Grey Dagger Moth Caterpillar

I was pruning back some of the lower branches of an oak tree in our hedge this morning in order to let in a bit more light and to provide some more firewood. When I took a break for a cup of tea I found this little fellow on my arm:

  
It is a grey dagger moth catterpillar and it feeds on a wide variety of tree leaves. You can see more about it and the moth it develops into on Wikipedia and other websites.

Land as community

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Aldo Leopold in the foreword to “A Sand County Almanac”

  

Love grows where my Rosemary goes

If you’ve met her, you’ll never forget her

And nobody knows like me

Rosemary

 
In the last few days I have kept coming across articles about how the herb Rosemary can improve your memory. Some scientists claim that it can improve your memory by up to 75% though how you measure that I don’t know. Apparently the turpenes in rosemary oil improve the functioning of the brain.

We have rosemary growing in the garden and it does very well but it is tucked away in a corner near some fruit trees and I don’t often visit it. These articles have made me start to rethink where I planted it. Maybe I should grow some along the path edges where we frequently walk, rather like we often do with lavender (another plant beneficial to the brain!) and then as we walk past we can inhale those wonderful turpenes and give us something worth remembering.

And maybe I should be encouraging our local schools to plant it along the paths and hang cuttings in the classrooms. Who knows, maybe they will then be able to claim that rosemary helped improve their exam results!

Now, how do you propogate, erm, what was it again?

“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse.

Topaz

I’ve not blogged in a while but I aim to put that right as I make a concerted effort this coming year to make progress on my diploma.

Over the last few years I have been learning the art of grafting fruit trees. One of the first trees I grafted was a Topaz and now that it has been planted out in a permanent place and matured a little it has produced it’s first apple. My beloved and I intend to share it later today so I may report back on it’s flavour!

image

Topaz

Planting under fruit trees (2)

So, following on from my previous post, here are some of the plants that my research has come up with for companion planting with fruit trees. I would welcome any comments from anyone who has tried any of these and I will report back on my experiments.

– daffodils. These are early flowering and attract pollinating insects so will be particularly beneficial to aiding pollination of early flowering fruit. It has been suggested that they are planted in a circle not too close to the trunk of the trees, presumably to avoid interference with main roots.
– chives and other alliums. Like daffodils, these attract beneficial insects but they also produce food.
– bee balm and mint. Again, an insect attractant but I’m not sure I would plant mint under a tree unless it’s roots were restricted by a pot.
– dill. Another insect attractant, dill is also great for hoverflies which will feed on aphids and other pests.
– echinacea. A drought tolerant plant with a deep tap root that attracts beneficial insects, and also looks good!
– lupins. Besides attracting beneficial insects, lupins fix nitrogen.
– Clover, peas, beans and vetches all fix nitrogen and attract beneficial insects.

Other plants that have been mentioned which I need to research further are New Jersey Tea (deep tap root and a tea substitute), violas, salvias, garlic, strawberry, foxgloves, feverfew, oregano, asparagus, camomile, basil, oregano, sage, lavender (apparently repels codling moth), lemon balm and thyme.

Planting under fruit trees (1)

I have recently been researching what is best to plant under fruit trees. Traditionally many people have grass with a clear patch immediately below the trees as most fruit trees are relatively shallow rooted and it is thought that grass, and most other plants, will compete with the tree.

Following my Permaculture Design Course (PDC) I planted a low growing comfrey under my apple trees and some of my fruit bushes and I regularly cut it back leaving it to mulch the soil. The thinking behind this is that comfrey has deep tap roots and is a mineral accumulator, drawing minerals up from the clay further down and making it available to other plants with shallower roots. It also mulches the soil keeping in moisture.

Another advantage of the comfrey is that it’s flowers attract beneficial pollinating insects so when the fruit trees and bushes come into blossom there are already the appropriate insects around.

One disadvantage I recently read about in an article was that plants growing under fruit trees can harbour higher concentrations of INA (Ice Nucleation Active) bacteria, that is, bacteria which help to induce the formation of ice when it is cold which then causes damage to the plants foliage. Mind you, the same article describes how air blowers and half hourly visits by helicopters overhead can be used to reduce the damage caused by frosts!

I haven’t done any controlled experiments but the fruit trees and bushes have done well in the last few years. What I want to do now is find other plants that I could use under fruit trees that might produce a yield in other ways. I will follow this up in a later article.