Have you been using the inaturalist wildlife spotting app on your walks out and about Castle Bromwich and surrounds?
The On your Doorstep project run by our friends over in B37 has so far gathered 212 different species of plants, insects, animals and birds….
Our Gardener on site has been participating too – although most of the rest of the staff are working from home..
She reports that there are great tits nesting by our office… we often have a nesting pair in the tall pole of our security cameras… I wonder if they’re there this year?
The On Your Doorstep project goes on for another week – and the app continues after that too. Do download the free app and use it to report your sitings however modest and ordinary – the more we know about all the wildlife around us, the better we will be able to protect it and enjoy it together.
We’ve some lovely night time footage of our resident hedgehogs (see the footage on previous blog posts). They’re free to roam across all of the different habitats in the Gardens – they like cover, but they also like a bit of mown grass… we have plenty of both.
This week, with so few people in the gardens one of them has been bold enough to come out a foraging in the day time.
We were initially a bit worried. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and seeing one in the daytime can be a sign of a poorly pig.
We looked at here, she looked at us.. We looked again. No longer interested in us, she turned slowly and waddled off into the undergrowth
We think – given she ‘waddled well’ that the one in this picture was probably a female foraging for food or for nesting materials. Given the lively group we’ve seen on the nightcam… we can only hope that our hogs are growing in number.
Citizen science: we can all make a difference to the world’s knowledge.
These days almost anyone can take part in gathering important information that adds to scientists’ understanding. From this Friday you can help us map some really important nature around the Gardens using a free app for your phone.
In the past we have taken part in things like national Bee Counts and flower surveys. Our colleagues over in Chelmsley Wood (B37 project and the Tribal Community Rangers) have started using this app iNaturalist from the National Geographic Society.
In May we will be taking part – where we can – at looking and recording the wildlife surrounding our Gardens, over the Parkland, on the church paddock, on Lady Bradfords Gardens (the green common in front of the hotel). It’s a month long bio-blitz!
Did you know that the Parkland, surrounding the Gardens, hasn’t had much change or disturbance on it for nearly 400 years! So, it’s a really rich place for biodiversity.
All you need to do is:
Download the app.
Have a look for ‘On your Doorstop’ under projects – and join (not compulsory- but will help them and us with the data )
Then on your daily walk around the area, take a snap or two and upload what you see: plants, insects, animals , birds….
At the end of the month Tribal will crunch the data for us – and we’ll share it with everyone.
And that’s it… ooh don’t forget to share some of your photos on our facebook/twitter/instagram
Thank you … you will be contributing to human knowledge and science – that’s a great thing!
When we re-open the Gardens – whenever that will be – we know that social distancing will be a ‘new normal’ for some while…
So, the (still working) team here have been thinking about what that would look like. We want to help people feel safe when they come to visit, and know that others are looking out for their health too. Shops and supermarkets are using yellow floor tape and painted circles…that’s not quite the thing we want to do in our historic Garden.
We’ve come up with a number of ideas and one of them needs your help.
Smile Stones … have you seen them about?
There is a lovely phenomenon of people painting pebbles and leaving them in the environment for people to find, to make them smile, to think and sometimes to collect and pass on. (PS the advice at present during Covid-19 , is NOT to pick them up and move them – just a precaution)
Smile stones are a little piece of everyday sharing and of spreading love. We already have a few in the Gardens deposited (with permission) by local people.
We think stone and pebble smiles stones would make wonderful social distance markers all around our garden… Every 2 metres a bright little stone hedgehog or ladybird, or perhaps a heart lifting message to keep you going on to the next marker?
If you’d like to take part in helping brighten up our Gardens walking routes we’d love you to start now.
Below are some facebook pages and other things about how to paint stones.
How to get them to us
We will leave a plant pot attached to the (inner) gates of the Gardens – you can just pop your stones in there, and we’ll keep them ready for when we open (if the pot disappears , just roll your stones under the gate and our gardener will pick them up when she visits..)
Thank you – do pass on this activity to anyone you think might enjoy taking part.
PS … don’t spend money getting fancy paint… do what you can, a coat of clear nail varnish will do the trick – or any outdoor varnish you have in your diy cupboard – over the top of house paint/kids paint or marker pens will do!
It is now time to give your borders some attention. All the sunshine and showers means the garden should now be at its vibrant best. Remove any faded spring bedding at the end of the month, it’s served you well but it’s time for a change and old bedding can be put in the compost bin to go back on the garden next year as mulch.
Once the risk of frost has passed (what do you think?), plant out summer bedding and ensure it is kept well watered so it can establish.
Ensure any perennial weeds are swiftly removed and hoe off any annual weeds , don’t let them get the chance to flower and seed as this will greatly increase your workload. Tie in any shoots of climbing plants in your border. Plants like clematis are easier to manage when offshoots are short and young, if you allow them to get too long it’s almost impossible to prise them away from other plants they get tangled up in without snapping.
If you want hanging baskets plant them up now and allow them to establish for a few weeks in a frost free space make sure that when you put them out you keep them well watered, pick off the dead flowers and give them a liquid fertiliser feed every few weeks this should keep your hanging baskets flowering throughout the summer.
You can start to harvest rhubarb this month, twist the stem at the base of the plant but ensure you leave a few stems on each crown.
Don’t strip it bare as the plant needs to be able to feed its own crown. Continuing with this theme on the vegetable plot, if you have asparagus ensure that you stop cutting to leave some spears to grow at the end of the month. They produce a lovely ferny foliage which is
needed by the asparagus crown to capture sunlight to replenish its crown for next year. Potatoes that were planted in April (oh yes they were!) can now be earthed up, by drawing up mounds of soil up around the plant this will help the potatoes create more tubers from the buried stems and increase your crop.
You may have been mowing for a few months now, but it’s time to establish a regular routine. Mowing weekly will ensure you get a denser turf. A denser turf means a better looking lawn and less opportunity for weeds to establish – No don’t be tempted to do it too often because your ‘just want to get out there!’
We love treasure hunts of all kinds in the Gardens..
We know too that there are lots of other seek and find activities in and around the Gardens, the historic Parkland and the village locally – Pokemon Go of course, Wizards Unite and our own ‘Mystery Mutts’ Doggy Treasure Hunts.
But how many of you know there are also some ‘geocaches’ around and about? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game where participants (Geocachers) use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver (a smart phone! ) or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world.
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.
There are over 6000 caches hidden around Birmingham and the National Trust are now recognising that geocaching is great for families to get outside together… so do we.
We’ve been wanting to develop some caching trails for a while- both inside and outside the Gardens – but while we now have the time to think about it, we don’t have the experience..
So …. Calling all geocaching fans and experts. The challenge is to create a geocaching trail for the Gardens (and maybe spreading outwards too). Can you help us out?
What do you think would work? How many caches makes sense on our site? What would our swag items be? Would there be a theme to them all? Can we make special events for families?
Obviously we cannot get into the Gardens right now, but we’d love to work with you to think about something in summer and autumn…please contact us if you can help… and share with any geocaching chums too
“The best thing about it is you will be taken to places of interest and beauty that are on your doorstep that you never even knew existed.”
Bugs are beautiful…. even before they become butterflies.
Although gardeners aren’t always keen on caterpillars eating their crops, we do love watching the fluttering colour of butterflies in the Gardens.
Eric Carle’s famous book – The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite of ours. Here are some lovely colouring pages and worksheets supplied for free by one of our suppliers (earlyyearsresources.co.uk) all based on that lovely book.
Click on the link to download Hungry Caterpillar activity sheets
And, you can see and hear the book, read by Eric Carle himself here below. You don’t have to share the experience with a young one…but you can 🙂
A few hints and tips from our excellent Gardener’s for the month of April:
Things should be moving along pretty quickly now the highlight at the start of the month has to be tulips and with April’s sunshine and showers plants are growing at pace but there are a few things that you can do at the start of the month to reduce your workload later on.
Applying a layer of mulch around trees and perennials before the warmer weather arrives not only will keep the moisture locked in but it will stop a lot of weeds from emerging saving you valuable time later on in the season that can be spent doing other important garden jobs .
Give your plants a feed, trees shrubs and hedges will benefit from a slow release fertiliser. Roses are especially greedy plants feeding will aid flowering in June. You can buy specialist rose fertiliser but any fertiliser that contains a mix of potassium nitrogen and phosphorus will be beneficial.
Sow any hardy annuals now in their final positions these fast growing plants are a cheap way to fill a border with colour during the summer plants such as pot marigolds, Californian poppies and cornflowers are good choices. Those annuals that are a little more tender and don’t like the cold can be sown undercover now in pots and placed out once the risk of frost has passed.
In the vegetable garden it’s time to plant out your potatoes, early crops can be planted at the start of the month and main crops at the end of the month. Courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can now be sown individually in 5cm pots undercover and tomatoes, aubergines chillies and sweetcorn should now be sown undercover as they need a long growing season to produce their fruits. Don’t forget to thin out any seedlings that were sown in March, in order to reach their full potential plants need space as well as sunshine and showers.
It’s a good time to completely empty any compost bins for mulching. Hibernating animals should now have woken and moved on, but still be careful as you don’t want to spear any frogs or hedgehogs with a garden fork.
Stay safe all, and hope to see you again soon. The next Gardener’s tips will be posted at the beginning of May CBHGT x