The first cuckoo and a new development …

(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)

The workload has been fairly light this month, but there has been plenty happening. Right at the beginning of the month there was that key spring moment when you notice trees coming into leaf, a pale tinge which can be a hundred shades of green, yellow, bronze, beige, gold …, not just here in the Forest Garden, but over the surrounding area too.

I think that because of the generally mild weather since the latter part of February (see the Monthly Weather Record below), everything is fairly advanced here this year, and the Wild Flower Census (see below) showed no fewer than 40 species, up from 27 last March. This was no doubt due to the weather, because virtually all the extra plants were ‘returnees’, just coming through earlier. The Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) finally showed up (see Blog, March 1st, 2021), but just one solitary stem; hopefully it’ll be back next year in force.

One new arrival this year in the gravel outside my front door is Cornsalad (above), also known as Lamb’s Lettuce or Mâche (which is also the French name). I hope it spreads because it is very good as a salad leaf. The Cuckoo Flower turned up in numbers, and right on cue, I first heard the cuckoo on the 24th!

Continue reading

Winter’s work is done, a new life begins …

February has been another busy month, with the completion of winter tasks and a general feeling of the garden beginning to wake up, especially towards the end of the month.

Some of the wild flowers that have appeared this month, left to right, top to bottom: Lesser Celandine, Hairy Bittercress, Lungwort, Dandelion and Great Horsetail

The Wild Flower Census has revealed 26 species this month, up from 17 for February last year. There is one new species, Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), which I discovered on the last day of the month hiding among the Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), and the others are flowers returning earlier than ‘usual’. This in itself is interesting from the point of view of climate change, and I have also noticed that flowering times in many cases are earlier now than those given in the flower identification books I use.

Continue reading

Planting, pruning, strimming … and wild flowers!

(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)

Weather-wise, January has been a month of contrasts. It was cold until the new moon on the 13th, with most nights falling below zero and a low of -6°C on the 8th; then the rest of the month was very mild with overnight temperatures of 11° or 12°, and a high of 19° on the 28th. It was reasonably dry at the start of the month (13mm rain) but the mildness later on meant a lot of rain (114mm) and very unsettled weather in general. January went out with a bang, with a thunderstorm, gales and heavy rain late evening on the 31st!

The swales filled up very nicely as you can see above! This photo also shows the principle of the swales very well. Rainwater running down the slope is caught by the ditch and because this follows a contour line, the water is evenly distributed and slowly infiltrates the soil. Biomass is also placed in the swale; I have in fact added more since this photo was taken. The trees planted on the bank then benefit from moist ground with increased bacterial and mycorrhizal activity.

Continue reading

Coppicing and hedging …

(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)

After last month’s collective sigh (from both the forest garden and from me!), December has been a very active month, and a large part of it has been spent on coppicing the Goat Willow (Salix caprea) on the north-eastern boundary.

Continue reading

Time for a rest …

(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)

The predominant feeling this month has been one of shutting down. It’s obviously something that we know happens, but being so closely involved with Nature’s processes in the forest garden here, it has struck me more than ever how remarkable this is, and how clear the change is. That having made the supreme effort of growing, flowering and fruiting over the last six or seven months, both the land and the plants need to rest and marshal their resources for the next season.

For this reason, I have decided to suspend the wild flower census until maybe February, when the winter crocuses should show themselves again. There have been a few individual flowers, such as dandelion or clover, with the mild weather we have been having (see below), but really nothing to speak of. They too are having a well-deserved break!

Continue reading

René, the cèpes, and a busy month!

(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)

Forest cèpes (Boletus spp.)

There’s been so much going on this month, it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I think my neighbour René and his cèpes deserve pride of place. (You’ll have to imagine what he looks like as he doesn’t want his picture to appear on ‘The Internet’, and I respect his wishes).

For me he epitomises the spirit of still being able to gather what Nature has to offer us, and he does it in a sustainable way, on his own, using his local knowledge of where and when a pigeon will be flying over, or the forest mushrooms will appear in the undergrowth. A modern-day hunter/gatherer, he takes just what he needs for himself and I get to share some of his bounty!

Continue reading

SFGP fait peau neuve!

Have a look here to check out the ‘new skin’ for the Sombrun Forest Garden Project website!

It’s been a lot of work, but well worth it, and I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out. Thanks to WordPress, couldn’t have done it without your help!

If you are an email subscriber, don’t forget to go to the the site itself (link above), rather than stick with just the one notification.

Ouf! (as you say in France) …

….. meaning phew!, or expressing relief. We’ve had some rain (68mm), and more is forecast in the next few days. We had to wait until the third week of the month, and until then summer continued, with another heat peak around the 15th. And now we are getting noticeably shorter days (equi nox), the mornings and evenings are a lot cooler, and right at the end of the month I lit the woodburner in the evening for the first time.

Although over the last four months we have had about 190mm of rain, two-thirds of the published local average for this period (see the paragraph on weather recording below), the ground has been very dry to quite a depth, and together with the several heat peaks this constitutes a drought for the land here, not good news for young trees.

Continue reading

Drought, harvest … and lizards!

The weather has to be the main topic of this month’s blog. It has been very dry, but we have also had heat peaks of just under 40°C. These have stressed my plants considerably, but it is the underlying dryness of the land which is the main concern; in sum, we have had three months of drought, and it will be interesting to see if we get any significant rainfall in September.

We have had 50mm of rain, but half of that fell in the last four days of the month, plus a further 11mm on the 22nd. We had a short canicule (Blog post, August 1st) during the second week of August, but after that it became cooler and by the last week it was time for trousers and shoes again.

Continue reading

Dry July!

I would like to dedicate this month’s blog post to James Lovelock, who celebrated his 101st birthday a few days ago. By any measure an extraordinary person, this independent scientist/inventor/engineer has been publishing original and challenging ideas on the future for our world and the planet for half his life (yes, 50 years), shows no sign of letting up, and just keeps on getting better! The paperback edition of his latest book Novacene (2019) – my bet is that the name will stick – was published on Thursday, and he is already working on the next one.

With two doctorates and innumerable awards over his lifetime, he was employed by NASA in the 1960’s inventing equipment for space exploration, and famously designed and built a ‘homemade’ gas chromatograph in three days (the Electron Capture Detector), a highly sensitive instrument which measures industrial poisons in parts per trillion, signalling the dangers of CFC’s in the 1970’s and revolutionising our understanding of the atmosphere and pollutants.

Continue reading