By Tom Hughes, Jun 16 2018 09:37PM

This year has been great for roadside Orchids!


Here are some Early Purple Orchids found between Falmouth and Budock Water in May.


Orchids are very specia and beautifull plants that have intimate relationships with soil borne funghi and require careful management to survive and thrive.

By Tom Hughes, Jun 16 2018 09:33PM


One of the key factors that determine to wildlife value of a garden, and the amount of visitation by wildlife, is access. Barriers to movement and dispersal is widely recognised as one of the main problems facing biodiversity in the UK today, as land continues to be divided up and fenced off.


Hedges are great in this respect as they allow wildlife within and through them, but if you have a fence, there is still something you can do to help!


We install bespoke, natural wildlife doors of several kinds at Green Earth Gardens using local stone and wood.


Here is an image of a recent door installed for a lovely Cornish client. It used cornish slate and has been planted with Fuscias and decorated with reclaimed wood from a local tree surgeon.


This allows species including hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts, voles, shrews, mice, and ground-dwelling invertebrates to enter and exit the garden.

By Tom Hughes, Feb 3 2018 09:50PM


What is Mulch?


Mulch is any material or substance that is placed on top of the soil in order to cover it. We prefer natural, renewable, multi-functional mulches, and endeavours to source them as locally as possible. Woodchip and leaf litter are great choices of mulch in most garden settings, but a plastic sheet can be used as a mulch, and so can cardboard, straw, and old carpets!


Renewable, biodegradable mulch materials include


Woodchip - Perfect for weed suppression and supporting woody perennials

Straw - Higher in Nitrogen and a very useful material for soaking up moisture

Grass cuttings - Very N-rich, and can tend to get slimy in large quantities

Food waste - Rich and well-rounded nutritionally but anaesthetic

Manure - Extremely Nitrogen rich

Cardboard - Carbon rich and good for layering and weed suppression


Other materials include:


Plastic sheeting - Effective at weed suppression and reducing evaporation

Rocks, gravel, stone - Natural and aesthetic, but not particularly effective

Carpet - Good heavy material for covering compost piles



What does mulching do?


By covering the soil and reducing its immediate contact with the atmosphere, it becomes more akin to how soils are found in woodland, which is where the majority of our shrubs and trees come from. Woodland soil is buried deep beneath layers of organic matter and is rarely exposed to sun or wind, which are harmful to many soil dwelling lifeforms. Even in open floodplains the soil is mostly covered and protected by vegetation, and when bare soil is exposed, it is rapidly colonised by neighbouring plants, dormant seeds, and those that recently arrived from elsewhere.



The direct and indirect effects of mulching


1) Reduces evaporation from the soil and rhizosphere (root zone); thus it lowers the demand for irrigation by up to 50%.


2) Supports and enhances the soil community for months/years (depending on your choice of material);


i) Creates habitat for soil micro and macrofauna - the vasy majority of which are beneficial to plant growth

ii) Feeds and nourishes life at the base of the food chain

iii) Lowers the demand for fertilisers

iv) Helps control plant pathogens


3) Suppresses the germination and growth of fast-growing annual wild plants (weeds);


i) Reduces the demand for weeding

ii) Reduces competition for space, water, and nutrients


4) Buffers soil temperatures and moisture levels;


i) Reduces abiotic stress for the plants


5) Improves soil structure and texture;


i) increases oxygen levels by creating more pore spaces

ii) aids root expansion and therefore resource capture


6) Looks natural, tidy, and attractive


7) Protects the soil from erosion by wind and rain



As you can see the benefits are diverse and significant. It is clearly one of the most important things that you can do to nourish your garden. We strongly advise filling in any gaps in garden beds with either mulch or plants, that way there will be far less weeding to do in the long run, and much better conditions for wildlife and ecosystem functions such as rainfall interception, nutrient cycling, and soil building.


We can supply extremely cheap and good quality local woodchip mulch so get in touch if you want this excellent all-round health tonic for your garden ecosystem.


Thanks


Tom

Green Earth Gardens

By Tom Hughes, Nov 17 2017 10:09PM


Acronicta rumicis.


This striking catterpillar protects itself from birds by having dense clumps of hair (setae) and alarming colouration. This hair acts as a defence against birds and predatory insects such as parasitoid wasps which find it difficult to penetrate beyond the hairs to lay eggs beneath the caterpillar’s skin.


Status: widely distributed and quite common in most of Britain.


In Cornwall and other mild-climated areas in the south the Knot Grass moth flies in two generations in May and June and again from August to September.


The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of low herbaceous plants including plantain, dock and knotgrass, as well as bramble, sallows and hawthorn.


More info here: http://www.ukmoths.org.uk/species/acronicta-rumicis/

By Tom Hughes, Sep 24 2017 09:18PM


Creating a habitat pile is one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden, and often it can be done for free.


If you have any sticks, twigs, stumps, or logs laying around then you can build a habitat pile using them.


This provides shelter for a wide range of macro and micro species from toads and newts to beetles, worms, funghi and millions of other micro-organisms, small mammals like hedgehogs, and even reptiles. The protection from wind and light means organisms can use these habitat piles for overwintering, meaning that come spring, your garden will be teaming with life. Not only that but you can save yourself a trip to the dump and end up with a unique garden feature.


BENEFITS:


In terms of nature and conservation the benefits are huge: the more habitat(s) you create in your garden means the more organisms and species that can live there. Mixed wood piles are quite rare in gardens, so adding one increases the habitat diversity of the local area signficiantly.


This means a a more diverse and healthy garden ecosystem, which means better bio-regulation of pest species, and more food being made available to your plants through the functions of decomposers.


Also, as the wood and other material rots it locks down carbon and many other important nutrients into the soil in your garden.



TIPS:


Start with the biggest bits of wood and work your way down to twigs, chippings, leaves, and weeds.


Arrange your pile with a conscious design to make it aesthetically pleasing.


Put the pile somewhere that gets a reasonable amount of light, but not full sun, and is connected to plants and other microhabitats within the garden. I.E not in the middle of an area of gravel or concrete.


Try to leave gaps within the pile and entrances of different sizes.


Pile on top with weeds or even soil.


For added impact, dig a small pit before placing your wood, that way the hibernacula is extra-protected form the elements and appears smaller. If you then place the excavated soil back on top, you have a HUGEL CULTURE, which can be planted on top of to make an excellent garden feature.

By Tom Hughes, Sep 19 2017 08:41PM


The Lackey moth: Lotus corniculatus


This moth can spin silk!


A group of the caterpillars spins a large web that they use to protect themselves against predators, living as a community whilst in their larval stage. They have weekly meetings too, where they make a circle and take it in turns to tell stories.



By Tom Hughes, Sep 19 2017 08:14PM


A particularly large and striking caterpillar was found munching its way along a hazel branch this week in a garden in Falmouth, Cornwall.


This individual will be almost ready to pupate and this species does so on the ground, forming brown cocoons that look halfway between a large brown tree bud and a small brown shell. They're quite common so you may have seen one before when weeding.


Here's some more info on the buff-tip moth: http://www.wildlifeinsight.com/buff-tip-moth-phalera-bucephala/



An eco-friendly way to manage the damage caused by caterpillars such as these is to prune off the stems that are colonised and more them to somewhere where they can do as much noticeable damage. This could be an area of the garden that is more wild and un-used, or a nearby wild space, or just a shrub that you're fed up with! ;)

By Tom Hughes, Sep 17 2017 06:35PM


Macrothylacia rubi


This beautiful caterpillar was found last week on Red Valerian (centranthus ruber) in a coastal garden overlooking Porthtowan beach.


Some hairy caterpillars can cause irritation to skin so care was taken not to touch it.





Find more info here: http://www.ukmoths.org.uk/species/macrothylacia-rubi/larva/

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