Tuesday 30 June 2020

Iris for you

The blue scented variety being propagated

Codger is writing this introduction on Monday ready for publication tomorrow. A dull but blustery day that has driven him inside. So, very different to last week with its oppressive heat. A month ago we had a rather windy, though sunnier, week. I got sore eyes working outside, something I had not previously experienced. Perhaps it was the dust blown about but having had some help from the optician I have decided to play safe today. So, I am glad that I had pressed ahead with dividing our bearded irises on Saturday - it took the best part of the day. This means that we now have a good stock of new plants available to anyone who would like to have a pot from me (they should flower like these in the photo left)

Japanese water iris: Ensata
The photo shown here (right) is an entirely different iris. As you see, it has the most amazingly deep, velvety purple colour. Last year it flowered exactly three weeks later it has done this year – well into July. Perhaps that was because it was still settling down. I first learned about this iris from an article by Alan Titchmarsh. Keen to grow it, I actually redesigned and re-organised the water garden to get the right conditions. I almost lost the plant in the winter but the changes seemed to do the trick. To the extent that I now also have seedlings that are also doing well. Mind you, they may belong to yet another iris – the yellow flag that grows immediately next to the Ensata. A possible labelling error – well, not so much an error – read on …

Yellow flag water iris
Do you find some jobs a chore? Labelling comes into that category for me. The unplanned success of Codger’s Nursery ran me out of labels and, for a while, new supplies could not be obtained. As regular readers will know I resorted to making my own from plastic milk containers. But whatever material I use, I seem to encounter a a familiar problem: the ink fading or washing off. I have found this to be a longstanding issue. Different makes of pens have been tried and I am about to trial another solution: wooden labels rather than plastic. I don't feel too optimistic but, I reckon, it is worth a try. Now, back to the irises

The variety is something like Jane Phillips
Irises for you?
As you know, Codger does not charge for plants. Rather, we encourage our fellow gardeners to make a donation to BCM, the charity we support. Due to Saturday's efforts we have some excellent irises available – this is just the time to get them planted. Sadly, I can only take an informed guess at the variety – probably Jane Phillips (labels again!)  - lovely sky blue as in the photograph. As well as being strong and reliable they are scented – not all irises are

Rhizome cuttings, freshly taken on Saturday 
I have only potted up sound cuttings – five or six to a pot – so you will be off to a good start

It so happens that Monty Don did a recent clip on propagating irises. It is an excellent bit of instruction so rather than spin words here, I shall direct you to the expert: you can see the BBC video clip by clicking here

Looking at my photos, you will see that I follow standard practice in trimming the leaves. As Monty explains, you should only do this when propagating. It helps prevent the young plant being rocked by the wind. A truly worthwhile precaution as it turns out - Monday has been cold and blustery - not at all pleasant

So, whilst stocks last, you have a choice: freshly propagated Iris Jane Phillips (or similar) or a water iris seedling (Ensata or yellow flag). Please let me know if you are interested - we will be glad to help

Good author
Having mentioned two famous gardeners – Monty Don and Alan Titmarsh – let me introduce Val Bourne. I think she would come under the category of garden writer rather than garden celebrity. Indeed, I have never seen her on television, nor have I heard on the radio but anything I have read of hers has been very worth reading

Her book Living Jigsaw is excellent – it explains how to garden organically and to encourage wildlife. The book has splendid photographs by Marianne Majerus. Val Bourne sometimes writes for the Telegraph. You might find her recent article of interest, click here to read it (you may have to navigate the invitation to subscribe to the Telegraph newspaper)

Summer pudding
Can you believe such a change in less than a week? It did not feel too much like summer yesterday but that did not stop us pretending. Having harvested a plenty of sun-ripened soft fruit we are currently enjoying the result in the shape of a summer pudding. In case you are not familiar, let me tell you about this delicacy which even rivals rhubarb and custard. Any soft fruit can be used. In our case we had lots of raspberries and redcurrants. Strawberries would also have gone in – but the crop was over. Instead we had a mixture of loganberries, tayberries and tummelberries. A bit esoteric, I know – the plants were a Christmas present a few years ago. In they went as well, and sugar added. Brought to the boil and simmered for a bit

Meanwhile, a basin was lined with white bread – a fascinating geometrical exercise – and the stewed fruit poured in. Made a lid of white bread and allowed to stand for 24 hours. Delicious. I could well be enjoying an extra helping whilst you are reading about it!

Best wishes from the old Garden Codger

Here is a a few bonus shots. Both pairs show before and after

This shot was taken on Saturday. It is not quite accurate to say 'before' as work had commenced - it shows the operation mid-stroke. The first clump of irises had been lifted and set down on a plastic sheet to keep things tidy 

The photograph below shows how the same corner looks today. Looks drastic, I know, but necessary. If irises are left to become congested then flowering is affected. The Monty Don video mentioned above is well worth five minutes viewing time. He does a really clear explanation of what is involved

Please do get in touch if you would like a pot of iris plants. I would like them to be shared around. There is another large clump waiting to be split so I don't expect to run short

I forgot to mention cherries that went into the summer pudding. They are on the right, stones removed. I also forgot that a couple of blackberries were ripe enough to use. Had I got them, blackcurrants would be included, too. That was a result of another labelling error - I have two redcurrant bushes - must put that right

You can also see the loganberries, tayberries and tummelberries - not that they are easily distinguished

Friday 26 June 2020

Old Codger's Secret

Well, this week’s sunshine has certainly brought on the soft fruit. I shall make time tomorrow to do my annual Summer Pudding. Must remember to somehow get some white bread, though. Not the same otherwise – and, preferably, a bit on the stale side. Line a basin with the bread, boil up the fruit – not too much, and pour it in. Cover with another layer of bread. Let it stand overnight – better in the fridge. Dollop of Greek yoghurt, crème frais or clotted cream and you’re away. Summer is here! All the better with your own fruit, of course. As we have said before, soft fruit is pretty straightforward and worth the little effort it takes

Mind you, raspberry canes were the furthest thing from my mind when we moved into our property. Seasoned readers may remember that our house and garden is situated on remediated industrial land that was set hard as concrete when we moved in October 1990. The Spring of 1991 was particularly dry. Indeed, there seemed to be a trend in that direction so how to handle such climatic changes? This is what brings me to the old Codger’s secret ...

Our nuclear sub sunbathing yesterday - now nearly 1 metre
Don’t tell anyone
Was it wisdom or was it stupidity? Digging the reservoir, I mean. Children coming to our garden notice two things: an old hand pump and, later on, a fish imitating a nuclear submarine. Starting with the latter, a pond was mandatory. But ponds demand water – could I find a way of keeping it topped up with a supply of rainwater?

30 years later - the hand pump still works
Then there was climate change. Could I have my own supply to keep the plants watered? Yes! Build a tank in the ground, slab over the top, and use a pump to deliver the goods. Seemed a good idea. I was still under fifty and game for a good dig, but I had not reckoned on boulders. Lifting a 60kg lump vertically 1.2 metres is one thing as exam question another as a practical proposition. (you now know why we have a rockery!) Eventually, the project was complete and now lies hidden beneath the patio. Indeed, it is old Codger’s Secret and a source, not only of water, but great fascination for children when they visit
Secret access lies beneath the patio

What did young Codger learn?
Regular readers will have discovered that not all of Codger’s ideas work perfectly. The main thing he discovered by doing the reservoir was that groundwater has a life of its own. Groundwater, as the name suggests, sits beneath our feet. It creates, what is known as, the water table. I have found that the water level in the chamber rises and falls considerably and is determined more by the level of the water table than by rainfall. When I did the job I also put in some drainage to help take the water from the growing areas, our land being so heavy. The reservoir also takes rainwater from the roof. This obviates the need for a water butt – difficult objects to disguise – so I have no tricks to offer there

Water being pumped into the pond via a concealed pipe
 When the pond needs a top-up, I now use an electric pump which lives in the reservoir. I could write an essay on pumps – I think I am on my third (not counting pumps for the pond). The present model has been in use for about ten years and works really well. I bought it from Lidl as, generally, I find their electrical items are good quality – speaking as I find

Anyway, all of this is great when children come to the garden. I ask they if they would like to know the big secret of Codger's Garden. Looking this way, and that, we ceremoniously lift the slabs. Sometimes a frog is sitting on top of the submerged pump, adding to the excitement

Happy accident
Two things about water lilies: (1) The offer of water lilies remains open - please speak up if you would like one - there is still time for me to take a root cutting - there is a choice of sizes. (2) For a couple of weeks now I had have miniature lily plants growing very happily in containers. Not by intention just other jobs have been more important. The interesting point is just how well they have fared. They are in containers about 2 feet deep and well-shaded. the water has stayed clear which probably indicates that they are taking nutrients from the water, which is what you want to avoid suffocating blanket weed. Another happy accident!

Cost? About £7.50 - clearance prices
Venturing out
After three full months of lockdown (we began early) I have paid a cautious visit to our local B&Q. Very strict measures in place and only few folk there – perhaps, time of day. I headed straight for the clearance trolley, spending £30 on half-price plants - Codger needs the stock. Since the pansies gave up a couple of weeks ago, the patio has looked miserable. I imagine my B&Q experience may be typical so thought I’d mention. Here is the result on the left

I am making up a few hanging baskets to be ready when people ask. Let me know if you are interested

The big job tomorrow will be lifting irises and propagating from them. You may remember the lovely blue variety. I shall add a photo below as a reminder. Again, please let me know if you are interested - they could go straight from our garden to yours. As usual, no charge, we just ask that you support BCM with a donation if you can. You can see how things are going by clicking here

Next week, I plan to publish again on Tuesday and Friday. So, until Tuesday we send ...

... best wishes from the old Garden Codger

This shot was taken on May 2 this year. They flowered on and on. Unusually for an iris, they are scented - a lovely delicate fragrance. I shall check on the variety and let you know next week. Please let me know if you are interested. I should have enough if you would like three to plant together 




Tuesday 23 June 2020

The Ingenious Mr Fairchild

David Austin named this rose after Thomas Fairchild
Believe or not, The Ingenious Mr Fairchild is the name of this rose. I am glad to report that it has just produced its first blooms after a rescue attempt. Our plant had been in the wrong place for many years. I may have reported that, at the beginning of lockdown, I decided to pot it up and relocate. It was only at that point that I discovered its strange name, The Ingenious Mr Fairchild, and the story behind it which, to me, is as surprising as its name

Mr Fairchild with his blog
According to the record, Thomas Fairchild was the first person to produce a plant through crossbreeding. Perhaps it would more accurate to say he was the first person recorded to have crossbred – surely, this must have been tried in ancient civilisations like the Chinese or the Persians – who knows?

Fairchild produced a new variety by crossing a Sweet William with a Carnation. This was in 1717 and the result was called Fairchild’s Mule – rather apt. It was a modern plant breeder, David Austin, who decided to name one of his roses after Fairchild in 2003. A nice gesture, Codger thinks, possibly somewhat overdue

He looks a jolly character. Rather unlike the rose named after him which has rather sharp thorns. Looking again, I suspect he was both sharp and jolly - the twinkle in the eye is the giveaway

Adenium Obesum - the Desert Rose
Plants for You
Take a look at the top right of this page. Immediately above “About me” you will see a clickable link “Plants for You”. This takes you to a page which sets out the plants we can supply at the moment. It also indicates what is coming along soon

I shall be adding some photographs as not all of the plants / varieties will be familiar to many readers. For example, I have come across a really attractive houseplant Adenium Obesum – sometimes call the Desert Rose. If you are looking for something special, it may fit the bill

So, please use the Plants for You label – as I say, look top-right on this the home page and click there (it will take a few days to work on the photos)

Treat yourself!
Many readers of this blog have been ‘lockdown sheltering’ and will have been relieved to hear of a reprieve – the date I heard was July 6 but now seems to be the end of the moth. So,there is still time to read a book. In checking out the Thomas Fairchild story, I stumbled across the biography which suggested to rose-breeder David Austin the inviting epithet: Ingenious. Not only so, but I also found that Blackwell’s still have a stock of the book which they are selling at only £2.99 – who could resist such a bargain especially when you discover that P&P is free?  (List price is £14.99 - gets even better!)

And, perhaps, I should say again that your old Codger has absolutely no commercial connections at all. I have used Blackwell’s in the past and found them to be a good company to deal with. The book details are here

Now, here are a few matters on which I am said I would report back to readers ...

The divided primulas - all Firecracker
Firecracker primulas
Remember I was into multiplication by division? In practice, the arithmetic turned out somewhat disappointing. This may be of interest to you if you have primulas that you wish to increase
Some plants turned out to be too small to divide. About 50% split OK and so doubled. A couple of plants were so keen to flower, I did not have the heart to stop them

It's too early to judge, but I guess we shall obtain get a 30% increase - much below my expectations

Pond-side primulas
My attention now turns to the primula denticulata and to Miller’s Crimson (shown right). Once again, I shall let you know how well we do

True grit
You may have noticed how, on gardening programmes, you hear things like, “Add plenty of grit to so the mix is really free-draining”. Ever tried buying horticultural grit? In most garden centres you pay a lot for a little. I thought I had found the solution: buy the grit that poultry-keepers use. I bought a 25kg sack via Amazon only to find that there are different sorts. I ordered the wrong type that included crushed shells

The right stuff this time
What you need is a grit that does not affect the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of your potting compost so I placed a new order and, this time, got just the right thing – see photo. What I needed was flint grit. This arrived yesterday and looks to be exactly what is required. I got 25kg for £16.99 which I think is good value. But, remember, 25kg is seriously heavy (the Yodel guy was, I think, a bodybuilder!)

Mine your own peat
When I mentioned the manure mountain last week, I indicated that it had a history. How long, I know not, but long enough for some of the material to have become peat – or as close to it as makes no difference, as you can see it the photo. I have used this as top-dressing for the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Before I put this down, I gave them a sprinkling of wood ash that I had saved from a rather fierce BBQ fuelled by some old fencing panels. Nothing goes to waste when you are aiming for self-sufficiency! The wood ash, which had to kept dry, should provide a boost to the production of fruit (note the verbal connection: potash / potassium)

What I now call Rowley peat
Needless to say, I shall be going back for more. Peat apart, this is probably the point to say that if you can get hold of manure, and it is still ‘ripe’, simply put it on the compost heap to finish off. The heap will benefit and you will soon have usable material

Next edition
That's all for today, folks. Look out for the next edition on Friday when I plan to tell you about Garden Codger's Secret. Ssshh - don't tell anyone ...

... best wishes from the old Garden Codger

Reader's photo - another Boskoop beauty - thank you

Friday 19 June 2020

P is for ...

Blog posts tend to be haphazard things. I have sometimes toyed with the idea of working through the alphabet. P might prove to be a prolonged post. Just looking around our own patch we have: penstemon, pansy, peony, pelargonium, passionflower, petunia, and phlox – although phlox would hardly jump to mind. But primula would ...

As you read on, you will discover that I have still much to learn about these lovely plants - sometimes gentle, sometimes exciting 

We have two types of primula growing between the stream and the pond. That position is virtually unshaded. Perhaps that accounts for their rather poor performance in the continual sunshine that we experienced this Spring

The denticulata (see photo above) looked a bit moth-eaten (actually, I fear, aphid-eaten) and the Miller's Crimson lost something of her normal intense colour. So, perhaps, I need to think about alternative locations

They should have been accompanied by primula viallii (see below) but that failed to show at all. In contrast, the primulas I had in containers on the patio looked spectacular – a commercial variety called Firecracker. It must be the old story – finding the right place for the specific plant

Another good shot thanks to Wiki
Propagating primulas
One thing they all have is common seems a bit odd. After flowering, instead of flopping, they seem to be bursting with energy

Although the autumn is the traditional time to propagate primulas it seems more sensible to do it now. They will have the summer period to get established - provided I give them the right conditions. Success will mean that I shall have enough stock to supply other gardeners next season

Whereas the rain is very much needed, the weather has hardly been in our favour for doing such jobs this week, but I did manage to get to work on Firecracker. Hopefully, the photos will help to make the method clear

Step-by-step guide
Although it is possible to blindly chop the plant in half, I adopted a more cautious approach

First, removing the plant from the container, I gently washed the roots so I could inspect the plant more closely. Turning it around in my fingers and I found a point where it would divide fairly naturally. I then cut through the base of the plant and gently eased the two halves apart

The photo (right) shows the two halves I obtained in this way. I also checked whether a further division might be possible but decided to play safe and not to make a further incision

 Obviously, the final stage was to pot up and water well. Finding that the roots were too long for the pot, I trimmed them to suit and also removed the bigger leaves. They are now in a shaded position in the greenhouse
Hellebores before tidying operations

Since doing that I have worked on a couple more Firecracker plants - one smaller and one bigger - and I think it would be helpful to report. I found that the smaller plant was too small to divide. The larger plant had already started to divide so I did not bother to wash off the soil but simply followed the divide with the knife and potted up the results. Larger pots were needed. As soon as I have time I shall go through all my Firecrackers, dividing where possible, as well as looking how we might propagate the denticulata and Miller's Crimson. I will let you know how all it goes

Tidying hellebores
Propagation aside, there are always jobs competing for attention. Although not immediately productive, a bit of tidying has to be done. If you grow hellebores you might find that you can spruce them up in half-an-hour, or so. They are tough plants - and do a useful job in the dull winter months. But as the summer advances they can look a bit grim. I find this to be a get-on-your-knees job

Contrast the discarded old growth with the new leaves
In my case Japanese Anemones have invaded so I deal with them at the same time - and any weeds, too. Using secateurs, I cut the old flowers right back - stalk and all. You will find that old leaves go like dry parchment. Deal similarly with those and consign all the trimmings to the compost heap

Being dry and woody material the hellebore remains will help balance out the sappy green weeds that abound at this time. A reminder that, with all the rain, there will be plenty of weeding to you this weekend. This brings me around to our old friend, the garden compost heap. There is one thing I have omitted to mention so far in our various compost tales ...

Eisenia fetida - chums together in Codger's compost
Brandling worms
In my enthusiasm for hot composting I have probably played down the significance of these amazing creatures - brandling worms - see the photo I have taken for you (right). As the lower layers in a heap go cool, the brandling worms get to work. Their action produces a first class result. They differ from earthworms being both shorter and thinner. And have a different diet, delighting in half-decomposed organic matter - yum-yum!

As you may know, an alternative to a compost heap is a wormery. I have no experience of running one but understand you need something like brandling worms but a different species. You can even buy them on eBay - £6.20 and free postage!

Sunrise seen from Apollo 7 (courtesy NASA/Wiki Commons)
The longest day – solstice and solace
In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice, or longest day of the year, takes place between June 20 and 22 each year. This year it will be tomorrow, Saturday June 20. Here in the UK we expect to have 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. Codger tends to wake early this time of year but I do not plan to rise with the sun at 4.43am, however I may be among those who turn in at 9.21pm when it sets

And, although a lover of nature, I do not plan to join the growing number who seem to be attracted to a mysterious ancient religion that existed in these islands before Christianity was introduced. If there is a Creator of all things, it seems more sensible to worship him rather than what he has created. To me, that feels like turning to darkness rather than light

As I write these words the rain is hammering down again so I am very much hoping to see the sun again on the year's longest day. Obviously, we need the rain. Equally, without great blessing of sunlight, there be no gardens, no plants - indeed, no life at all. So, it is not surprising that that unique illuminating image appears in one of the most wonderful of Bible verses: For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Thanks again to everyone for the great support we have received. It is good to know that our friends on furlough at BCM are getting back into harness - you can check that here. Yesterday alone, three donations of £20 each were received by Codger, pushing us very close to our final (!) target. We have also had gifts in kind - remember the hydrangeas? One has just come into flower - see photo right (sorry, it is already spoken for - just being minded at the moment)

One last thing. Google is changing Blogger - the software we use for this site - so I need to create a space next week for maintenance purposes. So, the plan is to publish on Tuesday, rather than Monday, and then again next Friday - hoping that will give an old guy time to smooth the rough edges

... your friend, the Garden Codger

PS - in case you were wondering about the material I collected from the Manure Mountain ...

The torrential downpour has interfered with progress with half of the bags still in the car. However, here is a sneak preview of the quality - lovely stuff

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Doing a few jobs

Greenhouse in August 2019
Don’t be fooled! My tomatoes are not yet at this stage – this photograph was taken in August 2019. But it serves to show the transformation in the greenhouse – look back to Monday’s post – from cold thick clay to a rich soil with the resultant productive growth

It is instructive to look at the stages between. During the Spring the greenhouse is mainly used for propagation. I start most plants from seed. This year, that was a particular challenge because of lockdown. I just had to use such seeds that I already had to hand or could obtain from friends. Amazingly, nearly everything I grew was useful to somebody – hardly anything has been wasted - and this has obviously helped to boost the funds that have been raised for charity (see here)

The shot below (taken in April) shows the planting bed covered with trays of seedlings – some of which may well be growing in your garden as you read these words 

The planing border covered with productive seed trays

The seedlings gradually get moved on until we reach the stage where the planting bed becomes completely clear. Now a rather important point - and do remember that, despite his age, old Codger is relatively new to proper greenhouse growing. The expert recommend that the soil in the planting border be replaced. Well, I was planning to refresh a bit rather than actually dig out the lot. Not so much a matter of time but, rather, having good material to do it with. Lockdown again to blame - and sticking to the rules about venturing out. So, having cleared the bed I planted up as you see below

Planting bed now awaiting a good mulch
The tomatoes are planted directly into the greenhouse border as shown here (photo right). These plants will provide us with tomatoes through July, August and September. However, I still have a niggle about soil exhaustion and wonder about the Manure Mountain. Some good material from that source would allow to top-dress - that is, add a generous layer of rich material with the plants in place. I should add that they are growing well but will need every ounce of goodness to produce fruit throughout the coming season

Well, checking the forecast and seeing that we were due for heavy rain later in the day (correct!) I made an early-morning dash for the Mountain! I'll share the result with you before I sign off. For the moment, I would just add one thing. None of this applies if you are growing tomatoes outside. And, we are doing that as well. I do not wish to give the impression that a greenhouse is essential for growing tomatoes. We have plenty plants outside - enjoying the rain as I write these words. Now, let's have a change from tomatoes. Here are a few productive things you might consider doing at the moment

Roses for nothing!
Among the outstanding blossom this Spring, we came across a white rose. It was growing wild but its lovely single form suggested that it is a garden plant that has escaped captivity. Now, honesty demands that I admit that I have never successfully got a rose cutting to take. With the Codger readership looking over my shoulder perhaps I'll do better this time. The method is simple: cut beneath a leaf node, remove the lower leaves and insert into cutting compost. The photo below shows the wand I removed from the bush cut into three lengths

Three cuttings from one wand
Experts tend to disagree about two aspects of the process: clay pot / plastic pot and rooting power / no rooting power. Having both a clay pot and rooting powder to hand, I followed that traditional route. I shall try to remember to let you know how we get on. The two pots are under the greenhouse bench so I must not forget to keep them moist - but not wet. Incidentally, it might be a bit early for rose cuttings - again, there is some disagreement about the best time. I did some in the autumn last year storing them over winter in the green house but they did not fair well. Perhaps because they were out of sight, out of mind, they died off before we reached the Spring

Primula Firecracker - now ready to be divided (and multiplied!) 

Dividing primulas
I have not tried this before so this could be the blind leading the partially sighted. We have a really good display of primulas on the patio. The flowering has come to an end and I have moved the pots into a shady spot at the rear of the garden. But they look keen to have another go. I am wondering if I can capture that energy by getting them to multiply by division. If the weather allows I shall take some photos and show you the method. These plants look healthy so we stand a good chance. Come back on Friday!

Opportunistic planting
I have to admit that my planning is far from perfect. Skilled gardeners seem to know the end from the beginning. I know I should try harder but fail often. I could hide this by making claims about opportunistic planting. This sometimes, but not always, pays off. Here's an example. I have just one row of peas (we have just eaten some with bangers and mash). But these will be over soon. Having some spare cucumber plants, I popped a few in in order to use the ground once the peas have stopped producing

What I must not forget is to leave plenty of space for flowering plants which, at the moment, are mere seedlings. This is what I did last year. This is what gave me the stock of plants that were used the make up the boxes that many of you kindly took off my hands

19 bags of pure gold 
A successful visit
Here is the result of our visit to the Manure Mountain: 19 bags of fantastic compost. The best stuff is at the top of the mountain, so considerable humping effort was required. To the extent that poor old Codger was too tired to unload yesterday. That will be his first task when he gets going this morning

 The car was pleasantly warm for the drive back as the contents of some bags was ripe and still working. But absolutely no smell, though. The very word 'manure' can conjure up the wrong picture. I'll explain more on Friday. I had better sign off now - but see below for an update from Rachel White. (I got one point wrong - Rachel has only froglets - although where she lived previously it was the toads that totally predominated)

Best wishes from the Garden Codger

Update from Rachel
The froglets have started leaving the ponds now, so I have tried to create a slope from the ponds to the ground using a piece of slate to make it easier for them. It is interesting how they all grow up at different speeds. Some are still tiny tadpoles, some are larger tadpoles, some have back legs, some have back and front legs and tails and some are now tiny frogs. I have read that the more advanced ones release a chemical into the water which slows the growth of the less advanced ones! It is thought that this strategy increases survival rates, I think so that they can all find enough food?

Frogs lay a lot of frogspawn as only a tiny percentage make it to adulthood, due to predation by birds and other pond life, such as young dragonflies. We have blackbirds nesting in a tree on the other side of the garden, so some may be taken to feed their chicks. I think my mum is glad that they won't all grow to adulthood, as when I attempted to estimate numbers, I think there were around 1500! Plague of frogs anyone?!