The Colour of Spring is ................... Yellow

 Towards the end of March, I was returning from a trip to the postbox at the Railway Station when I came across this 'carpet' of lesser celandine along the Great Western Way foot/cycle path.

William Wordsworth wrote three poems about this humble perennial of the buttercup family which is one of the first woodland flowers to appear in Spring. Fun fact: one of its local names is 'Pilewort' because it was used for the treatment of haemorrhoids. In most gardens it is a bit of a pest and quite difficult to get rid of; my neighbour has tried both vinegar-based weedkillers and a heat gun weeder but they always come back. There are patches dotted around my garden but I think you just have to enjoy them while in bloom and they are easy enough to pull up and add to the compost bin.

Anyway, getting back to my walk, it got me thinking why is the colour yellow so dominant in Spring flowers? Within a few yards of this patch of lesser celandines were jasmine, dandelions, mahonia and Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica):

Not forgetting the tulips, daffodils, primroses, cowslips, etc, etc.

Flowers need pollinators so presumably yellow is peculiarly and particularly attractive to the most abundant pollinators at this time of year which tend to be flies rather than bees. The fact that sticky fly strips/traps are usually yellow supports this hypothesis. However, I didn't think yellow vision was especially strong in insects as they tend to see the higher frequencies (lower wavelengths) of the spectrum up to and including ultraviolet.

A study in 2009 reported darker colours (reds and blues) absorb UV better than yellow so perhaps yellow flowers provide the best contrast, in the lower light conditions of Spring, with the important parts of the flower's reproductive system (pistil and stamen).

Any other suggestions welcome. 

Emptying a Neighbour's Plastic Compost Bin

 Our next-but-one neighbours are on the move and asked if I could empty their plastic compost-bin. They wanted to take the bin with them but did not want the hassle of bagging up the contents and transporting them to their new home. The compost-bin was a standard recycled plastic unit often sold through local authorities.

The bin was about 15 years old and in good nick apart from a bit of damage around the upper rim. Only kitchen scraps/peelings had been added along with some paper/card/egg boxes. Finished compost was extracted from the hatch at the bottom to make space for more kitchen scraps at the top. I have used these bins in the past and found them OK, if not brilliant, although I was filling my bins with a mixture of kitchen and garden waste.

The base of the bin was well-bedded into the surrounding soil and it didn't look like the hatch had been opened in a while. On removing the lid, I found a 'family' of leopard slugs (aka great grey slugs) clinging to the lid which I carefully put to one side.

The top 10 centimetres of the compost heap was full of worms and fresh kitchen waste. I scooped this up and transferred it to my active HotBin© while rescuing as many worms as I could.

The layer below was remarkably compost-like but with quite a bit of still-identifiable organic matter such as Avocado skins and egg shells along with teabags and 'compostable' bin liners. Bits of plastic (e.g. garden centre plant labels), paper (labels?) and pottery (plant pot crocks?) were found throughout the heap. The bottom half of the bin was predominantly good quality homemade compost with egg shells and the occasional unidentified object. A teaspoon and a fork were also recovered and returned to the owner.

After sieving all but the top 10 centimetres to separate the usable compost from partially-composted or non-compostable material, the former was bagged up for garden use and the latter disposed of via general waste.


 and waste residue:

The yield of good-quality compost was around 300 L and the waste was about 80 L. All this from a 330 L compost-bin! Note, in the picture below, one bag of sieved compost has already been returned to my neighbour as a thank you.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and quantity of usable compost extracted from the bin. By feeding what is essentially a large wormery with easily compostable kitchen scraps, this cold-composting process works well. I asked my neighbour how old she thought the oldest compost (at the bottom) was and she guessed a year. I suspect it is much older than that, probably 2 to 3 years old at least. Assuming a two-person household produces about 6 litres of kitchen waste per week then it would take a full year to fill the 330 L bin without any decomposition and compaction. However, there is a 5- to 10-fold volume reduction due to the composting process which could make parts of this particular compost heap over 5 years old.

The compost is already being used to give my chitted seed potatoes and onion sets a good start, for top dressing outside flower pots and preparing potting compost by adding coir and/or perlite.

In Praise of Tulips

 According to Wikipedia, tulips form a genus of spring-blooming perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes though I'm not sure that description gives them the credit they deserve!

Wild tulips are found over large parts of Central Asia in temperate mountainous regions. Most people will be more familiar with the hybrids and cultivars found in the gardens and parks of Europe and, perhaps, tulip mania in the 17th Century.

Tulips bring a real splash of colour and vibrancy to any garden from mid-March to the end of April. They can be a bit showy for some but who could not fail to be cheered by seeing these magnificent blooms on display.

If you prefer something a little more delicate...

Enjoy the colours...

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