The Circle of Life in Our Own Pond

Charlotte and son by pondWhen purchasing our new home, my husband and I had mixed feelings regarding the pond. It’s petite, measuring less than a metre in diameter; however our concerns were more significant in size. With two young children we were worried about the risk of drowning. My father had already filled in his large pond and although I share his concern I was reluctant to destroy this precious habitat. A body of water, no matter how small, is one of the best ways to support wildlife in the garden. As our pond is overgrown with iris roots it’s barely 2 inches deep and is surrounded with plants to deter children from venturing too close. Thus, it was permitted to remain intact. Obviously it remains a hazard, so youngsters are warned of the dangers and monitored around the water.

I had little idea how valuable this small pool would prove to be until one spring morning when my eye was drawn to something twinkling in it. Closer inspection revealed that during the night an amphibious visitor had gifted us a batch of frogspawn. I was so excited I almost fell in trying to get a better view.
Adult Frog in Pond
I called over my toddler who, whilst thrilled, seemed a little perplexed. As a biologist I’m fascinated by the creation of life and thus got a little carried away describing, in detail, the frog life cycle. Clearly this was too much for a two year old to comprehend but after some simplification we classified the new arrivals as ‘baby frog’s eggs’. The most baffling part was how the frogspawn had found its way into our pond since we’ve never seen a frog nearby. We clearly hadn’t looked closely enough. Careful removal of a few rocks revealed a beautiful adult specimen. I’m no expert so was unable to determine its’ sex but it I’d like to think it was the female who laid the batch, keeping watch over her brood.
Tiny tadpole from pond
Keen to use this exciting development as a learning opportunity, we spent the afternoon reading every frog-related book in the house and downloading illustrations of their life cycle. Since then we’ve monitored our ‘babies’ regularly, observing the changes, drawing them and discussing their development. We took care to ensure the pond did not dry out during this critical period, topping it up regularly from our water butt. It was wonderful to witness the minute black specks growing larger and taking on the characteristic tadpole form before finally hatching out. Once this significant step had been taken I could be found, almost daily, leaning precariously over the water, ‘fishing’ for tadpoles.
Tiny little frog on leaf
Containing the tadpoles briefly in a jamjar allowed us to observe their growth, progressively losing the tail and sprouting legs. Our weeks of surveillance came to fruition when one ‘fishing trip’ caught more than anticipated. I’m not sure who was more surprised when a miniscule froglet leapt from a lilypad into the pond! Gently scooping up the tiny but perfectly formed amphibian, I presented it to my children, whose faces lit up with delight.
Baby frog on hand
I’m amazed how many have survived adulthood in such a tiny pool. It’s proof that even a small body of water can attract and support wildlife in the garden. I’m delighted we took the decision to retain our pond as it’s proved beneficial not only to the resident amphibians, but also to my family, who’ve gained great pleasure and knowledge from it. We anticipate more exciting experiences next spring, as the circle of life continues, and hopefully our little froglets return to spawn the next generation.

– Charlotte

Lessons from the Garden SleepOut

Amid the excitement and success of the National Garden SleepOut I was keen to use the event as an opportunity to educate my children regarding its purpose. In addition to being a fabulous excuse to have fun under canvas, the SleepOut raised awareness of important issues in the UK and abroad. Two charities were supported by the event and I spent some time discovering more about these causes and how they related to our own lives. I was keen to see what they could teach us and whether this changes the way we utilise and manage our garden.

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Strawberry Delight

Bountiful strawberry plants bearing fruit

Strawberry plants in blossomMy strawberry plants have produced a bumper crop this year: first treating me to a pretty display of blossoms, followed by masses of plump juicy fruit. The berries, however, never make it to the table, or even further than the patio for that matter! They disappear immediately upon ripening and it doesn’t take Inspector Clouseau to discover the culprits; the trails of red juice dribbling down my son’s chin are a dead giveaway.
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My New Veg Plot

Peas growing up a trellis

I awoke early the morning after my new veg plot was created. With just a little spousal assistance, a forgotten corner of the garden had been transformed into an accessible and useful space. With my vegetable seedlings bursting out of their pots I was eager to prepare for them a permanent home with room to spread their roots.

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Stormy Weather

Charlotte Working on the Trellis

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte