Lavender – Saturday 15th June, 2024

The rain comes down in windy blasts, smashing on the clear plastic sheeting over our covered area where we are sheltering. We shiver and draw inwards, the shelter as yet has no sides and the rain is blowing in. Such a rush of rain, surely couldn’t last. If it did, we’d be in trouble, set for a flood, but five minutes later the sky is clearing and the rain has stopped. I take a look round at our water butts. One that had been near empty is full and spilling over into its neighbour. Earlier this week, I’d been thinking, if this dry weather keeps up, we’ll need to use the hose. But we have had on and off rain, like an old style British summer.

Where have all the tadpoles gone? Just a week ago there were hundreds and now there are just a few. I doubt it is predation. There are no big predators, like fish, in the pond. We haven’t seen any tadpoles with legs, so it’s not possible that those hundreds have developed legs and lungs in the last seven days and left the pond. Which leaves two possibilities, the first is shortage of oxygen, but the pond is full of aerating plants and rain brings aerated water too. The second is disease. Disease can kill very quickly, culling high numbers in days, as is the case. To my mind, disease is the likely cause. I can’t think of anything else.

Our pond is big as garden ponds go, but not so big that it can disperse pathogens, like a large lake or a stream. One must be philosophical about this cull, if disease is the culprit. Tadpoles die in huge numbers anyway. They are a fleeting phenomenon; ten thousand eggs result in perhaps ten mature adults returning in three years time. To get rid of any disease, we’d have to empty the pond, then disinfect it and the plants; something we are not going to do.

The irises in the pond need thinning out. A job for the winter. They so easily take over small ponds. The one in Forest Lane Park is almost squeezed out by vegetation.

There are fewer insects this year. The beehives have gone from the house next door the community garden, so that’s one source lost. Before the flats were built next to us, there was a large, very weedy, open space, a large habitat for insects. A habitat loss, we hardly noticed. In the garden, I note bumble bees, hover flies, and other small flies, fewer though, but hardly any ladybirds, butterflies nor many aphids.

Bugs Matter Citizen survey for 2023, recently published, shows of 78% decrease in insect splatter on car numbers plates, from 2004 to 2023. This takes results from 26,500 journeys. Considering this report, Andrew Whitehouse of Buglife says, ‘Human activities continue to have a huge impact on nature – habitat loss and damage, pesticide use, pollution, and climate change all contribute to the decline in insects.’

Many insects are pollinators which most of our food crops need, other than those that are wind pollinated like cereals. Insects such as aphids are destructive to crops, but killing these is also killing beneficial insects. We are not going organic in big numbers anytime soon, so the killing will go on but we need pesticides that are not harmful to pollinators, like bees, and to encourage more planet friendly farm practises.

Tomorrow, Misty will begin her series of ukulele lessons in the garden. She has bought 20 instruments, so you don’t need your own instrument to have a go. Let’s have music in the garden. And maybe a ukulele band will feature at the 2025 Forest Gate Festival. 

The acanthus (aka bears britches) are just flowering. They have tall spikes of white flowers poking out of green pockets. I pass the lavender and am halted by its perfume and the blue/purple colour.

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