How gardening can make you feel free

Today is World Mental Health Day and there’s stacks of info out there about the benefits gardening can have on your wellbeing.

I wrote this blog a while ago, about how gardening makes me feel free and how it has helped me, when I’m feeling stressed and worried about stuff and it’s just as relevant today.

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Buzzin’ to bee involved in BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge

Tomorrow, (20.08.21) BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge Garden is launched and I’m proper buzzin’ to have been involved. Bees are so important in our gardens, for pollination – flowers, plants, fruit and veg all need them – they are an essential part of our eco-system! 

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I’m not the only one fond of a pond!

I had a great reaction to last week’s post about my ‘passion for ponds’ and received lots of questions about plants, especially those that attract wildlife. If you build a good habitat for wildlife, you’ll not be the only one ‘fond of a pond’!

Pond Plants

I’m going to start off with listing some of the pond plants we have – we’ve bought some of these from garden centres and last year we found a really reasonable supplier online; it’s definitely worth shopping around and doing your research:

  • marsh marigold – good for pollinators
  • iris – great for emerging dragonflies to climb up, so they can take off from a height
  • oxygenators – help to oxygenate the water (we haven’t got a filter system in our pond, we just rely on mother nature to keep it clean)
  • purple loosestrife – another great native plant
  • greater spearwort – just to note greater spearwort and flag iris are a bit of a beast and can be out of control in no time

We’re on the hunt for a white pond lily this year, for the new pond and also some water forget-me-nots

Pond Life

A quick dip in our pond reveals the smallest organism, water fleas, which are the start of the food chain, there’s also mosquito larvae and pond snails which eat algae. There’s the predators of the pond, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and tadpoles & frogs. There’s also the visitors to the pond such as birds, who bathe and drink there and we had a fox visit once.

Dragonflies

Dragonflies in particular are such beautiful insects, they fly so fast, but when you get to see them up close, you can see the intricate patterns on their wings, like stained glass windows. With their beautiful jewel like body and big black eyes, it’s hard to believe that they’re really a vicious predator. It’s incredible how they live most of their life in ponds as carnivores, so well adapted and the way they change like something out of Dr Who, when they shed their skin and metamorphosis right before your eyes.

The pond became my classroom during lockdown (spring – summer 2020); I was incredibly lucky to watch 40+ red damselflies emerge from our pond. What a privilege to see them transform and fly off and better still, we witnessed them mating a couple of weeks later, ensuring the next generation of damselflies. We also counted eight broad bodied chasers transform too, they completely dwarfed the damselflies. It took nearly 3 hours for them to transform and fly off, it was absolutely fascinating. I managed to capture one of the broad bodied chasers emerging – here’s 3hrs of footage shrunk to 3mins with a bit of Frank Sinatra thrown in !

We’ve had blue-tailed damselflies and darters visit; fingers crossed they’ll make their home in our pond too.

As we move into winter there’s not much action on the surface, but life beneath still thrives. We continually remove leaves from our pond and as we move into the thick of winter, our ponds freeze over. We break a hole in a shallow spot just near the beach bit, to allow wildlife access to water. Just take care though, as you don’t want to shock the life below!

This blog is based on an article I wrote for The British Dragonfly Society

Next blog….

My new found passion for The Pennines

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My passion for ponds

It’s a while since I wrote my last post, so I thought I’d kickstart the year with a positive post about my ‘passion for ponds’.

Having 3 in our garden makes me feel quite the pro 😉

A little bit about our garden

Our garden at home was originally on a steep slope, we then converted it to 3 more accessible levels. Dad started the landscaping from scratch when I was really young, it wasn’t quite a blank canvas, more an overgrown mess! Amongst many gardens we visited, a trip to a café at Monsal Head, Derbyshire inspired the stepped planting levels, that would suit our garden, rather than a traditional grass garden, surrounded by a border. I’ve always liked water, it’s that simple, the pond was going to be the last thing Dad intended to do, but because I love ponds so much, I managed to talk him into it being one of the first things we did!

Pond build 2013

Pond number 1

We started pond number one (there are 3!) back in 2013. Digging it out was a real nightmare; the ground below was full of debris, rubble, glass, and deep-set roots. We used a formed pond at this stage, because of the ground below and at that point it was going to be the only pond we would create – WRONG! We were thrilled with the outcome, pretty soon water beetles were settling in and making it their home and there were already frogs hopping round the garden.

Pond number 2

Within no time, we started to think about another pond, shaped around the first one, creating a reed and beach area, with more plants to create an even more diverse habitat. Originally, it was going to be 3 buckets with some plants in. It just shows, you can get a bit carried away with ponds and no sooner had we finished that, we already had thoughts of a third!

Pond number 3

Pond number 3 isn’t quite finished – this will be deeper still. In fact, we started digging it out on the first weekend of lockdown, March 2020. Like most things in our garden, there’s always something else to do, before you can carry on with the actual job!

Here’s a tip:

If you’re going to create a pond, just have a think about the surrounding area, for example, completion of an area that you won’t be able to reach, once the pond’s established.

George Hassall 2021 🙂

Ponds don’t have to be grand affairs, you can literally ‘dig a hole and bury a bowl’. Take a look at the mini pond I created for my one-year old neighbour, Gabriel.

I’d recommend creating a pond, whatever size, as they are a great thing to look at and wildlife will pretty much move in, within the first few days. On a sunny day, when the water’s clear and the sun is shining on it, just sit by and look at the wildlife, there’s just nothing better.

This is a family post, taken from an article we wrote for The British Dragonfly Society: Summer 2020

Coming soon……….Flora & fauna in my pond

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My Frog Blog – how tadpoles saved me from going crazy during lockdown!

Whist Covid has wreaked havoc on the world, wildlife has bounced back and people have turned to nature for relaxation and freedom. Whether it was listening to a blackbird or watching butterflies flying over wildflowers, people have took comfort in nature and want to protect it.

When I’m older and telling people of my time during the pandemic, part of my Covid story will be about tadpoles; of our pond and how we spent hours watching them grow from their jelly-like substance floating on the top of the water, to their epic exploration as they climbed out of the pond and hopped on to their next journey.

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Lockdown life – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Despite posting a lot of content on my social media sites, I’ve realised I haven’t updated my blog during the whole 12 week lockdown period, mainly because I’ve been really busy with online schoolwork and filming for various gardening & wildlife conservation groups.

For everyone, all over the world, it’s certainly been a strange time; there’s definitely been some good, bad and ugly times!

The Good – I’ve gone on plenty of hill walks with Buddy and done loads of gardening, which has meant, I feel really fit. The Bad – not going on holiday to The Cairngorms; I was so excited when we were planning it, and it was pretty tough to have to cancel. And The Ugly – I’ve easy polished off 15+ boxes of Jaffa Cakes (bit of a contradiction to feeling healthy, see above!) Continue reading

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Why growing your own fruit and veg couldn’t be more important

Growing your own fruit and veg is so satisfying, it tastes great, it helps the climate by reducing our carbon footprint and now with the threat of self-isolation from coronavirus, being self-sufficient couldn’t be more important.

Here’s a few tips that might inspire you to grow your own.

(revised post from March 2019)

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Shelter from the storm

It’s a very quick blog today, with a February update from my garden. I didn’t really intend to write a blog this week, but seeing as Storm Ciara has ripped through the garden, it’s made even the hardest of outdoor fans, stay in and find other things to do instead.

The storm also gave me the chance to do some ‘normal teenager’ stuff, as I’ve been to the cinema with my mate, Hannah.

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Photographing the wonderful wildlife of the Peak District

On Christmas Day, my Mum gave us all an ‘extra present’; a Dave Goulson book, ‘The Garden Jungle’ for me and Dad to share, musical theatre tickets for me and Grandma and a photography course for me and Mum to do together, which we did in the Peak District this Saturday.

Mum booked the photography course with trainer, Guy Badham; she’d already been on a workshop with him 4 years ago and took the famous ‘heron scoffing a huge trout‘ shot (January Blog 2016).

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Get your binoculars ready, it’s time for the #BigGardenBirdWatch

Last year, the RSPB asked me to help them with their Big Garden Birdwatch advertising campaign and the event is back on again this weekend, starting tomorrow 25th – 27th Jan

The TV ad has been on our screens since Boxing Day and there’s a vid on YouTube too; I feel really honoured to be part of it.

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