Trees and sunshine

A day of sunshine… and there has been no rain for 34 hours so far!!

This respite in the weather has meant that we could get on with some outdoor activities today. We walk the dogs almost every day, just avoiding the very worst of the weather, but today’s walk took much longer than usual, because so many other people were out too. In our community that means stopping for a chat… and getting given sweeties by the wife of one of our local farmers!

A bit of a wallow

A bit of a wallow

Once home, we were able to allow the hens into a part of the garden that has simply been too wet for them recently. We want them to clear and fertilise some of the vegetable beds in anticipation of the growing season. Of course, as soon as the soil dries out a bit, they want to have a dust bath… I think it was more of a wallow today, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway.

The chicken patch at Station Road

The chicken patch at Station Road (chickens are hiding!)

Whilst they were busy on the vegetable beds, I was able to plant two trees that have been awaiting my attention. In the chicken’s main patch, I want to create a more woodland-like habitat (after all they are descended from jungle fowl) and I was inspired by the area in which Wade Muggleton keeps his chickens at Station Road, which has fruit trees. We do not have ground vegetation at present because of having to raise the level of the soil to stop the waterlogging, but now that we have solved that problem, I wanted to get started with a Kentish Cob and an apple tree.

Cob nut in the foreground with the apple and chickens behind.

Cob nut in the foreground with the chickens foraging behind.

The Cob (a variety of hazel) has been in a pot for a couple of years, because it originally arrived at a time when the soil was frozen so solid that we couldn’t plant it. The apple, however, came very recently from my dear friends Janta and Merav at Karuna – the variety is Ashmead’s Kernel and it’s grafted onto a dwarf rootstock, so should be perfect for our little garden. Both are now planted and will hopefully provide a great habitat for the hens and a harvest for us. Don’t be fooled by the woodchip on the surface in the pictures, it’s lovely and fertile underneath from the chicken droppings that have been slowly incorporated into the soil over several years.

The start f a little jungle for the hens

Happy hens with ‘their’ apple tree

Making connections

I was delighted to observe this week  that one of my hazel (Corylus avellana) trees, a Kentish Cob, has found a friend:

Hazel and friend

There on the right of the main stem you can see the fruiting body of a fungus. I am really hoping that this indicates that there is now a beneficial relationship between the two and that the fungus has formed a connection with the roots of the hazel. Such fungi are known as mycorrhizae (the singular is mycorrhiza) and are a key component of natural woodland ecosystems – they are associated with the enhanced uptake of water and nutrients, resulting in healthier plants that can survive more harsh conditions than those without the association. The fungi benefit too – receiving carbohydrates from the plant.

As you can see, this particular hazel is in a pot, but it is destined for the ground very soon. It arrived last winter when the ground was frozen and so it could not be planted immediately so I put it in a large pot with wool compost. Then  I entirely forgot to plant it out in the spring. Anyway, it seems to be happy and healthy and I hope that it and its companion will enjoy their new home. Fingers crossed that this means an abundance of hazel nuts in the future.

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