Garden Views-06-June 2018

Early June began with the wonderful theme of May. Much sunshine, warmth, and physical exhaustion with a combination of continued manual haymaking, and trying to keep the garden ship shape. Manual watering adds to the burden, but having our own spring water supply, means we always have to be frugal in our water use after such a prolonged dry spell.

Suddenly in the first couple of days of June there was an explosion in insect numbers within the garden.Hundreds of bumblebees, and probably hundreds of immigrant Silver Y moths, Autographa gamma, as well.And even some sluggish honeybees and hoverflies, which together, brought the garden alive. It was the most exciting time to be out in the garden with so much to see, and so much activity after the prolonged absence of much insect life earlier on this year.

The shepherd’s hut construction continued with a really successful single day, when the roped down roof sheets came off and with William’s help, the purlins and ribs were cut to fit, the barrel shaped ceiling sheets of ply were bent into shape, roof insulation added and the corrugated sheets finally fixed permanently. Still much finishing off to do, but at least the structure is now more secure and weather proof.

The morning of June 4th saw an extraordinary swarming event of Garden chafer beetles,  Phyllopertha horticola, in the upper hay meadow, when hundreds of beetles rose in waves as the sun warmed the scene at 8.00 am. Like something out of a David Attenborough natural history film, within minutes there was a feeding frenzy with many garden birds picking the bumbling beetles from the low grass.

By June 9th the orchid count in the upper hay meadow had passed 40, which continues the meteoric rise in numbers, over the years we’ve been managing this field for increased biodiversity ( 1,1,4,14…40 +)

As the middle of the month approached we had 5 days with grey skies, a little rain and drizzle – we later realized that this was all we would get in the month.

The skies then cleared, we had a week of cloud free sunshine, temperatures soared into the mid twenties, apricots were harvested, the orchid count reached 83, and with a such a consistently dry sunny windy spell, all the remaining hay was cut and in the hay sheds by June 28th. Some of our earlier cuts of leafy hay needed turfing out onto tarpaulins for a final couple of days of fluffing and drying.

After discovering the pros of big bags – easy to move hay around, and bring in and cover, then tip out an re-dry if necessary, we opted to upend and stack the hay loose, since no matter how dry the hay seems to be, it still undoubtedly sweats with the plastic of the big bag on 5 of out 6 faces.

By the last few days of June, and with a forecast showing more high temperatures into mid July, with no rain on the horizon, concerns about how long our spring water supply will keep flowing have grown, and contingency plans of water management gradually ramped up.

Shared (sequentially!) 1/4 depth baths, which then get used for loo flushing (only after “browns”). Bucketing the remaining bathwater into watering cans to use outside. Saving all brown dish washing water to use on plants in pots. Wearing all clothes apart from undies for as long as possible to avoid clothes washing.

Even running the dehumidifiers through the day, (with all the surplus electricity the PV is generating in the sunshine) to extract more water to use on plants in pots!

Finally, on June 27th, I decided to resort to using my water filled bottles in the veg garden, to try to irrigate the few rows of vegetables which I’ve managed to plant this year – it’s extraordinary how much water one uses in a veg garden if you start to count it as emptied 2 litre bottles!

I probably have enough to keep this up for maybe 3 to 4 weeks if used a couple of times a week. Beyond that, everything will crisp, like the maiden hair ferns on the garden wall.

The swallows managed to fledge a first brood by June 10th, and all the warm sunny weather and insect number explosion must have made it a great year for the youngsters.

By the end of the month the garden was looking quite shabby and untidy with so much effort devoted to haymaking, but the uncut lower wet meadow looked superb with Greater Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus, in huge swathes, and many meadow butterflies and Narrow-bordered Five-spot burnet moths, Zygaena lonicerae, enjoying the conditions.

On Thursday June 28th we walked further up the hill, onto Glyn’s land, to check our spring which lies some distance above us, and were relieved and frankly surprised to see that the concrete ringed holding tank was still at maximum capacity and the inflow, though a trickle, still flowing at roughly 200 ml per minute, 12 litres per hour, or about 290 litres per day. My estimate is that we’ve reduced our daily water consumption to below 100 litres per day, so have some reassurances for now, as we scan the long term forecasts which show no changes in the weather forecast, for the next month!

One beneficiary of all this fine weather is our rambling/climbing roses, which have excelled so far.

The rainfall total for the month was just 24 mm, possibly my lowest ever recorded monthly rainfall here, and as the PV inverter record shows, with a total of 550 KWH, one of our sunniest ever months too.