I spent most of the afternoon in the garden today. I planted out some squash plants from some friends and picked some strawberries, but mostly took it easy and watched the wildlife. Yesterday at dusk I spotted a scarlet tiger moth (Callimorpha dominula) that landed in some flowers. I was pretty excited because I had seen its caterpillars in the garden earlier in the year. It was still in the garden this morning and was docile enough to pick up carefully. Later in the afternoon I saw it again close to where I first saw the caterpillars of the same species back in April. Shortly after I saw three of them flying together in a dance around each other. They are striking when inflight with their red wings, looking very different from the dark blue wings that are visible when they land.
As if having three brightly coloured day moths in the garden wasn't enough I also spotted a small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) on one of the flowers.
I also spotted a new caterpillar on the hawthorn tree. It was quite colourful and I think it is a Knotgrass moth (Acronicta rumicis).
On a smaller scale I found a small cricket-like bug with stripey legs and antennae crawling about on a leaf. Not sure what it is - anyone know?
I planted out a few seedlings recently to fill in a patch of ground behind the sour cherry tree. I had grown some salisfy, scorzorena, sorrel, peppermint, fennel, welsh onions and lovage. I also put in an alpine strawberry from the garden centre. The weather has been a bit cold and wet since I planted them and as usual the slugs and snails have been having a go at some of them. So far both fennel plants have bitten the dust, but the others are hanging in there. I set up my timelapse camera and caught some of the marauding molluscs in action. There were definitely a lot of slugs and some snails passing through, but for the most part they left the seedlings alone, apart from the unlucky fennel!
Spring has been a time of anticipation in the garden. There have been lots of signs of promise, but little that's ready to harvest. The rhubarb plants have been the mainstay so far delivering four good crops, with plenty more left. There have been a few other small harvests - lots of herbs, salads and sorrel, but nothing substantial. There are some plants that will fill this gap in future years. I've put in two rows of asparagus plants and last weekend planted some Soloman's seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) whose shoots are ready in the spring. There should be more perennial veg as well by next year that will provide more greens at this time of year. I will probably grow some potatoes to supplement the perennial crops as well. I've got three lots in planters this year and they are growing well.
Anyway, this week has seen the first fruits ripen in the garden. We've had a handful of strawberries from the plants put in last year. We've hardly let them ripen, but they are still delicious. There are lots more on the plants and so far the slugs and snails haven't had any. They are mulched with bark chippings at the moment and that seems to do the trick.
There are a few other plants that are looking as though they are nearly ready. The gooseberries are swelling up and the blueberries too. The tayberry has lots of fruit and the raspberries are starting to appear. There are hundreds of green sour cherries waiting to ripen and a handful of sweet cherries - although some of these have shrivelled up and gone brown, maybe because I haven't watered the tree much?
There are still lots of bees in the garden and there seems to be a steady succession of flowers for them to feed on (more by luck than judgement). Also, there are still lots of small moths on the mints. In the mulch the spiders are busy and I've seen two nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) carrying their egg sacs underneath them. I got a nice surprise too when I saw a large frog hiding under one of the hazel trees. He was some way from the small pond in the garden in a spot with some really dense vegetation. I hope he's working on the slugs.