Sunday 28 August 2016


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When I was young I used to believe that the fungi rings left on lawns were where fairies lived and had magical properties.  I used to sit in them and make daisy chains and play. Now I realise that fairy rings are a fungal disease of turf caused by toadstools. 

The usual cause of fairy rings is buried organic debris, such as undergrounds rotting tree stumps or roots, and removing this organic matter will often eliminate the clump of toadstools. There are many types of toadstools which are capable of growing in a ring and some rings grow bigger each year.

Not all rings are created equal.  Some small rings may form that are small and do not require remedial action (class 1). However puffballs and mushrooms can produce bigger class 2 fairy rings which are recognised by the dark green grass at the edge of the ring, and these can be unsightly. 

The toadstool Marasmius oreades produces the largest class 3 fairy ring, and this is truly a problem. Two dark green rings are formed and the space between them is bare and moss ridden.  The ring may be small or it may cover the whole lawn, and control is always difficult.. 

The effect of fairy rings can be unsightly but they are difficult to eradicate unless the root cause of the ring (the buried organic matter) is removed.  In some instances masking of the dark green rings can be achieved through the use of lawn feeds containing iron sulphate, which greens up the remainder of the lawn to help blend the ring into the surrounding areas. 

Systemic fungicides chemicals such as Panama contain Azoxystrobin which can help to eliminate type 2 fairy rings from turf. The real answer is to remove the ring, turf and topsoil to a width and depth of 30 cm and replace with fresh soil and turf.

Prevention is better than cure, so remove all pieces of wood from the soil before making a lawn and keep it vigorous by following the correct lawn care techniques.

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Saturday 20 August 2016


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Kids love searching for bugs and insects, and George is no exception!  We have built an insect hotel at the end of our garden to encourage the bugs to stay.  It was great fun to make and we used up lots of old canes, pine cones and sticks.  We love it and its looks great, but more importantly the bugs have a lovely new habitat in our garden to enjoy.

Now is a great time to start making insect houses as autumn is approaching and the bugs will require somewhere to hibernate for the winter.  You can use lots of items for your insect hotel - there are no rules - just recycle items and place them together in a decorative fashion.  

Dead bark will attract spiders, beetles, woodlice and centipedes as well as supporting fungi. Stones and tiles provide a cool habitat for frogs and newts and are ideal in the lowest part of the hotel. Hollow canes and drilled holes in a sunny position provide an ideal spot for solitary bees to lay their eggs. Hay and straw provides an ideal medium for insect to burrow.  Dry leaves provide a home for insects and will attract overwintering ladybirds. Corrugated cardboard rolled up inside a plastic bottle will attract lace wings.

You could use a variety of materials including:
  • pine cones
  • sticks
  • leaves
  • bamboo canes
  • wooden pallets
  • turf
  • bark
  • straw 
  • bark
  • plastic bottles
  • bricks
  • tiles
  • stone chippings
  • corrugated cardboard
  • drainpipes
Assemble a solid (wooden) frame for your insect house. separate the hotels into individual compartments and infill with the material above to make a decorative and functional house.

Ensure your insect house has a firm base as the weight of the house can be quite heavy.  You may wish to add legs to raise the house off the ground, or you may wish to suspend the house from a tree or fix to a wall instead.  It is important that you position your insect house in a cool, moist position such as by a hedge, shed or tree that will not get disturbed during the winter.

Have fun!

Bat boxes
How to make an insect house
Hummingbird hawk moth

Tuesday 9 August 2016


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:   Arthropoda
Class:      Insecta
Order:      Lepidoptera
Family:     Sphingidae
Genus:     Macroglossum

The Hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum Stellatarum) is a welcome visitor to the UK during the summer, flying in from Europe and North Africa. 

As the name suggests, this moth resembles a humming bird as it hovers to feed from flowers with its long, curved proboscis. Its distinctive 'humming bird' sound of its wings will give its presence away. The wings beat so rapidly that they produce an audible hum and can be seen only as a haze. 

Hummingbird hawk moths feed on nectar from flowering plants such as honeysuckle and buddleia.  Unusually for a moth it is active in daylight as well as after dark.

The moths have grey-brown forewings and orange hindwings and a large adult wingspan that can be up to 5 cm diameter. The body is brown and there are obvious white spots on the sides of  the black tail. 

The caterpillars are green with white speckles and two stripes along its back, and a yellow tipped horn on its tail. 

Thursday 4 August 2016


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Ash trees in the UK are suffering from a disease called Ash Dieback (Chalara Fraxinus).
This disease is killing many Ash trees and is concerning everyone as it is spreading across Britain.

The disease was first noted in 2012 in Buckinghamshire and is spreading across the country westwards.  Young trees seem particularly vulnerable to this disease and evidence from continental Europe suggests that older, mature ash trees can survive infection and continue to provide their landscape and wildlife benefits for some time.

The best hope for the long-term future of Britain's ash trees lies in identifying the genetic factors which enable some ash trees to tolerate or resist infection, and using these to breed new generations of tolerant ash trees for the future. 


Chalara or ash dieback is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxinea.  Chalara causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in affected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly, or indirectly by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens, especially Armillaria fungi, or honey fungus.

Diseased saplings typically display dead tops and/or side shoots. At the base of the dead shoots lesions can often be found on the subtending branch or stem.  Lesions which girdle the branch or stem can cause wilting of the foliage above.

Mature trees affected by the disease initially show dieback of the shoots or twigs at edge of the crown. Dense clumps of foliage may be seen further back on the branches where recovery shoots are produced.  In late summer and early autumn fruiting bodies of Hymenoscyphus can be found on the blackened leave stalks in the damp leaf litter beneath the trees.