Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Winter and Spring Weather has Produced some Surprising Results

Following 3 rather cold and wet winters, this past Winter has and now spring has been extremely mild, in fact we had frost on just 3 days in Winter with the lowest temp just -3 and no frost at all in the spring. In my 12 years of residence here in West Wales this has never happened before and like some of the trees I have quite missed a really good cold spell. What we did get is the wettest winter on record!

What can the trees tell us about this?

I have several Ash trees all of which are only just beginning to leaf out now and one in particular is still dormant this is weird for the 22nd of May. The Oak trees have preceded the Ash by about 4 weeks and as the old rhyme goes Oak before Ash and we will get a splash. Personally I think that the Ash trees really need to be chilled and this is why they are so late. I heard from  reputable source that Ash can remain dormant all year due to this. Beech trees too need to be chilled and will not grow well if subjected to warm winters so this species may well be limited to northern climbs in the future.
Global warming could well be having an effect on our native flora and fauna so we must all do our best to help

In the forest garden some of the plants are also behaving differently no more so than  the Yellow horn
(zanthocerus sorbifolium). This shrub was planted 11 years ago and has flowered occasionally but never more than 12 or so blooms but these have never formed seed capsules. The growth rate has been really slow up to now but this spring the growth of new shoots has doubled its size and it has flowered profusely. Seed capsules have started to form and it looks like several may go on to develop their fruit which is a thin shelled seed or nut.

Yellow horn showing the formation of the seed capsules+
Most years my Eleaeagnus ebbingei windbreak has flowered profusely but rarely given much if any fruit. It is also a magnificent windbreak and has in places risen some 6 meters especially where a tall tree is grown alongside as it tends to grow into and up trees. This winter not only has it flowered but now it has produced and abundant crop of fruit which will soon be ripe and be the first outdoor plant to give me a fruit crop (that's if you don't count rhubarb)

Nearly ripe fruits of this windbreak nitrogen fixing wonder shrub.
I had my first group visit of the year from the  South west Wales Goat Club who despite picking one of the worst wet and windy days still enjoyed their afternoon with me. Luckily by the time it came to the tea and cakes the weather improved and so the repast was taken on the lawn. Because of the time of year the only edibles were freshly cut bamboo shoots and lime leaves.
The biggest talking point was the recently installed compost loo which was much admired (though I'm not sure whether anyone used it!!) For me its an important part of the sustainability of my garden and I use it as often as I can. I was also asked to demonstrate with my scythe and I was able to show just what can be achieved with just one sweep. This did create a lot of interest and maybe just maybe someone there will have a go.
The Club makes many visits to interesting projects around the 3 counties and what's more you don't have to keep goats to join. You can contact them here:
Members of the South West Wales Goat Club on the lawn at least it had stopped raining.
If you want to organise a visit for your group or as an individual please send a request via email to
ECO Corner
Woodburning makes climate change sense and is the most sustainable way to heat your home heat your water and to cook on. Now is the ideal time to investigate the possibilities for your home. I have just completed my first year cooking and heating home and water with wood and can make the following comments.
It saves money especially if you have your own source of wood which can cover some of your requirements. It is very efficient and easy to maintain as a sweep is about all you need and that costs a lot less than a heating engineer to service your boiler. The ash is a wonderful feed for your plants and can save  on plant food and fertiliser. The additional work of lifting and carrying logs in to your house can be seen as a method of keeping fit. I am 70 and have no problem with this function and treat it as exercise. Most of all this is the most sustainable method of heating your home with wood providing of course that you use a local supplier. 
Points to consider.
Conversely it is a lot of work especially as you have to feed your firebox  having to load it every 2 hours or so. There is also the clearing of the ash build up probably every 2/3 days if its being used constantly. Storage is also a big issue and will dictate price as the more outside storage you can provide the cheaper the wood will be.
As the woodburner becomes more popular better methods of delivery and storage will be devised companies will eventually provide storage racks or containers just like oil and gas companies provide tanks.
You can also now buy a complete heating system based on an automatic feed from a hopper directly into a boiler usually located in an out building. Now that's an interesting proposition. You can see a range of wood burning options and the boiler at this superb suppliers website. They are local to West Wales but are probably the most knowledgeable organisation in the UK.
And finally I leave you with a picture of the Quamash or Cassamia . A bulb much used by the Native Americans as a staple food. They evidentially made a fire onto hot stones in a clamp. The fire was allowed to die and the bulbs were put onto the stones and the clamp sealed for at least 48 hours before eating. I don't think I will try that method, but its nice to be growing a plant with that connection and it forms part of the function of a FG to grow food in the soil layer. Besides all that just imagine the sight of thousands of these plants in flower, even my few plants look fantastic