February in the garden  March 1, 2024

Despite a wet and windy month, we managed to get quite a lot done in the gardens in February. 

Terrific tools 

Two of our volunteers tying in hazel supports

Thanks to a grant which enabled us to buy some new tools, our volunteers have been hard at work removing dead wood and some of the lower branches on the trees in our woodlands. 

A new extendable polesaw has given us the ability to reach previously inaccessible material – safely too! So we have been kept busy for more than a few days working to allow the winter sun to break through into the pond area. Part of this has also involved coppicing willow and hazel growing on the southern side of the water closer to ground level, providing us with some nice flexible wood to use for more building projects – of which more later. 

Making the garden more wildlife friendly 

A damsely fly on a leaf

The dragonfly features as our logo here at Martineau as they used to breed in our pond. Sadly, although we often see dragonflies and damselflies shooting around the gardens in summer, they have only been visitors over the last few years. As dragonflies emerge in the first moments of their adult stage, they need to climb into the light and dry their wings in the sun. We are hopeful that allowing a lot more sunshine into the area and allowing the reeds and rushes to grow to their capacity will attract them back to use the site as a breeding habitat once again. 

Hedge success 

Hedging ready to be planted

A successful bid to the Tree Council has allowed us to buy in material to begin planting new hedges around our bird hide. The hedges will serve a dual purpose of fencing off the bird feeding area as well as providing food and shelter for wildlife. Over 30 metres of new hedges will be planted as part of the project; plants chosen include Cherry Plum, Buckthorn, Dog Rose and Alder and all of the ten species selected are valuable to wildlife either for pollinators or for the fruit that will develop. 

Although it hasn’t been too cold so far this year, we have certainly had more than our fair share of rain – which has held up the start of planting the hedges! – but it has given us the opportunity to get some construction work done ready for the new growing season.  

Veg season has begun

Broad beans being planted and tied in to their new supports

We have been growing some cold hardy broad beans ‘Aguadulce Claudia’, and lettuces ‘Winter King’, in our polytunnels and now they are ready to plant out, we needed to ensure they are suitably protected against our local pigeon population. The volunteers started off by building some protection cubes from the hazel wood we coppiced, which could then have netting draped over them, and it went so well that we decided to branch out into more complicated structures.  

The cubes were followed by some very robust pyramids which will be excellent structures for growing climbers such as beans, peas and nasturtiums. After some careful planning, a tunnel has also been built across out veg plots, which we are looking forward to perhaps growing cucumbers courgettes and squash along. 

The new sowing season has begun to really kick in, so we have started putting herbs, chilli and tomato seeds in and can’t wait to be able to show them off in the garden amongst our new building projects! 

Matt Young
Therapeutic Horticulture Lead