By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The green shoots of recovery have started to show, at least in the Wildlife Garden. Broad beans are up, as are module-planted seeds of aubergines, tomatoes, tomatillos, chillies (from mild to habañero) and sweet peppers. Snake’s head fritillaries, Crown Imperial lilies and chives bring spring green colour and buds appear on the shrubs. The Wildlife Pond is bubbling with big amphibians making little amphibians. Throaty males serenade bewildered females in Barry White bass tones before leaping on them. I counted at least twenty frogs, singly or in pairs, coyly plopping down under the surface whenever I approached, and many little common newts trundling around in the sunken leaves.
But with green shoots come the weeds too. Looks like the wretched blanket weed and duckweed I pulled out of the pond last November is growing back again. It practically choked it last year, and any attempt to fish it before autumn hauled up so many pond snails, dragonfly larvae and tadpoles that I put it all back in again. I have a dilemma. The pond is full of breeding amphibians, but they haven’t yet laid more than three clutches of frogspawn. Once that hatches, the weed will be full of tadpoles and a massacre will ensue if I pull it out then. I don’t really want to disturb them, but their offspring have more chance of thriving if I control the blanket weed. Would a grappling hook and a net put the frogs off their stroke? It would me. I made the decision to remove the weed very gently and carefully. Most frogs dived, one just drifted around the hook, burping forlornly. Was he brave or stupid? Anyhow, weed removed, and the pond seethes again so I don’t think I’ve done any lasting damage. Another weedy irritation is couch grass in the veg patch.
Couch grass is a Pokémon plant: any broken piece produces more couch grass in another place, so you gotta get’em all. I tried the carpet weed suppressant trick last autumn:
and was pleasantly surprised to find it worked. All the couch grass roots were just under the carpet, traceable and easily pulled out:
Unfortunately, in pulling up the carpet I unwittingly disturbed a field mouse. It had made a beautiful warm dried-leafy home under the carpet, against the wooden shuttering, with a plastic flower pot at one end and an exit at the other. Surely a band G mouse house.
As it leaped away into the hedge, I felt a bit guilty. I checked the nest to see if there were any babies (none). Then I thought about all the newly-sown peas, beans and sweetcorn it would dig up, and stopped feeling guilty. So that’s my tale of weeds and shoots in the Wildlife Garden. And leaves? That’s the mouse.