One Swallow does not a summer make

“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

How many swallows does it take I wonder?  We have swallows-a-plenty nesting at our warehouse – but summer????

Early April brought the first sight of ‘our’ swallows this year.  Before long they are performing their amazing aerial acrobatics with such skill and energy that their 5000 mile return flight from southern Africa seems nothing more than a training session.

Their preferred nesting site with us is what has become known as ‘Swallow Alley’.  An outside walk-way with a low roof and exposed beams that are ideal for building their iconic open cup nest made primarily of mud and reinforced with plant material and feathers.  Not only is the passageway sheltered, the ever present flies and insects must be the swallow equivalent to an order in food service.

Within weeks the first clutches of eggs are laid and just over 2 weeks later the noisy young have hatched.  Then begins the parents work! – Sound familiar???

Whilst the vociferous fledglings are being reared the more timid members of staff are seen to choose the longer, inside walk rather than run the Russian roulette walk below the nesting birds. Their constant comings and goings with food for their young makes the passageway not only a flurry of winged activity, the droppings are also numerous, unpredictable and frequent!

The parents hard work is rewarded around 3 weeks later with the young taking their maiden flights.  They are able to fend for themselves soon after.  (Some years we have watched the parents raise 2 broods in a summer.)

Before I get used to these wonderful visitors being with us it seems they are on the wing again and congregating in large flocks to make their 5,000 mile flight back to warmer climes.

No matter what the weather brings during our ‘summer months’, the sight of these beautiful birds makes my summer!

– Joy

The north wind doth blow…

The north wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then?

He’ll live in our warehouse and keep himself warm.
And wait patiently there until spring. Poor thing?

We have a little red-bibbed visitor who has taken up vociferous residence in our warehouse. We are greeted each morning by the cheerful chatter of the robin who then proceeds to come and go throughout the day. He keeps an eye on all proceedings and shows a keen interest when we are handling the worms to send out to customers!

I understand that robins are one of the very few birds who stay in the UK through the winter months. Severe weather conditions can take a real toll on robin numbers as a robin can lose up to 10% of its body weight during just one cold winter’s night. Unless they can replenish their reserves, a prolonged cold spell can prove fatal.

We can help our feathered friends and make a real difference to their survival rates by simply having a well stocked bird table. Robins (and other birds) enjoy meaty kitchen scraps, fat, cheese, cake and biscuit crumbs. Dried fruit and peanuts are also enjoyed but need to be crushed or cut.

Should you wish to buy some food for our feathered friends we stock many varieties of bird seed, nuts and fat bells and balls. I have just invested in a bag of High Energy Robin Feed….some of which will be spread on the bird table at home and of course my little warehouse friend must also be rewarded for its cheerful songs each day. Have a look on our website.

I can hardly wait until we are once again visited by our annual visitors the swifts who nest around our warehouse each year. – More later.


Autumn has arrived… New Years Resolutions are a dim and distant past!

Do you remember last December? The cold made it so difficult to shop… either online or out on the high street. So this year I am determined to avoid this inconvenience and shop early.

If like me you have several, ‘hard to buy for’ friends and family members then may I make a few suggestions? My father was surprised and delighted to receive a wormery a couple of years ago. Not only was it an original kind of present, but one that he has enjoyed and benefited from ever since. This year he will get a winter insulation jacket to keep the worms cosy through any snowy conditions Mother Nature throws our way this year.

My mother is a keen gardener and still manages to keep herself and dad in home grown fruit and vegetables most of the year. After this year’s summer in Nottingham she was mentioning once or five times how next year she must treat herself to a water butt to save on the water bill when she has to water the garden. So….. this year a water butt will be winging its way to mum. Don’t let her know or it will ruin the surprise!

My brother is new to gardening, (better late than never), and shall be getting a wooden composter to replace the untidy pile of vegetation that is growing in a corner of his garden.

Have a browse through our website and see what original presents are there for the buying!

Christmas shopping sorted! I can look forward to missing the crowds in town and sit back with a cup of tea and leaf through my seed catalogues in readiness for next year.


“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”

It is fast approaching my favourite time of year. Once the August bank holiday has been and gone I look forward to slowly putting the garden to bed for winter. The mornings have begun to have coolness about them with dew sparkling on lawns. Spiders are beginning to spin their webs where ever I seem to walk in the garden and of course slugs and snails are out in force. The smell of bonfires wafts into the garden and the evenings begin to draw in a little.

Tidying the garden after the summer is a job that transforms my garden from a tired, grown out look to a neat ready for winter look. The spent annuals are composted along with the cut off branches and overgrown herbaceous plants that need a trim. The lawn is cut on a higher blade setting and raked to get a much moss out as possible. (Back breaking but worth it).

Of course this activity produces piles of green garden waste. This is where my composters come into their own. As if by magic, the greenery goes in to them and this time next year I can harvest it as beautiful, sweet smelling compost ready to grow seedlings in the following spring. You may like to look at our extensive range of composters.

Personally I have both wooden beehive style composters that I can add extra capacity to by adding an extra module, and also the traditional, (very effective) Classic Rotol composter. Whichever you choose you too can then experience the thrill of harvesting compost that has been made from discarded garden waste.

Let me know how autumn is tackled in your garden.


A new dish – growing your very own potatoes!

Burgon & Ball Patio Potato Planter

Burgon & Ball Patio Potato Planter

It’s that season again.  The days are getting longer and warmer and the garden beckons.  One of my favourite tasks is to begin the sowing of seeds of things to later harvest and eat.  Of these, the ritual of growing potatoes on my patio is one of the most rewarding.

I have chosen the two varieties for this years’ crop, one early, Charlotte and one main crop, King Edwards. They are currently chitting under my bed in readiness for planting.

It is traditional to plant the chitted potatoes on Good Friday. I do not always adhere to this as some years this feels a little too early, but this year may prove a traditional one.

I use containers to grow my potatoes as I only have a small garden.  Patio Potato Planters are just so convenient!

The potatoes are planted in about 8 inches of compost and covered by a further couple of inches of soil, watered and left. I keep an eye on the moisture level as potatoes need moisture to thrive. Once leaves have started to break through the compost add a further couple of inches of compost into the top of the patio planter. This is what my father would call ‘earthing up’. It encourages more and more potatoes to form. Once the top of my potato planter has been reached by earthing up it is then a matter of watering and waiting.

(Tempting though it may be, do not ‘peep’ to see how they are getting on).

The best way to tell that the potatoes are ready is when some of the leaves have started to change from a dark green to yellow. If possible begin harvesting the lowest potatoes first, take what is needed and leave the others to continue growing. Pick and enjoy. If more are harvested than required store in a cool, dark container such as a Potato basket.

Finally two warnings;
1) I always forget just how prolific six seed potatoes of each of the two varieties can be but friends and family always appreciate the excess produce.
2) Potato growing has, for me, become addictive. The ease of successfully growing them, the knowledge of how they were grown and also the education of my children that potatoes do not all come in plastic bags from supermarkets has got to be good enough reason or should that be excuse?

Have a go and good luck!  Do let us know how you get on.


My Turtle Bag… A little Gem!

Caren shows off our new Turtle Bags!

Caren shows off our new Turtle Bags!

I would like to share one of my best buys of the year……..a simple string bag or rather a  Turtle Bag! – About 5 months ago I was shopping and had run out of old plastic carrier bags to keep in my handbag, ‘just in case’. I was paying for several items in a local shop when I saw a small display of string bags. I bought one, packed my purchases in it and left.

Innocuous enough you may think but since using this wonderful bag I have been stopped in the street and asked where one could be bought from, a friend has also asked the same question.  On another occasion, I left some heavy shopping in the bag with a friendly shopkeeper to look after to be picked up later, on returning to retrieve said Turtle bag and shopping, she remarked how she could have sold the bag several times over as she had had enquiries by customers who saw it.

Having shown work colleagues ‘the bag’ interest was such that Clive, the boss, has bought in Turtle Bags to sell to our canny customers. We have already had some original ideas as to other uses for these bags, such as, ‘over winter’ storage for home grown onions! – We would welcome more original ideas.

I can only speak from experience, but would urge anyone who shops to buy at least one. My bag now goes everywhere with me as it fits easily into my handbag, it expands to accommodate more shopping than I can comfortably carry for too long and  another, more eco friendly benefit  is that I do not have to buy or use plastic bags anymore.

Oh yes – they are called Turtle bags in honour of the much endangered species their extensive use could help to save. Jellyfish are a significant part of the diet of many Turtles. Unfortunately many hundreds of thousands if not millions of ordinary plastic bags end up in the worlds oceans. Now to a Turtle swimming underwater a floating or submerged plastic bag is simply indistinguishable from a Jellyfish. The difference is, of course, that the plastic bag is indigestible; clogs up the Turtles insides and sadly condemns it to a slow death by starvation.

So buy a bag to make shopping easier, to reduce waste and to save a Turtle.