May Gardening.

Summer’s on its way, and it’s a busy time for the garden! As spring bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow filled with the promise of colour to come. Temperatures are rising but there can still be a last minute frost to catch us all out, so keep an eye on the local weather forecast and protect tender plants accordingly.
The plant of the month for May is the Petunia. Petunias are a large group of tender herbaceous plants that originate from South America. Petunias are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco. Petunias are available in both upright and trailing varieties, and are a staple plant for containers, hanging baskets and summer bedding displays. Petunias can tolerate relatively harsh conditions and hot climates. They need at least five hours of sunlight every day and they grow well in low humidity, moist soil.
Petunias are hungry plants and require feeding regularly with a high potash fertiliser, such as Phostrogen or Tomato Feed. Petunias require dead-heading, to remove the spent blooms and any seeds they produce. When dead-heading remove the base of the flower to include seed removal. Petunias that are allowed to go to seed will slow or stop blooming. Most petunias are F1 Hybrids and are sold as plants which are grown from cuttings, therefore if you want an exact replica of the parent plant do not bother collecting the seeds as they will either be sterile or not true to type.
In horticulture many terms are used to denote different types of cultivated petunias. These include Grandiflora, Multiflora, Supertunia, Viva, Tumbelina, and Surfinia. Some petunias have double-flowers and some are scented. Every year the range of petunias increase as growers develop more and more unusual colours, most of these varieties are grown under plant breeders rights and cannot be propagated (for resale) without a licence.
In the past 20 years calibrachoas, small-flowered relations of petunias (not true petunias), have made enormous strides. Calibrachoas have smaller flowers than petunias, smaller and narrower leaves, and more slender, but woodier stems. And, unlike petunias, the leaves are not sticky. ‘Million Bells’ was the first and, like the surfinia petunias, it’s determined to trail. Now, as with petunias, there are many series. Some of the colours are just captivating. There really is something for everyone in this vast range of plants.
Here are my other top tips for May:
• Earth up potatoes and promptly plant any still remaining
• Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges
• Watch out for red lily beetles, and treat accordingly
• Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs.
• Collect rainwater and investigate ways to recycle water for irrigation
• Regularly hoe off weeds
• Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days
• Mow lawns weekly
Whatever May brings I hope you get a chance to step out into the sunshine and enjoy the season as you tackle this months gardening jobs.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk

COUNTRYSIDE NOTES MAY 2017

BIRDS’NESTS

Birds never cease to amaze me. Their nests come in so many different designs utilising a wide variety of materials such as twigs, dead leaves, dried grass, aquatic vegetation, animal fur, wool, feathers, cobwebs and mud. It is not uncommon either to find other items such as string, baler twine, paper, pieces of polythene etc included.
Blackbirds and thrushes are reasonably conventional with their bowl shaped nests which can be told apart as the thrush lines hers with mud. Of the birds that build in trees perhaps the laziest of them all is the woodpigeon which makes do with just a flimsy platform of dead twigs. Crows and rooks build similar nests although theirs are much more substantial, while magpies create dome shaped twiggy nests. Sparrows would probably win the prize for being the untidiest nest builders with their ragged creations made from straw, dried grass and feathers. The tit family are much neater, seeking cavities in which to build, making use of moss, fine grass and lining their nests with hair, animal fur, wool or feathers. Best of all are the nests of long tailed tits which build beautiful oval balls out of moss, cobwebs and hair which they cover with grey lichen and line with feathers, often using a large one to cover the entrance hole near the top. Many warbler species build nests woven from fine vegetation close to the ground in reeds, gorse, brambles or bushes. Tree creepers and wrens often choose a crevice in tree bark using whatever materials they can find close by. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and owls seek out holes in trees. Swallows and house martins collect mud which they mix with their saliva to build nests on the sides of buildings. However their cousin the swift, being unable to walk on the ground, chooses to nest under roof tiles.
A variety of species nest on the ground. Plovers, waders and terns make a little scrape on bare soil, open moorland or coastal shingle in which to lay their eggs. Most species of ducks and geese create a cosy nest from dead leaves and grasses which they line with soft down plucked from their breasts. Our ancestors discovered that down from eider ducks would keep them warm at night hence the invention of the ‘eiderdown’. Exceptions to this rule are goldeneye, which normally nest in holes in trees, and shelduck which select rotten trees. Sometimes straw stacks make acceptable substitutes for trees.
Aquatic vegetation is used by swans to build gigantic nests close to the water edge. Grebes use similar materials to make floating platforms anchored in a pond or riverside reeds as do coots and moorhens who build cup shaped nests in which to lay their eggs. Those birds which spend most of their lives at sea generally choose precarious sites on cliff edges and buildings.
The gold medal for laziness though, must surely go to the cuckoo which neither builds its own nest nor raises its own chicks.

Ron’s Ramblings

BREXIT
I have sadly come to the conclusion that, as a nation, we may have come to the wrong decision in voting to leave the EU. I am partly responsible in as much as I voted to leave, I was driven to vote leave because of my concern over the housing crisis in this country and the net immigration figures. For a good number of years we have had roughly 250,000 additions to our population due to immigration, this corresponds to a need for a town the size of Newcastle every year. Admittedly not all of this migration has been from the EU but the fact that EU migration was outside of our control and that I could see no end to the drift from eastern Europe to the west drove me to vote leave.
Nevertheless I think now that suffering this level of immigration from Europe may be a price worth paying to stay with the EU. I believe that a significant number of those who voted to leave were working class who wanted to hit out at the established political order. The extreme right of the conservative party have latched on to the ‘democratic vote’ and see it as a green light to move British politics to the right and to free themselves from the shackles, as they saw it, of the Liberal and Socialist rules of the EU. They are so convinced that this is the best route for Britain, they don’t care that we will have to leave the single market and they are happy to go for a hard Brexit if they can’t get agreement, but it is becoming clear that the cost to our economy could be significant and we could all be the losers, most particularly those working class that voted leave. I am even more worried over the impact that leaving is likely to have on the United Kingdom, we know that the Scots are not happy, they may vote to stay in the UK but it is by no means certain. An even greater problem will exist in Northern Ireland because of the border with the south, it is a border that must remain open and yet to do so seems impractical. With all this going on the Welsh are also stirring, ey believe that they have benefitted from membership of the EU and are beginning to make noises about Welsh independence. Although it may not be feasible for Wales to be an independent state there will be considerable discontent and we can’t avoid a situation where the Scots the Welsh and the Northern Irish will all be resentful and feel that their future has been determined by the English and, to make matters worse, by the English right wing.
If remaining in the EU will keep them on board more happily, if it will help to ensure that our economy continues to flourish and if it will put some constraints on the conservative right wing, then maybe the problem with EU immigration is a price worth paying. I think it is quite possible that, as the consequences of leaving become more apparent, if the referendum were to be re-run the leave result would be overturned. There is no chance that the ‘right’ will let it happen however.

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Boughton News – May

Boughton – A beautiful village and a conservation area as well
I enjoy, as I am sure do many other readers, living in Boughton which I regard as one of the most attractive villages in West Norfolk. We no longer have any shops or pubs but to my mind that adds to its attraction. We have a hard core of volunteers who work hard to maintain such assets as the village green, the village pond, the children’s playground and of course our fen.
Looking through some papers recently I was reminded that this year is the 40th anniversary of Boughton’s designation as a conservation area, In this context a Conservation Area is defined as “An area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. For readers interested to learn more King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (KL&WN BC) have a very good leaflet which gives the full background to Boughton’s designation as a conservation area. It can be found on the web at:
https://www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/downloads/file/1898/boughton_conservation_area_leaflet
Of course as well as the benefits that Conservation area designation brings it also means that there are extra planning considerations that may come into play. For example new buildings and changes to existing buildings may require special consideration. Even the removal (or cutting back) of trees or hedges can require formal approval from the planning authority. The rules are sometimes complex and if in doubt I would strongly encourage checking directly with KL&WN BC.
The first fourty years of conservation area designation has I think been a great success and I hope our successors will look back in another fourty years and still appreciate the beauty of our village.
I mentioned above that we have a small group of volunteers who work hard to maintain our village assets and if you would like to be involved then do give me a call (my number is 500957) or come round to see me at Church View in Wretton Road.

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