My Garden This Weekend – 7th April 2013

Chionodoxa
Chionodoxa

I think it is safe to say, if my aching muscles are anything to go by, that I have had a good gardening weekend at last.  Though to be honest it has taken a lot of determination not to just give up.  Whilst the weather has been demoralising at times the reason for my despair has been the badger.  I have blogged about the badger throughout the last winter and tried to be light-hearted about it calling it the ‘tulip craved badger’ but if I am honest it has driven me to even consider throwing in the towel and moving.  People under-estimate how strong and destructive badgers can be, they are also very determined.  I have tried very hard to live and let live but when you go morning after morning to discover another collection of deep holes with bulbs chewed and scattered, and not just tulips, and other surrounding plants damaged and dug up with their roots nicely frosted it takes a better person than me to shrug their shoulders.  I decided last week that I would dig up the remaining tulips, a dozen left from over 60 planted over the last two years, in order to try to protect the other plants in the border.  Then on Thursday the boys told me there were two badgers in the garden, not one.  This was a badger too far – two would soon lead to three, then four and then, well it doesn’t bear thinking about.  I spent the evening doing more research and found a helpful  document on the Badger Society website.  They advised that it was not the best idea to put food out for badgers in order to detract them from your plants as all you would end up with is more badgers – this was contrary to advice I had received via social media.  They advised removing bird food and wind falls before dark so there is no point in the badgers coming in the garden.  They also advised in using paving slabs along the bottom of fences sunk into the soil to try to prevent the badgers coming under the fence.  Being at the end of my tether I decided it was all or nothing. So, the bird feeders have been removed and the tulips dug up.  My sons have sunk some paving slabs along the fence line (our  neighbour who is next on the badger’s route had done the same last week and thought it was successful).  So far the badgers haven’t been back.  I feel bad about the birds and I miss them but the surrounding gardens are full of bird feeders and the alternative was to just give up on my hobby.  Fingers crossed we might have made progress.  Maybe one day the bird feeder will come back.

Meconopsis reappearing
Meconopsis reappearing

Feeling a little more positive and trying to convince myself that any work in the garden won’t be trashed I have been very busy working my way through the ridiculous list of jobs that need doing.  First I moved an Abelia from the front garden and planted it by the new steps, where it will screen the fence.  I’ve started moving the plants where the workshop is going to go with a large iris being the first to pack its bags.  It wasn’t very happy  in its old home so I am hoping that moving it to the sunny side of the steps will cheer it up, within 24 hours it looked a more perky.

I have also potted up some succulents as I have a notion to enter them into the Open Garden section at the Malvern Spring show, something some gardening friends have been encouraging me to do.  I got enthusiastic about alpines and other potted plants I think as a direct result of my inability to control the damage the badger was doing but it is definitely a good  development and I have met some great people.

Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White'
Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’

The rest of my gardening time I have spent working through the border along the top of the wall (below), removing the debris of the tulips, filling holes, cutting back frosted shoots and planting out delphiniums, evening primrose, verbascum, francoa, forget-me-nots and geraniums.  These plants were all grown last year and have been taking up room on the patio and in the cold frames and they needed to be moved on and planted out.  I have struggled  with this mentally as I will be digging up the lawn soon so the front edge of the border will then be the middle of the border.  However, if I waited until I dug the new border I would never get the plants in the ground and it would all just grind to a halt so I have decided to do all my garden tidying jobs etc and then do the new border.  At least these way I might have some nice borders in early summer – fingers crossed.

2013_04070027There seems to be a lot of bare earth but all those little glimpses of green, grey and red are shoots emerging and pushing through the soil.  The hose is out as the ground is quite dry and given the number of plants I have planted I decided this was an easier approach than watering cans.

Working through the border was the best thing I could have done today as I kept spotting new shoots emerging and old friends reappearing.  My Meconopsis has reappeared which is fabulous as I wasn’t sure if it was a monocarpic variety or not, fingers crossed it will flower for a second year.  Various plants are appearing in the woodland border and I can start to see what I need to move to make the woodland path work but that is for later in the year.

2013_04070028

Plus my tin bath of tulip bulbs is looking good and has escaped the attention of the badger.  I crammed it with reduced bulbs bought at the end of the bulb buying season so it should be garish, bright and jolly.  I have also really tidied the patio and put out the little table and chairs so there is now somewhere nice to sit with a cuppa – its only taken five years.

As I have said before I feel that I neglected the garden for two years while I was playing at growing veg at the allotment.  All I see at the moment is the jobs that need doing to try to bring it back to scratch but as many gardener will tell you we are our own worst critics.  The trouble is I am juggling jobs to bring the garden back to how I want it plus the new projects plus the annual seed sowing etc!!  However the weather forecast is looking promising and I think with slightly warmer temperatures I will be able to do a little bit of gardening in the evenings and to be honest if something doesn’t get done it won’t be the end of the world there is always next year – for that is the beauty of gardening as a hobby.

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27 Comments Add yours

  1. I wish you luck in your battle of the badgers. I am growing hybrid tulips only in containers, that seems to be a good solution. Maybe you can make up to the birds with more shrubs that provide berries? Also, some birds here eat plain suet (woodpeckers, etc.). Maybe that is something that will attract birds for you but not badgers.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jason
      Yes I am adding lots of shrubs with lots of berries. I’m not putting anything out for the birds until I think the badgers have gone

  2. Cathy Thompson says:

    And I was beginning to imagine that I was the only person in the world with a severe gardening problem! I think the best that you can think at the moment is that you are learning how they think and how to manage the threat they pose. In doing research about my own problem (water voles) I have come across people (mostly in the States) who have learned to cope in the way that I am forced to cope. And the vision of how lovely their gardens are, in spite of everything, has been inspiring. I’m sure that you will find a way to grow tulips in the ground again in future. Slabs sound good – I’m trying the same sort of solution with voles.
    Anyway – do not be discouraged. I think your garden looks absolutely lovely (I have always adored woodland plants). You are on the path to solving/adapting to your problem.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      Oh dear sorry to hear about your water voles, they are more protected than badgers so more of a problem for you to solve. I heard a lady at our local club who was at the end of her tether with deer wrecking her garden, she said the only thing they didnt destroy was the lavender, she felt like giving up and I really felt for her.

  3. Have you tried just a peanut feeder, here its the feeder that has the least spillage. Maybe the badgers are looking for chafer grubs, nematodes could help control the grubs, the RHS has a good page of info. Good luck with Malvern.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi gardeningjules
      Yes I read about the chafer grubs but the lawn is going so that will also help. The birds arent keen on peanuts in my garden, they just ignore them! Anyway, I am working on the basis that if I remove all temptations then it will break their habit

  4. Pauline says:

    I agree, you have to think like a badger to be able to beat them, I am trying to convince myself that my brain is better than a squirrels, I will make it so that it can’t get the bird food! I hope you succeed with your badger deterrents as it must be really frustrating after all your efforts.
    My tin bath full of tulips is at about the same stage as yours, mine were put there to keep them out of the wet clay and to stop them rotting! It’s wonderful isn’t it when meconopsis come through and have survived the winter, I must move mine that overwintered in a nursery bed, hope they flower this year.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Pauline
      I used to use plastic drinks bottles above the bird feeder to deter the squirrels. If you hang the feeder from a wire and thread that through the bottle and then hang it then the squirrels cant get past the bottle.
      Lets hope that our tulip baths are wonderful to make up for all the other hassels

  5. Fingers crossed that the badgers get the message Helen – the damage they have caused must be disheartening. I’m sure that the birds will still visit – there must be lots of worms in your
    garden 🙂 My tin bath of tulips looks much the same too though probably not as many tulips in it – keep checking to see whether there are any signs of flowers but not yet.

  6. Anna says:

    Clifton Road Allotments is my alto ego Helen. Keep forgetting to log out of our allotment association website!

  7. I have been battling squirrels all winter. They have been digging up the roots, bulbs, tubers in my garden looking for food. While reading your blog I noticed one of them had climbed into a hanging basket to harvest sedums. I am bound not to give up, but I can certainly understand your frustration with the badgers.

  8. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Good luck with your badgers, we don’t have them or squirrels. I can’t believe our ancestors didn’t bring them in – they brought in so many pests that have destroyed our birds who had no natural enemies (other than humans – who killed off the moa etc. Easy to catch and lots of meat for the Maori!) Nice seeing plants popping up. I am still swimming – the sea temperature is 21degrees and warm. One part of me wants rain as still soooo dry and the other part is loving the endless summer.

  9. I found a recent badger skeleton (with a fine skull) at one of the gardens I work in. I did think that might be the end to the problem there (though the damage done is nowhere near as bad as yours). But no he/she has family that are continuing to visit. Now rabbits have exploded in number and are digging everywhere. If it’s not one thing …. Dave

  10. Hope the badgers have taken the hint and are now looking for easier pickings elsewhere. Once they’ve got used to the idea that there’s nothing to have, and after a decent period, perhaps you could reintroduce the birdfeeder, especially if the other people with birdfeeders around you are not having problems.

  11. Where I used to live, badgers dug up my bulbs very neatly – they left me with smart little holes in the earth. They ca’t get into the garden where I live now – but nor can hedgehogs, which is a loss.

  12. Having badgers in my garden would about cause me to throw in the tower too. It can be most frustrating you want to throw up your hands and scream! I’m glad your measures seem to be working. Those tulips in the steel pot look wonderful! That’s the way to grow them so you can enjoy them up close and personal! P.S. If you find the name of the lily please do let me know. Thanks!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Tina
      Have remembered its Lilium Martagon

  13. hillwards says:

    Crumbs, how utterly disheartening, I’m not surprised you almost gave up. But thank goodness you have hopefully found a solution, and recovered your mojo in the process. Fingers crossed that’s the last you’ve seen of the badgers, and you’ll be able to slip tulips back into the ground in time…
    I love your hairy meconopsis shoots – they’re something that have been on my wishlist for some time, I really must acquire one or two… A busy weekend for you too, so satisfying to get out into the garden and feel you’re making a difference – and quieten down the plans in your head a little!

  14. Lovely chionodoxa! Good luck with the badger; I hope the paving slabs work for you. I had a groundhog take up residence beneath my shed for a year and the novelty of having unusual wildlife wore off very quickly. He was terribly destructive, but fortunately for my plants, he has moved on. Now it’s down to the squirrels, rabbits, deer, and me. I am feeling quite outnumbered.

    But isn’t it glorious to have a long gardening to-do list? Perhaps I am perverse, but I love having a list of tasks to draw me out into the garden. Sitting still is not within my skill set, and when decent weather arrives all I want is to spend a day getting filthy dirty and exhausted as I sling mulch, crawl around amongst the new weeds (begone!), and find out who has emerged today who wasn’t awake yesterday. It is an exhilarating time of year.

    1. Cathy says:

      I really resonated with missinghenrymitchell’s second paragraph above 😉

      I am a bit concerned about the thought of you ‘thinking like a badger’, Helen – we will be reading some very unusual posts if you do! Seriously, I do hope the slabs will mean the end to his/their visits – our squirrel randomly searching for where he has left his nuts is nothing compared to the damage your badger visitors have left.

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi MHM
      I like having a to do list as I am not a person who sits still either. The trouble is that I really need to write down my to do list but it normally forms at 3 in the morning so it doesnt get written down! I have so many plant moves dependent on other plant moves it makes my head hurt

  15. Donna says:

    Slabs sounds like a good idea, and how about overlaying the slabs with the smallest squared chicken wire too – just to make sure that they don’t get through any gaps? Can’t wait to see your meccie in flower Helen! Hairy little critters aren’t they? … but still love them!

  16. bridget says:

    Did’nt know Badgers liked Tulips. Hopefully they have got the message now. That tub of Tulips will be lovely when it flowers.
    Bridget x.

  17. Definitely, it would be very lovely to see a tub full of tulips flowers.. Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’ can be an effective edging plant for shady paths.

  18. owenldn says:

    Good for you Helen- i dont think i would be so charitable if a badger kept digging up my garden! I had to take my bird feeders down as the squirrels kept knocking htem down and it had attracted rats in my front garden which wasnt th eplan when i wanted to feed Goldfinches!

    Good luck with the defences! Lets hope they dont learn how to climb fences! 🙂

  19. We have badgers galore in our corner of the south-west and I’m just hoping they don’t find their way into my little patch – so far so good, though. They’re incredibly strong and can tear their way through chicken wire as if it weren’t there – luckily they haven’t found my chicken run either (they are notorious for helping themselves to chickens, too).

    The only thing that definitely keeps them out is a low electric fence, strung tautly at around 15cm above ground level and kept well charged off a battery. They’ll avoid it like the plague after zap no. 1 and will trouble you no more. It’s prettier than either chicken wire or slabs, and though it’s more expensive is a long-term solution. I do hope your slabs work from here on in, but if he does come back you know what to do…

  20. After finally getting outside for 4 days I hear you about those sore muscles…I don’t have a badger but I have blasted voles that have dug up the lawn, destroyed flowers and bulbs and are a menace…it is discouraging.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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