The Flowers are still blooming in the garden, and a few late butterflies visiting. The flowers featured here were all photographed in the garden this month.
Many thanks to our volunteers for their hard work keeping the garden looking wonderful, despite restrictions on how long they can stay for a garden session and a limit to the number of volunteers in the garden to 5 at a time, not having any indoor space we are using, and having to bring their own refreshments. All this on top of doing a wonderful job of physically distancing from others and good hand hygiene and careful use of tools, many bringing their own hand tools and gloves.
Photos by Helena, Ninewells Community Garden Facilitator
We’ve been continuing the Online Workshop series, you can catch up any you missed, or any you would like to see again by following the links below, the previous workhop links are in this blog, and can also be accessed on PLANT’s website.
Ninewells Community Garden has been helping to produce these online Workshops with PLANT Tayport, Strathkinness Community Garden, Yellow Wellies Gardening and Edible Campus St Andrews, including some additional presenters.
We’ve all gone Elderflower Crazy – the Spirit is alive!
Cycling through the winding roads of Fife these past couple of weeks the scented flowers in the hedgerows trigger memories of growing up in Ireland. The smell of the elderflowers is really distinctive. Equally the odour when they get musty is horrid; another lesson I learned as a child when my sister and I left them lying about after our pretend ‘cooking’ infusion sessions.
With lockdown restrictions and time to spare I decided last week to relive these hazy days of childhood summers and collect clusters of these creamy-white flowers and have a go at making some elegant cordial. The Elder tree in our garden is resplendent this year with sprays of highly scented flowers. I pushed aside all the folklore stories I grew up believing; that this is the ‘Devil’s Tree’ and that in Ireland witches rode elder sticks, not broomsticks!
On a bright, dry morning, when the flower heads were at their finest, I chose 20 of the best sprays. The secret is to use them immediately as they lose that lovely scent within hours. I used a recipe that included citric acid but you don’t need to. The acid acts as a preservative, but adds a sharp tang too. I had a bit of a run round to find some but a whole food shop came up trumps. I sourced
2.0 kg white sugar either granulated or caster, 2 unwaxed lemons and 85g of citric acid.
1.5 litres of water in a large saucepan.
Good idea to look out some bottles/container for storage as they will need a sterilize. Wash well, rinse and put in a cool oven just before you need them
Now you’re ready to go
As instructed I gave each flower head a good shake to get rid of the bugs.
Measure the water and the sugar into the pan and gently heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Give it a wee stir now and again.
Pare the zest from the lemons and then slice them into rounds.
Once sugar is dissolved bring syrup to the boil and then switch off
Now add to the pan, the lemons, zest, citric acid and the flowers and stir well.
Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hours
Next day the smell from the pot was so good! I used a ladle to pour it all through a colander which was placed over a large bowl. I then used a clean tea towel to line the colander and let the syrup drip through slowly. The bits in the towel I discarded. I filled and sealed 3 large bottles now in my fridge, and also put some in ice cube trays in the freezer.
Feeling jubilant with the results of my cordial I am now eyeing up the gooseberries to make tasty elderflower and gooseberry jam or my friend recommends I watch out for the elderberries and mix them with pear for a most delicious jam. It seems the options are endless.
But for now the sun is out, the weeds are under control and the time is perfect for a seat and a large glass of homemade elderflower cordial. The associations in folklore are so interesting and I imagine myself falling asleep under an elder tree in full bloom and being invited into the world of the fairies where I would get protection from all the evil spirits! What great things happen when we open our mind to spaces and places and we connect with nature.
We can all do our bit to help wildlife out, however much space we have, a garden or a windowsill, or even just an indoor plant, we can all make a difference.
If you like to see wildlife in your garden, you have to make sure there is food for them, and the base of the food chain is plants and insects. So you can be glad of the flies, as they will feed birds and bats.
If you have a garden: The easy and cheap first steps are to leave your garden a little untidy, small creatures need places to hide and things to eat. If you like to keep things in order, set aside a small area that you can’t see, or can screen and stack up a twig or log pile, the pile can be made of twiggy offcuts from your garden. Stop using herbicides and pesticides, as they can kill off the beneficial insects in the garden. Slug pellets can kill frogs and toads.
Cut your grass less often and enjoy the flowers that appear, this No Mow May has seen reports of people finding orchids in their lawn! The humble dandelion is a real feast for many insects, and provide bees with nectar and pollen. Cutting your grass once every 4 weeks is thought to be optimum for allowing plants to flower to provide nectar, but not set (too many) seeds. If you can leave even a small area uncut until late summer, you’ll be providing a another habitat for different creatures.
If you want to get rid of your lawn all together, you could provide much more wildlife habitat. Mosaic lawns of creeping thyme, creeping jenny, oregano, clover, leptinella, even moss all allow you to use the space as a lawn, but with less mowing and more wildlife benefits.
If you are looking to buy plants- make sure that you buy from somewhere that does not spray their plants with pesticides. The type of plant you buy is important too. The fancy double flowers, which froth with petals are not very helpful for insects looking to collect nectar as it becomes very tricky for the bees and other pollinators to get to the nectar.
Trying to have something flowering in your garden from spring until late autumn is also helpful, as then there is always some kind of food available. Holes in leaves of plants can be a sign of a thriving ecosystem. The insects and caterpillars themselves can be an important food source for the birds collecting for their chicks in nests. If you are lucky a Thrush will move in to help reduce your snail population. Leave a stone somewhere for them to crack the snail shells.
Nettles are an excellent addition to any area hoping to boost wildlife, not only do they feed caterpillars of several species, including the peacock and small tortoiseshell, they sustain insects that blue tits eat. The RSPB even have a page dedicated to the benefits of growing nettles!
If you have space for even a small pond, that’s a great way to increase garden wildlife, you might even get a frog! If you don’t have space, why not leave some bee water bowls around, shallow bowls of water with a few stones in, to allow the bees to land on the stones and not get stuck in the water.
If you don’t have a garden (and even if you do!), choose indoor plants that have not been grown with pesticides and that are grown in peat free soil. And pot on your plants with peat free compost as you’ll be helping wildlife that way.
Peat bogs are fantastically biologically diverse habitats and the peat we use in our gardens will never provide as many wildlife benefits as leaving it in the peat bog. Not to mention that Peat bogs store 10x as much carbon per hectare as any other land based ecosystem.
During the COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown restrictions Ninewells Community Garden, PLANT in Tayport and Edible Campus St Andrews got together to produce online workshops to help people garden and grow at home.
The workshops are ongoing while the lockdown restrictions continue, see our facebook events page to book your free ticket to the next workshop.
Catchup with our Previous Online Workshops.
Did you miss our workshops? You can find the recordings online:
This blog is full of links to all sorts of information about Nature, why it’s good for us and where to see it virtually.
Importance of nature has been shown in studies over and over again, from reductions in hospital recovery times in wards overlooking greenspace, to improvements in self reported feelings of well being in people living on streets with trees. Our access to nature may be restricted just now, but we can still enjoy nature virtually. This article in The Conversation is about how we can still access and get the benefits from nature in the city, even in lockdown.
Who doesn’t love a Puffin? There are several PuffinCams set up that allow everyone to watch the puffins while they come back to land during their egg laying and chick rearing stage. Between March and July keep an eye on the puffins at Alderney http://www.teachingthroughnature.co.uk/webcams/
If you want to see a red mason bee emerge from it’s cocoon and hear a little bit about their life cycle – here’s just the YouTube video for you by Brigit Strawbridge Howard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq4gs-H6-V4
If you have a twitter account, there are some good hashtags to follow for plant pictures, including #WildFlowerHour, #GardensHour
@BSBIbotany is the account of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, a great one to follow to see what is flowering just now.
@kewgarden (The Kew Botanical gardens) and @TheBotanics (Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) also post plenty of plant pictures, often with a bit of information about the plants in their collection.
@ScotlandBDS is the Scottish branch of the British Dragonfly society
Hopefully these suggestions will provide something of interest, let us know if there any great Nature links you like that we can share in the next Nature blog.
The interest in home vegetable growing is not showing any signs of slowing down, so we’ve gathered together even more helpful links and resources in this blog post.
If you are growing in a limited space, the vertical veg guy has got you covered! Walls, Pots, whatever you’ve got, using creative ways to use what space you do have, it’s amazing how much you can grow, follow the link here .
Peter, the community gardener’s at PLANT in Tayport has blogs and Vlogs on the PLANT website with lots of veg growing advice here.
The Ninewells Facilitators have been collaborating with a number of groups to bring you gardening advice from around the area. If you need inspiration about what to grow plants in, what to sow or want a virtual tour of Strathkinness Community Garden, you can find summaries of the workshops co-hosted by Ninewells Garden, PLANT and Edible Campus St Andrews here. There are more workshops being hosted and added weekly at the moment.
If you have a Facebook account, you might want to follow up the Grow Dundee Facebook page, where Dundee growers are sharing advice, solving problems, posting photos of seedlings and chatting all things gardening.
If you are trying your hand at growing with young children, this website set up by a Fife mum growing with her preschool daughter can give you some good tips.
Thrive gardening Charity has set up a Gardening club, sending gardening advice straight to your email inbox every two weeks, sign up here.
Hopefully that should get you started and keep you going! Please choose Peat Free compost to protect the carbon storing biodiverse peat bogs that do so much to lock in carbon and reduce downstream flooding.
Remember you can get in touch with your local friendly facilitators June and Helena for garden advice. Happy Gardening.
As more people are staying at home with the Coronavirus COVID19 lockdown and movement restrictions, the interest in growing at home has also increased. Here at Ninewells garden we’re even asking you lovely people to sow an extra seed or two for us so we can plant up the garden when we are able to restart our volunteering group sessions.
Luckily there are lots of resources out there to help everyone make a success of whatever growing they want to try, from a pot of herbs on a windowsill to turning your front garden into a veggie patch.
It’s also time to get inventive! Not everyone had the chance to stock up on gardening supplies before the garden centres and shops closed. All the online garden supply stores also seem to be having a lot more demand. So many of us will have to make do with what we’ve got.
Luckily our local DCC Community Allotment Officer, Kate Treharne, has started a Lockdown Gardening Channel on YouTube. It is absolutely fantastic! So far it includes videos on sprouting seeds and making compost as well as many more, take a look.
If you have a garden CASA (the Community Support group in St Andrews) have a nice webpage written up with ideas to grow at home .
If you are not sure when and how to start your seeds, the back of the packets have good information, but keep in mind that here in Scotland we can get colder nights for longer, and a lot of seedlings don’t like the cold. Charles Dowding’s sowing calendar guidelines are also great, but add a couple of extra weeks on to the dates to avoid the plants getting frosted. If you are interested Charles Dowding has made lots of videos about growing ‘No Dig’ to watch to learn more, or refer back to as a refresher.
Remember that it’s ok if you don’t get everything right, the plants will probably try to grow anyway. And if they don’t, take what you learn and try again.
As always you can ask your friendly garden facilitators, June and Helena for top tips, and gardening advice. An email, text, or facebook message will get through to us.
Due to the current COVID 19 coronavirus situation, We have suspended the group volunteering sessions and we have been advised to close the Leaf Room, Toilet and Poly Tunnel.
The garden itself is open, current guidelines are that non essential travel should not be made, but if you live nearby, are at Ninewells for key worker, or essential reasons, you are welcome to visit and enjoy the calm in the garden. Please continue to follow physical distancing measures if anyone else is in the space, and hand hygiene measures as usual.
The Facilitators, June and Helena, are still available to contact through the contact page here, they will be checking email, and get back to you as soon as possible.
We will be posting on Facebook almost daily, so look out for plant pictures, growing tips and news.