Wildlife Plot

 

Gordon Road Wildlife Plot Autumn Update

In late August we welcomed a group of Barnet Challenge volunteers to work with us on the allotment.  Five helped on the wildlife plot picking up fallen apples, moving the compost heap and cutting back the section where we plan to build the new pond.  We have identified several invasive weed species and the team worked hard chopping out horseradish and the invasive Crown Vetch while cutting back brambles, nettles and eupatorium (‘Joe Pye Weed’ – see photo). The teenagers worked with infectious enthusiasm through an extremely hot day.  As they worked our emerging froglets and the usual spiders, woodlice, maggots, slugs and snails were greeted with happy horror.  At the end of the day we were able to give the group a healthy amount of allotment produce that they took with them to Hendon Park the next day where they had a stall promoting the benefits of gardening and growing your own.  As a result of the group’s fund raising we have received a generous donation which will be put towards the pond development project.

We have also had a second visit (mid October) from Sam Ho who is continuing to monitor amphibian and reptile activity on our allotment.  On lifting one of the refugia plates on the wildlife plot Sam identified the remains of a small animal and evidence of nesting material.  If you look very closely at the middle of the photograph you will see some tiny bones.  Our first thought was rats but Sam examined the chew marks on the straw.  They had been chewed through at 45 degrees which Sam says is consistent with the action of other small mammals.  There was no evidence of burrowing or dens as is often seen with rats.  We will be monitoring the space for more evidence.

Our priorities for Autumn on the plot are to weaken the most thuggish weeds, keep the grass down and to start work on a larger pond.  We have yet to find a slow worm on the wildlife plot although several have been seen elsewhere on the site.  They enjoy a sunny spot and can often be found in warm compost heaps and under black plastic sheeting.  If you see slow worms or stag beetles please let us know at finchleyhorticulturalsociety@gmail.com.  We would love to see photos too.

Settling the Bees for Winter

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The eke and the wax comb

The eke and the wax comb

The bees have been busy all summer making honey.  Once the honey has been harvested the bees have to be medicated to protect them from the varroa mite infestations which are endemic and can destroy a colony if not treated.  The medication is placed above the brood below the roof.  An ‘eke’, which is a frame about an inch and half deep, has to be added to the hive to give space for the tubs of medication.  The hives were checked recently and it was found that the bees have continued to make wax comb in the eke and filled it with honey.  This needed to be removed for the winter before the bees cluster for warmth to survive the cold.

 

 

The Wildlife Plot in May Wildlife plot newsletter

 

The wildlife plot in May

A Hidden Corner at Gordon Road Allotment

We love our allotment plots for many reasons: growing food and flowers, the exercise we get out of keeping them productive, the chance to share knowledge and of course the social aspect.  But we are also creating a valuable open space for a variety of wildlife.  Some plots are meticulously cared for and some are in transition.  Whatever you have growing on your plot you can be sure you are helping to create an important resource for wildlife.  There is one corner of the Gordon Road Allotment where a plot has been specially set aside as a home for bugs, birds and more.

It is our Wildlife Plot located at the Gordon Road end of the Allotment.  The plot was the brain child of Ann Brown.  Ann and her husband Andrew were active supporters of the Allotment.  In 2015 they moved to Leicestershire leaving us with a great legacy to enjoy.

Ann started the Wildlife Plot over twenty years ago, putting in a log pile for sheltering insects and an old bath to provide a source of water.  The plot has two magnificent apple trees and the red apples are picked every autumn to provide produce for our end of season open day.  Some apples are left on the tree giving a winter source of food for birds. The plot is left to grow naturally with the occasional helping hand from members.  Until recently Ray Clarke has mown the grass paths around the plot.  This year Ray and his wife are moving out of London and so new help is coming on board.

Working an allotment is a regular battle between gardener and wildlife but for every pest there is likely to be a predator. Our wildlife plot aims to provide a home to a variety of creatures. The water in the old bath attracts slug eating frogs and the log pile provides shelter for slow worms, beetles and centipedes.  Lacewings and ladybirds munch their way through aphids and whitefly and the blue tits and robins fly in and out winkling out the caterpillars.

There are plans to create more shelters on the plot: a wood chip pile to provide an ideal residence for stag beetles, piles of stones to give a stopover for frogs and newts and a nesting box could draw in more birds.  Night scented flowers can be planted to attract pollinator insects such as bees and butterflies by day and moths by night.

So take a different route to your allotment and see if you can find take a look at the Wildlife Plot. If you would like some information on gardening for wildlife visit the website Wild About Gardens, a joint project of the Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts, at wildaboutgardens.org.uk/  The site is a great source of practical things to do to develop your plot or garden for wildlife.  There is also an information folder on our wildlife plot in the Green Room which includes guides to wildlife and a step-by-step guide to creating your own pond.

 

 


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