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Sheepwash Chronicle Spring 2017

The Sheepwash Chronicle is a magazine for and about the residents of the little village of Sheepwash in Devon.

Nature’s Corner

Nature’s Corner Spring has definitely arrived, the Spring Equinox has come and gone for this year and our hibernating species are all out, keen to replenish themselves. It’s nature’s busiest time of year - the perfect time to start planning how you can make your garden wildlife friendly! This can be done in many ways: • Use feeding stations to feed hedgehogs - give them natural peanuts (broken up, as whole ones can cause choking), and dry and wet meat-based cat or dog food with fresh water. • Create hedgehog highways. • Stop using harmful chemicals - try natural alternatives. • Plant bird-friendly plants that attract pollinators, and shrubs like holly, hawthorn, Guelder rose, dogwood and ivy. (Anything that provides birds with a natural food source - berries, seeds, and bugs). These provide food, cover, and perfect shelters for nests out of reach of predators. • Provide birds with supplementary food by putting up feeders. Ensure these are safe by putting them in a location where small birds can escape into nearby bushes. Make sure they are hygienic and have no sharp edges, to prevent birds cutting themselves and spreading disease. You'll encourage a variety of birds by putting out a variety of foods in a variety of ways! Avoid putting out chunky food like large peanut bits - parent birds may try to feed them to their young, causing a choking hazard. • Build a pond to attract a variety of animals and provide birds with a regular water source. Ensure the pond has a sloping edge and a “ladder” type device, so animals can escape. Or place a birdbath in the garden, but avoid putting it in a location where cats or other predators can sneak up on the birds. • Put up nest boxes, which give birds a place to roost or nest. Make sure that nest boxes aren’t too close to each other. Shelter your box from the weather. Do not place it in direct sunlight, and shelter it from prevailing winds and rain. Height from the ground varies depending on the breed that you’re trying to attract. A nest box is best placed on a secure fence, wall or shed. It can be placed on trees, but try not to cause any damage. Open-fronted nest boxes, a favourite of robins, should have shrubs or creepers hiding them. Make sure the nest box is in an area that cats and other predators cannot get to. You can buy metal plates to secure around the hole to deter squirrels. Keep nest boxes away from busy areas of the garden. Always remember to respect wildlife and keep your distance - disturbing them can have fatal affects. Lisa Butt 20

Spring Thoughts Well, once again March has come in like a lion but does not seem likely to go out like a lamb, as it appears to be maintaining its leonine character to the bitter end! However, due to the dry weather we had earlier, when a lot of muck spreading took place, all the fields look remarkably green, and not wind scorched and hungry as is so often the case at this time of year. And the daffodils and primroses are looking wonderful in the hedgerows. The dawn chorus is under way, with blackbirds singing lustily - an appropriate word I guess, as they are trying to attract a mate. The days are getting longer, and the clocks go forward very shortly, although by the time you get this issue it will have already happened! The chattering starlings have departed for the Continent, as have other winter visitors. The bumblebees are buzzing around the early spring flowers and all should be well with the world, except it’s still cold and wet and frustrating my efforts to get vegetables planted! Early potatoes need to be planted now, in rows two feet apart with one foot apart in the row, and at least six inches deep - sorry for those of you who are metric, I’m not! Broad beans should also be sown now, as can an early row of peas. Onion sets and shallots all need planting if you have not done so already, but I can’t do any of this as the ground is still too wet to get on! However, at least if you have a greenhouse (and, as you were all made aware, Janet has) you can get on with sowing cabbage, broccoli, French and Runner beans, courgettes, and sweetcorn - though it may be a little early for this as it needs quite warm conditions and an unheated greenhouse is probably too cool just yet. As I am suggesting the possibility of sowing seeds, compost comes to mind - a subject we and our esteemed editor and her husband David were discussing at the weekend. There is, of course, the usual multi-purpose compost, and then there is John Innes soil-based compost, which comes in three grades: No.1, which is low nutrient seed compost; No.2, which is for potting on and general usage, thus higher nutrient; and No.3, which is for permanent pot plants. I mix multi-purpose with John Innes No.2 in the proportions of one 50 litre (maybe I am metric!) multipurpose bag to one 25 litre John Innes, and then mix in a generous helping of perlite, or horticultural grit, which will aid drainage and thus prevent any possible waterlogging. All these contain sufficient nutrient for about five weeks. Thereafter, we feed our potted plants every weekend - with Phostrogen initially, and as they come to flowering we change to tomato food, which we think gives stronger flowering. For established plants in pots, try raking off the top two inches of compost and replacing with fresh. You can also try taking them out of their pots and doing a little judicious root pruning, but first check that it is safe to treat that particular plant in this manner. In the ornamental garden, pruning of the roses should be completed, always cutting back to an outside bud. Buddleia can be cut hard back now, and summer flowering clematis need cutting back to a low bud - and be ready to train them as they grow or they will tangle. Established herbaceous plants can be lifted and split, replanting the vigorous young outside areas and dispensing with the old hard core of the plant. Cuttings of some hardy annuals and sub-shrubs can be done and if you use rooting hormone powder, always buy it fresh each year. Weed borders now, if dry enough, while the problem is small and the weeds have not flowered and set seed, and then feed everything in the garden - we use organic pelleted chicken manure, Growmore, and rose fertiliser where appropriate. Also be ready to spray, and if you do, look out for aphids on roses and fruit trees and bushes, and blackspot prevention on roses, but do remember to only spray very early in the morning or later in the evening, when the beneficial insects are not active. Good luck, and here’s to a new growing year! Jeremy Burden 21

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