Grow a different fruit tree

Ever eaten a Medlar? Ever enjoyed quince jelly? Ever even seen a Service Fruit?  Fewer and fewer people are able to answer yes to these questions which is a shame because they were once very popular.

Medlar, Service and Quince are three rarely seen trees that grow wonderfully well in most of the UK. However because their fruits don’t keep well, you never see them in shops (aside from the odd jar of Quince Jelly) and so their popularity has slowly declined.

This can be seen as a shame but equally could be viewed as a great opportunity to enjoy a pleasure known to only a select few.

If you plant a service or quince or medlar tree you will be able to enjoy a harvest of rare fruits for decades to come.

Quince is the best known of the three and as I mentioned you can pop to the supermarket and get some quince jelly to taste. It is highly perfumed, sweet and delicious.

Medlars may look like they have a bum and the fruit pulp is the wrong shade of brown but the taste is exceptional. Tangy, warming with spicy notes a blotted medlar is a taste of heaven. It is also a blast from the past as this fruit was enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and Romans too.

Medlar fruit

Medlars are self fertile and not that bothered about where they are planted so chuck one in the ground and see what you get.

Like the Medlar the Service fruit is ancient and looks similar to a pear. However high acidity and tannins need to be bletted out before you can eat the wonderfully flavoured pulp. It tasted just like spiced pear.

So, just because the supermarket cannot make money from them is no reason for us to forego the pleasure of enjoying these great gifts from nature. Plant a Quince Medlar or Service tree and enjoy some decidedly different fruits.

How to help British Wildlife

There is plenty of information that we all can get hold of about how to help British wildlife. Most of it concerns not tidying up the garden, not using too many pesticides and adding nesting boxes to your trees. Well placed water features are great for wildlife too. However there is much more that can be done although a lot of it requires other people (experts) to get involved.

There are lots of small charities dedicated to looking after specific bits of our local ecosystems. Sometimes the best way to help your local environment is to volunteer to help these charities in their work. It is up to you whether that means writing letters, raising money or assisting in the physical side of things. Whatever you do decide, be assured that every little bit really does help.

Birds

RSPB

https://www.rspb.org.uk/

The RSPB is one of the U.K.’s most respected nature charities, looking after the welfare of native and migrant birds.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/

In 2017 we are facing a real threat to our native hedgehogs. The population has crashed and is now a tiny proportion of its former amount. Loss of habitat is the main suspect that this year with a dry spring home owners are being asked to ensure there is water available for young hedgehogs Who suffered terribly from dehydration when the weather is dry for sustained periods.

Amphibians

Wildlife trust

Greenpeace

Www.greenpeace.org
Woodland Trust

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

The Woodland Trust is a charity devoted to securing the future of trees in the U.K.

Where to put a nest box

The more birds in your garden the better. One very easy way to increase your bird population is to provide a site for a nest box.

How many boxes?

Putting in more than one will be great for sociable sparrows but other species prefer solitary boxes. If you have even watched two robins scrapping over territory, you will know the truth of this.

Don’t place the boxes too close to each other or birdfeeders either. Many birds are particularly territorial when they have youngsters and will expend lots of unnecessary energy fighting off others if there are lots of birds around. This means less energy for finding food and consequently fewer birds.

How high should a Bird Box be?

Height above the ground should be at least 1.5 m. Above 2 m is preferable. In areas that get lots of people you could put a box as high as 5 metres.

Make sure your spot is sheltered from the full sun and prevailing winds and rain. This usually means placing a bird box so the front opening faces north or east.

However, do try some other options as well if you got multiple boxes.

Safe places for boxes

Last but not least, think about potential predators.putting the box on the top of a 6 foot garden fence is a bad idea because cats can easily get to them. To keep crows and other avian predators away from the baby birds make sure your box has a metal nest box plate to reinforce the entrance hole. This stops other birds from picking away at the wood to make whole big enough so that they can get in to the box.

If the baby birds fall from the nest before being able to fully fly then it helps if they fall into something other than a wide expanse of lawn. They will need to find shelter fast. So consider the terrain beneath the box too.

Remember that wherever you put your new bird box you should be able to get to it at least once a year to clean out old debris in winter.

Identify the birds in your garden

A wide variety of bird species visiting your garden is a sure sign that it is both healthy and bountiful (or that you regularly stock up your birdfeeders).

We all know what blackbirds, robins and pigeons look like, but there are plenty of other species that may well be visiting, so here is a guide. The illustrations are simplified to give you the key identifying markings.

Sparrow

Goldfinch
goldfinch

The vivid colours mark out the Goldfinch from all his garden bird cousins.

Starling

Collared Dove

Greenfinch

Dunnock

Wren

Great Tit

Cleaning without harming

Discover a safer way to clean your home and garden

Every day we bombard our homes with an assortment of chemicals in the endless quest for spotlessness. Whilst giving our homes the sparkle we’re after the chemicals we often use have a less than beneficial effect on our health. Studies have found links between some cleaning products and an increase in allergies, asthma and eczema.

We aren’t the only ones to suffer from these chemicals. The manufacture and disposal of these chemical goods have a damaging effect to the environment and fragile eco-systems.

So, what are the alternatives? Is it possible to achieve a clean and healthy home without harming ourselves and the environment?

Thankfully, yes it is. It’s encouraging to see that there is an increase in responsible cleaning products available. As well as a move towards resurrecting some of the classic cleaning remedies used way before modern day cleaning products were readily available.

To help you get started here are a few of our favourite suppliers of eco-friendlier cleaning products:

Allergy Matters was founded in 2001 and is the number 1 resource for allergies. They promote good health to allergy sufferers through their knowledge and up-to-date information, advice and recommended products.

Natural Collection offers a wide selection of ecologically considered products and services. They are the UK’s leading non-food ecological retailer and are the official catalogue for Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Trees for Life, Out of This World, The Vegetarian Society, Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Shopeco has a chemical free cleaning section where you can find everything you need to rid yourself of chemical based cleaning products. Their range of value packs will save you time, effort and money and will enable you to choose products based upon your cleaning needs.

So Organic stock a range of quality products for eco-friendly cleaning.

Keep an Amaryllis flowering year after year.

Many people by these wonderful bulbs year after year, but a potted Amaryllis will live and flower for many years if looked after properly, caring for it by following the natural cycle of the plant.

For a Christmas flowering Amaryllis, In October or November you should place the pot in a light warm place (20 centigrade is good) and water it a little and often until the buds appear.

Increase the volume of watering gradually as the shoots grow and enjoy the wonderful flowers.

The important bit is to continue watering once the flowers have faded.This usually happens in January or February. Cut off the flower stems and continue to water your Amaryllis till July, feeding with an organic general purpose plant feed every 2 to 3 weeks.

In July you will want to stop watering altogether, allowing the plant to go dry. Store the pot in a cool place such as a garage until early October when you can begin the whole process again, leading up to a second Christmas flowering. If you follow this advice the Amaryllis bulb will continue growing for many years to come.