What a start to the year weather wise!! Without too much hesitation we got straight back into the garden with a bit of light limbering up. Graeme our volunteer and a group of veterans took a trip out to a local farm to collect some horse manure which had very kindly been offered to us.
To get us started on the preparation of the soil for the coming growing season we have been busy checking the pH and moisture content of the soil in the garden which at Erskine is mainly made up of raised beds. You won’t be at all surprised that we confidently concluded, after three hours of analysis, that the soil in our garden on the West Coast of Scotland has high levels of moisture and in addition a neutral pH.
We have been continuing to put up bird boxes that our veterans have been making over the winter months in preparation for spring time. Already we’ve had blue tits, magpies, robins, jackdaws, tree creepers and wrens as well as a clutch of crows and the odd pigeon making good use of the facilities on offer. Our very own on-site grey squirrel keeps us entertained with his acrobatic antics when trying to get his share of the bird food. Opinion is divided as to whether he is a welcome visitor (being grey) but nevertheless his talent for contortions always raises a smile.
The veterans took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch in the garden and enthusiastically fed our results into the nationwide survey figures. It was interesting to see tree creepers, robins and wrens around the woodland/shady area looking for food in amongst the log piles and newly turned compost whereas our ‘garden birds’ at this time of year are solely dependent upon the food we put out for them. We will be monitoring our two new wildlife gardens over the coming year to see how bird species and numbers change as we progress with the planting.
A small pond is also being dug by our veterans and volunteers and is the subject of much discussion amongst the group. A lot of discussion but a lot of hard work too. The liner is now in situ and the pond is filled with water. We’ve left it to settle over the weekend and have started to spread the work that we are looking for suitable plants and also a donor who is willing to let us have some established pond water to help the eco system in ours get established.
Earlier this month it was good to meet up with colleagues from our other two Gardening Leave sites when we had our 2-day training event at Auchincruive near Ayr. Staff travelled from London too which was lovely as we don’t often get the chance to meet up and exchange ideas.
February dawned with some patchy blue skies which was most welcome. Some early narcissi are making a brave attempt at blooming but the stars of the show are our snowdrops dotted around the garden. A very welcome little bit of cheer to remind us of the approaching spring.
We decided to try something different with our potatoes this year. We were kindly given some tyres from the local agricultural machinery supplier (www.hamiltonbros.co.uk), originally destined for disposal we have used them to plant up our early potatoes (in towers of 2 tyres to start off with). As the tatties start to flourish we will build up the tyre towers and top up the soil to cover the emerging shaws. It’s great to be using recycled materials in the garden and we will keep you posted on the progress.
On a cold miserable day this week we harvested our leeks and made leek and potato soup. We washed and trimmed the leeks and were able to give them to the chef at Erskine hospital. We used our potatoes we had squirreled away in a hessian sack in the shed over the winter and made leek and potato soup for lunch which was very warmly received on such a cold day.
And finally…we are delighted to welcome a new member of staff on board at Erskine, Karen started with us at the beginning of February and brings with her a humorous, caring personality and a very attentive nature, which is great at tea time!! We look forward to many good times ahead in the garden.’
Karen and Wendy