December hasn’t afforded us many days suitable for lottie gardening, sending us too much rain and flooding the site again for a while early on in the month . In fact the first attempt at working on our plot this month resulted in that too well-known sinking feeling. Algae has turned the soil green again.
We arranged to meet council officers and contractors on site one morning to start sorting out the flooding issues. It was of course raining when we met! Four trucks full of machinery and fluorescent coated workers arrived soon after, champing at the bit to start. Sods law came into play. The floods reappeared and water began lapping at our feet and at the wheels of the vehicles. One tractor got stuck in the mud!
The weather won the first round as work was abandoned even before it started, but at least everyone knows what to do now. We were promised that work would commence as soon as the weather allowed.
Things had improved a little by the end of the first week of the month, enough to arrange a day for Jude and I to meet our friend Pete to get some site tasks done in the communal gardens. We planted trees that had been donated by members in the new coppice we are developing, plus two others in the Autumn Garden. These were purchased with the prize money we had received when we won an award as the Best Community Garden in Shropshire by the National Garden Scheme.
As Pete looks after the Autumn Garden he chose the trees. Two great specimens arrived in the back of his car, an Acer rubra and a Gleditsia Sungold. In the photo above Pete is planting the Gleditsia and below is the Acer with its red stems. We can now look forward to the golden foliage of the Gleditsia and the red petioles of the Acer which contrast so well with the yellow autumn leaf colour.
We also transplanted some wild flowers and wildlife friendly plants kindly donated by a member, Dee. They were on her plot and we transplanted them to the meadows and orchards. Wild Hypericum, Red and White Campion, Mallows, Plantain, Foxgloves and Teasles plus a selection of Verbascum. In the picture below Jude is busily planting verbascum in the orchard meadows. The insect homes look so much bigger when plants die down for the winter. We just hope they are full of our friends, the overwintering pest controllers.
In the first few days of December I completed constructing the Tawny Owl nesting box which I had started weeks ago. It is by far the biggest nest box I have ever attempted to make. Each year I ask members to donate their spare wood for nest box construction and plenty came in this year so I hope to make several boxes. My next challenge is to make a box for House Sparrows.
On our own plot we have dug over the plot and given it a deep duvet mulch of manure. Now we will let the worms and other little critters get to work on it. We have pruned our fruit bushes and brambles, and are mid-point through cutting down and digging up a blackberry which refuses to produce any fruit. We gave it our “three chance and out” treatment which we allow every failing plant in our gardens.
At the mid-point of December the weather turned cold with clear ” blue-skied” days and deep frosty nights. The workers came back to get started on the flood prevention work. They are getting on well. We met them early one morning to sort things out and I took advantage of the bright conditions to get some photos taken. Having just my Samsung Galaxy with me the rest of the pics in this post are taken with its camera – a great camera for a phone.
Spiders appeared to have been industrious all through the hours of darkness creating works of art for Jack Frost to add the finishing touches. In the first pic we can admire how they have decorated a shed’s gable end and the second and third show where they have added a feature to the Communal Hut.
It looks as though the spider population of the lotties have taken to using the picnic benches when it is too cold on the rear end for us gardeners to enjoy our coffee breaks on them.
On Wendy’s plot Jack Frost had iced the rose hips.
We have had some beautiful new trees delivered to the site ready for planting when the soil is not frozen. At the moment we would not get a spade in. We have been given a Weeping Silver Lime which we selected to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee Year, plus two crab apples Malus “Evereste” and Malus “Golden Hornet” to plant, one in each orchard to improve fruit pollination, and two ornamental Hawthorns.
The individual plots are looking bare and forgotten. Some have been well dug for the winter, others await better weather. Where water sits in puddles it had frozen solid. On one plot a double digging session had been interrupted by the weather.
On one plot next to the new coppice area the seed heads of Angelica, left for the Goldfinches and Bullfinches to feast upon, were covered in frost.
In the coppice area itself, our newly planted Hollies had attracted spiders.
The communal gardens looked monochrome with frost covering the herbage.
As befits the season, our Winter Garden is looking good! Pete was with me as I took these photos and he and I created this garden less than two years ago, so we keep admiring our handy work.
As we wandered taking these pictures we were followed around by the resident Robins who were waiting for us to start work turning soil over and exposing bugs for them to pounce upon. But no gardening was done, the soil being too solid with frost so no sod could be turned. We found time to top up the bird feeders in our feeding stations. These are busy with tits, finches, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers.