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Miranda Hodgson

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Finding treasure in the compost heap, spring ladybirds and early bees

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 05 Mar 2010 at 12:55 PM

With the key to the garden door now in my possession, I made my first proper foray into the garden this week. For some time before taking on this garden, I’d had my eye on the big compost heap against the north facing wall. Whilst it is hidden from the big house, I can see it from the kitchen window and have wondered for many months what it contains, so it was with a sense of both satisfaction and anticipation that I approached it, fork at the ready. The top layer was made up of grass cuttings and I dreaded finding a heap of smelly, anaerobic sludge, but underneath this top layer was a mix of grass cuttings and the prunings of perennial border plants and, much to my pleasure, a great many worms.

These are compost worms, of the Eisenia species, and they are busy breaking down the heap into usable compost, so their presence is very welcome; I hope to find some ready to use compost further down. On putting my fork to soil in the borders, I have my fingers crossed that I’ll find plenty of worms there too (these will be Lumbricus rubellus, which prefer to live in soil rather than compost heaps, pulling plant debris beneath the soil). There is certainly enough organic matter on the surface to keep them happy!

Walking along the long border and looking at the rather bedraggled remains of last year’s perennials, I spotted the first ladybirds of spring, warming themselves in the sun; they are very welcome too as they and their larvae will help to keep the garden clear of aphids.


Further down the garden, at the other end to our house, is a small weeping willow and this has been beautifully under-planted with winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) which are now in full flower. As I knelt to admire them, an early foraging honey bee landed in an open bloom to feed on the nectar and pollen. There are also many Primulas flowering in the garden now and they will add to the food stores of the bees.


So far, I’ve cut back the shrubs that birds might choose for nesting in the coming weeks, raked the magnolia leaves off the lawn and made a start on renovating the sad looking winter-damaged Ceanothus. The next job will be to get my fork in the soil and see what’s under it. I’m looking forward to finding out. 


EvaInNL said:

Congrats on this new piece of paradise Miranda! No more jumping out the bedroom window now? Shame, I liked that idea! :o)  

Never realized that there are different types of worms, makes sense of course, just never thought too much about it. It's good to see all the creepy crawlies again, means spring is in the air...

on 05 Mar 2010 at 02:14 PM

pushkin said:

First steps in what I'm sure will be a fascinating journey both for you and your readers.

The winter aconites are lovely.

on 05 Mar 2010 at 02:14 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, pushkin. I love winter aconites, they're such a lovely sight after a long winter.

Eva, I used the door once yesterday, but only because I had a key and wanted to try it out. Other than that, I went in and out through the window. Must have climbed through that window about six times yesterday! Hopefully, you'll soon be finding all those different worms on your new allotment!  

on 05 Mar 2010 at 02:54 PM

yvonne said:

I'm hoping to spot a ladybird or two when I finally make it out to the garden tomorrow.

Bad weather and ill health have stopped me from doing anything serious until now but the recent sunshine is tempting me out!

Mr dh found our first Red Admiral today. Unfortunately it was in s box of carboard destined for recycling. He fed it on some honey and it went out through the conservatory window. We weren't at all sure what to do with it - perhaps not letting the recycling sit long enough for things to hibernate would be a start. Any advice welcome, Miranda...

Hello, Pushkin - guess who this is! :-D

on 05 Mar 2010 at 04:53 PM

sue1002 said:

You're certainly going to have some fun with this garden Miranda.

I found some ladybirds in the garden this week when I was pruning the Buddleja bushes.  Any ladybirds that I found on the leaves, I carefully picked them off and put them on other leaves and plants around the garden.

on 05 Mar 2010 at 05:59 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Hello, Yvonne! when I find hibernating insects, I try to move them to somewhere similar and hope for the best. Sometimes they get eaten by mice, though. Hope it warms up for you to get outside soon!

Funny, isn't it, Sue. Once you become aware of all the insects, the garden becomes like a crowded room and you're stepping around all these little beings all the time. I'm glad you rescue your ladybirds too!

on 06 Mar 2010 at 11:32 AM

richardpeeej said:

Its good that you can now make a start of your new garden Miranda. I enjoy reading all the different information that you put in your blogs about what insects (and larger beasts!)that you have coming into your garden.

on 08 Mar 2010 at 02:34 PM

hyacinth said:

Hello, Yvonne here... Long and complicated story we won't bother with.

I've made a start, Miranda... bell peppers and chillies sown - two chillies about quarter of an inch long - sown on the 10.02. Second sowing of p[eppers and chillies also in the propogator. Have since sown herbs, salad leaves and sweet peas on conservatory window sills.

Also - found a ladybird up on the top staircase, have moved it to a houseplant. Do they eat thos little black flies?

on 10 Mar 2010 at 12:40 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thank Richard - I'm really looking forward to seeing the variety of wildlife in this new garden.

Hello Yvonne - good for you for getting your seeds started. Hope they do well for you! Ladybirds don't eat flies, but they will clear up any aphids they find. If the little black flies are on compost, they are probably sciarid flies and you might want to improve the drainage of the plants, as they like moist compost.

on 16 Mar 2010 at 11:58 AM

Why Should I Make A Compost Pile? said:

Pingback from  Why Should I Make A Compost Pile?

on 16 Mar 2010 at 10:34 PM

Amazon said:

Finding treasure in the compost heap, spring ladybirds and early bees - Miranda Hodgson

on 19 Nov 2014 at 05:59 PM