10 March 2011

tidyness stimulated habitat creation

Despite the apparent christmas-y-ness of this little redbreast busy watching me as I dig in the compost bin, spring is well underway.  Visitors tell me 'Bbrr its cold!' but the buds on the trees are swelling and everything is getting busy for the breeding season - I am dressed in layers and so am impervious to the cold and am enjoying the opportunity to get on with some tidyness stimulated habitat creation.

While general tidying of the beds has been going on for the past couple of months I am rarely at them with a fork for a traditional dig over in winter.  Unless we are completely renovating beds the garden is 'no-dig' and I trust that the worms and the rest will keep the soil well worked.  Regular digging in permanent beds damages the soil structure and it obviously takes a while for everything to settle down afterwards - the fine roots that spread throughout the soil are broken - and growth is set back.  More than that I find the minced worms left in my wake slightly disturbing and when trowelling out a planting hole last week I uncovered this sleepy gargoyle I was glad I hadn't gone in gungho with a fork.
How frogs dig down through solid soil remains a mystery to me but they go very deep in winter.  This one was carefully re-covered with a blanket of deadleaves to emerge when ready, but it probably didn't wait long as the first spawn is now in the pond.  In April long after the event, visitors finally braving the weather, will be asking "when will the frogs be spawning?".  They will be disappointed when I explain that they must be up and out early to catch the frogs in action, some will no doubt take this as a personal affront by the natural world - some do every year.
At the back of the garden a heap of broken bricks and scattered rubble has needed something doing with it for quite a while but hidden under a good stand of nettles has been easy to ignore.  With a bundle of bare root wild roses and a free afternoon for some tidying it was obvious that some impromptu habitat creation was clearly on the cards.

The wild roses - Scotch Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia  - were planted close along the foot of the wall.  They flower early in cream and have good maroon hips.  Growing wild on sand dunes makes them great for poor dry soil, but to give them a good start a couple of barrows of compost were added.  On this a collection of logs were laid to give a gently rotting core to the habitat 
Over this went broken bricks, packed well down with a good jumping on to make firm - the bees and bugs will love those cracks and crevices.  
And finally a layer of large lumps of concrete.  These lumps are heavy and should be immovable to casual interference - by the railings drug-stashing mischief can be a nuisance but hopefully these great big lumps will be hard to shift one handed.  We shall see.
In my eyes it all looks nicely dry-stone-wall-y and an improvement on the scattered heap - I'm sure some will still see it as a mess but then they always will.  After a couple of seasons it will all be hidden as the small roses that are just peeking up through the cracks will have suckered and spread and knitted it all together. 
Once the roses have established it will be impenetrable to human hands but I fully expect frogs to magically dig their way in and out without the slightest scratch.  Good on them!

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