By Walter Titties
Spring has sprung its last and summer has crept upon us like a sweet pea growing up a trellis. It is the time of year when flowers bloom and turn to fruits, butterflies flitter about in existential panic, picnics appear in parks, cricket on the village green, children dancing in the summer sunshine and absolutely none of that happens because it’s raining all the time.
Yes, the Great British summer is a fickle entity, often denying its warmth and bounty to punish us mercilessly for having dared to whisper that it was, perhaps, only a little too hot. But, Walter pushes on and so in the spirit of the season I am going to give you my top gardening and wildlife tips for the summer.
Don’t trim your stinging nettles
A British hedgerow favourite and the single most effective defence against spontaneous raves and festivals happening in your garden, most people perceive nettles as a menace. It’s because they are. They are covered in microscopic silicate spines and are repulsively venomous, causing a raised rash, an itching sensation and a desire to run away at great speed – Like Katie Hopkins. However, they brew into a marvellous tea, have stunning blossoms and have an amazing microecology. Nettles are for arthropods what Starbucks are for flip-flop wearing man-bun enthusiasts. Those bugs are going to encourage birds and small mammals. So by all means if you are overrun, have a trim, but leave a small patch of nettles if you want to encourage wildlife in your garden.
Plant plenty of edibles
When idiots eventually crash our economy again, and supermarkets go up in flames or riots, the gardener with their own potatoes is king. There can be little denying this country has gone to pot, and so should you, to plant some staples. Potatoes are easily grown, and you can load them into deep tubs if you don’t have beds to put them in. Likewise for Strawberries that are a delicious distraction from people rioting to steal bread for their starving children. Courgettes can flourish in abundance and if you have the room an apple tree or plum tree will keep you in fruit from late-summer to early winter no problems. When the apocalypse comes, trust me, you’ll thank me.
Don’t attempt a summer garden design based upon the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
For one thing, the Babylonians don’t like it. Had one chap, very curly beard, accuse me of cultural appropriation. For another thing, my design fell on a child. He can’t walk now. Sometimes too much ambition is a bad thing in gardening. Keep it simple.
Keep an eye out for birds
Try as they might, right-wing politicians and xenophobic fools have not found a way to stop a certain kind of migration – the migration of birds. Every year Great Britain plays host to untold species of avian who escape climes elsewhere to toil on our rich soil. There are also the Great British mainstays. Here are some of my favourites;
Osborne’s Amassive Bustard
We discussed this one in my spring roundup, and it is still around. This tiny clumsy bumbling pillock of a bird has a call that sounds distinctly like a doll-faced incompetent saying “House Prices” and is simply a joy to hear amongst a cacophony of twits, tweets, chirrups and chatter. They tend to leave our shores by about mid-summer, so they can claim non-dom status and get massive tax-breaks.
An insignificant little brown job, given far more attention than it deserves for two reasons; One, the curious epigenetic phenotype of a crest on the matriarch or patriarch’s head and two, severe inbreeding depression. The crested monarch bird found its way to Britain via Germany, but the journey on the way was full of weird familial structures and inbreeding. Their populations are tiny, yet they seem to have so much power over ornithological lobbying groups that it is difficult to convince the ecologists that they are not worth saving. Still an interesting sight if you can catch a glimpse but they are not worth searching out.
The Evael, first discovered by Sebastien Etov, a Polish-German naturalist, is an intriguing specimen indeed. Originating from Africa, it is highly territorial. Despite having only colonised Britain recently in evolutionary history, it claims this land as its own, refuses to leave to experience things elsewhere and insists every other bird coming in has no right to be here. It has been slowly driving away many other migratory birds who are now isolated to the Channel Islands, the Scottish Isles and even head over to more welcoming countries like Sweden or Germany. To see them battling their competitors is to watch savage nature at its finest.
A recently discovered visitor to Britain’s shores, believed to have migrated all the way from the United States, their populations seem to rise exponentially around the time of big elections or referenda, seemingly in correlation with the number of impossible promises. Keep your eyes peeled and submit all sightings to the RSPB so that we may learn more about these new and exciting visitors.
And my final tip;
A garden untended at least has a use as a habitat for the wild and free. A tended garden unenjoyed, however, is simply a waste of time. Whilst one can appreciate a tended garden from a distance, getting amongst the lawns and beds are where it is at. Enjoy the smells, the sounds, the turning over of rocks to see the bustling metropolis beneath, the sun kissing your face as you hear Osborne’s Bustard say “house prices…” in the distance. Maybe take some of your own, homegrown fruit, sit with a knife and cut it up and eat it as the sun goes down on your patch of land. There is, in my opinion, no nobler act than to till the Earth and toil a day away working up a sweat and a farmer’s tan. To gaze upon that work in rest is man’s right.