in summer. The majority don’t survive to full adulthood; the few that do spend three years growing and fully maturing before returning to a pond to breed. Newts can cover quite a bit of ground in that time, and one, at least, got to our pond.

In a tub, near the pond, along with iris spears is a marsh marigold, also known as kingcup. A brilliant yellow, clearly a close relative of the buttercup, this one has its roots in water. It’s interesting those plants that can root in water, as most can’t. One reason that rice is grown in paddy fields is that there are few weeds that can take these conditions. Rice can be grown in unflooded fields, providing it is well watered, but the crop then has a lot of competition from weeds.

Two days ago, Kevin and I did our second video walk round the garden. This time we didn’t have the noise from the building site next door. There’s no one there; like the rest of us, they are in lockdown. We learned a few things from the mistakes in the last video, still more to learn though.

Here’s the link for the video walk:

At the front of the garden, the cherry tree is in bloom. A garish pink in a mass of blossom; I am in two minds about this fulsome display. Such trees, commonly called Japanese cherries, have been bred for blossom. They are sterile and set no fruit. In Japan, they have the festival, known as hanami, where the fleeting blossoms are celebrated. This year we need some cheering up so I’ll go along with this outrageous pink fluff.

Our five cereals (two wheats, barley, oats and rye) are all sprouting, two to three inches high now. They are all grasses, so at this stage look very similar. An important part of this experiment is the use of cardboard boxes as containers. How will they fare over the five months needed for maturity? The cereals were planted on 18 March, over three weeks ago now, and the boxes are fine. But it’s been dry since 19 March, so they haven’t been tested in, say, a week’s rain. Then again, they are regularly watered, but I won’t try lifting any of the boxes. I did once and the bottom fell out. There they stay until autumn.

I am wondering about thinning out the cereals in their boxes. Do I simply let them go, like grass on a lawn? Or thin them to get a better seed head and risk losing some? I’ll make a decision in a couple of weeks.

It’s my hope we can re-open the garden in a few months. Then you can see for yourself how the cereals and other garden plants are doing. In the meantime, we’ll keep in touch with the blog and our fortnightly video.

Comments 4

  1. Thank you for a. Wonderful update and visual tour . I am a long way from the garden and it is good to know all is well.
    Stay healthy and let’s hope that we can open up again soon.

  2. Good to hear from you, Steve. Kevin and I are doing our best to keep the garden alive on line at least. It’s good for us, as making videos is a new skill. I hope you are enjoying nature and doing some gardening. And hope to see back in the garden before too long.

  3. How lovely to see the garden in it’s spring glory! I think I know every inch of it, and it’s something I miss very much indeed. I hope to see it, and you all, in the late summer. Thank you for doing these videos, Derek, I am really enjoying them.

  4. I can’t take all the credit for the video, Isabel, as Kevin takes the pictures and he’s the editor. It’s a joint effort. Good to hear from you, these troubling times. Stay well. I’ll keep on writing the weekly blog, and me and Kevin will do a fortnightly video. In some way at least, we can share the garden with everyone who can’t visit.

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