Badger cull called off in Gloucestershire

Great news that the Badger Cull Pilot is to end earlier than planned after Natural England revokes the licence over failure to meet greatly reduced targets

The Guardian has reported that
The controversial badger cull in Gloucestershire is being abandoned after marksmen failed to kill enough animals to meet even drastically reduced targets, the Guardian can reveal.

The collapse of the culling trial represents a humiliation for the government's policy as it means every target set has now been missed.

Natural England (NE) will revoke the culling licence and the cull will end at noon on Saturday, three weeks earlier than planned. The cull, intended to help curb tuberculosis in cattle, was initially tasked with killing 70% of all badgers in the area in a maximum of six weeks.

But just 30% were killed in that time, leading to an eight-week extension that was granted against the advice of the lead scientist on NE's board. A revised target of 58% was set but shooters have failed to kill enough badgers on any night and several night saw no kills at all. The extended cull was due to end on 18 December.

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said previously he wanted to roll out the culls across the country, but will have to wait for the verdict of an independent panel of experts. The panel – which will judge whether the culls have been effective, safe and humane – said it would only consider the initial six-week periods of shooting in Gloucestershire and the other pilot cull in Somerset. Both areas failed to meet the target of killing 70% of badgers in the six weeks.

The pilot culls were testing whether shooting free-running badgers at night could kill sufficient numbers of the animal to reduce TB in cattle herds. An earlier, decade-long trial found that culling could after four years curb TB infections by about 16%, but it used the more expensive method of trapping the badgers in cages before shooting them. Those culls were also carried out quickly – within eight to 11 days – and experts have warned repeatedly that the much longer and less effective current pilots risk actually increasing TB, as fleeing badgers spread the disease more widely.
Fantastic news that this crazy attempt to control the badgers has finally been stopped.

Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

Located close to Gatwick Airport is the fantastic Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden. The  stunning selection of sculptures chosen by owner-curator, Hannah Peschar, is extremely wide and varied with styles varying from figurative to highly abstract. The various sculptures use an  innovative selection of contemporary materials ranging from metals, wire, glass, ceramics and plastics as well as the more traditional stone, wood and bronze.

The grounds are simply fantastic, we visited in the Spring, I would imagine the autumn colours would also compliment the sculptures beautifully as well.
A large giant head lies amongst the undergrowth.
See through fungi on an old tree stump

Another large head, this one resembles part of an old giant statue. Fabulous colour in the woods.

Each sculpture is placed in the landscape with a carefully considered and meaningful relationship with the other featured works within the garden, which was created by the award-winning landscape designer  Anthony Paul. The overall result is an beautifully inspired combination of peaceful, enclosed harmony and dramatic, surprise vistas in an ever-changing environment.Whether you are fan of sculpture of just beautiful landscapes there is something for everyone.

If you are staying over then the Holiday Inn at Gatwick is conveniently located.

For more information and opening details check out their website


Planting Fruit Trees in Winter

If you’ve never experienced the sheer unbounded joy of casually picking some apples or plums from your own fruit tree and then sharing them with friends and family then you’re missing out on an unique experience.
Apple, pear and Victoria plum trees are all ideal fruit trees to plant in your garden. Not only will they enhance its natural beauty but they will also provide you with the most organic and natural fruit money can’t buy. The fruit is delicious in itself and can also be used to make delicious ciders, wines, moonshine, chutneys, preserves and jams. But it’s important to note that to ensure a healthy tree and productive harvest, it’s always best to plant certain fruit trees in Winter.

What Type of Fruit Trees are Suitable for Planting in Winter? 
Deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear trees and Victoria plum tree should always be planted in Winter, as opposed to evergreen fruit trees such as Olive and Loquat which are hardy but best planted in the spring or more tender trees such as lemons which should be overwintered in a cool conservatory. Deciduous fruit trees have evolved in a temperate climate and require exposure to the cold of Winter in order to produce fruit and flowers. This is known as the minimum chill requirement. The growth buds of these particular trees do not blossom properly until they experience a full winter.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree in Winter 
Fruit trees are in their dormant stage in late Autumn and early winters, so this is the best time for planting. Always soak the roots thoroughly and avoid placing in the ground if there’s a frost because the soil needs to be moist. Place your fruit tree in a position in you garden which benefits from both sun and shelter. When it comes to digging a hole ensure it is a third wider than the tree’s roots and the same depth. Insert a stake to support the tree and fill the hole with soil. Water the ground well, but only well enough to keep it moist. You do not want to drown the tree’s roots.

Things to be Weary of When planting fruit trees in winter 
To maximise the amount of fruit they yield almost all deciduous fruit trees require careful and regular pruning. It’s also a good idea to apply a grease band to the trunk of your tree at least 18 inches above soil level to protect it from moths and other insects who will eat its leaves and fruit. The application of fertilizer, organic or chemical, is a personal preference but it can give the fruit tree just the boost it needs to start bearing the sort of fruit that will make you the talk of the town.

This article was first published last year.

Win £50 National Garden Voucher

This month we have been offered a £50 National Garden Voucher for one lucky reader to win. With access to over 2,000 leading garden centres, make sure your kitted out this Autumn! Choose from over 90,000 garden and leisure products – this is the perfect give away for any garden lover. You don’t need to be an experts to appreciate this offer – Enter now for your chance to win!
To enter simply tell us what you would spend your voucher on.
Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 30 November 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.Entries can be made as "anonymous" on the blog but if you don't leave a Twitter name or other way to contact you then those will not be counted.

Japanese Week at RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley are running a special Japanese themed week this week, with exhibits of local childrens art as well as displays of woodblock printing and also displays of Chrysanthemum and Acer in the Glasshouse. Tomorrow and Friday also includes bonsai experts from the Sutton Bonsai society.

For more information see the RHS website.

Save Money and The Environment

At the moment the cost of energy is very much in people’s minds with lots of news coverage as to prices increasing from the major energy companies. However have you looked at what you personally are spending and what steps you can do to reduce your own energy use. After all saving energy saves you money and helps the environment at the same time.

When you look into what you use there is a surprisingly large amount of the energy that you are paying for that is going completely to waste. Instead of heating your home, keeping you clean, charging your mobile phone or washing your clothes, huge amounts of gas, electricity and water are being lost and are of no benefit to you or your family.

There is a risk that by wasting energy that you are paying for that for many in this county they have to cut back elsewhere, and with the general cost of living increasing as well this can be difficult for many, which leads invariably to making sacrifices.

Fortunately if you have never looked at your energy use before it is actually surprisingly easy to make changes and therefore you won’t need to make many of those sacrifices any more. Identifying energy waste puts money back in your pocket without compromising on your home comforts and general quality of life, as well as giving you some peace of mind in knowing that you are doing your bit for the planet.

Luckily, energy providers E.ON are here to help you save energy with their Saving Energy Toolkit.  This targets energy waste in the home by identifying particular faults in your property.

There are many features of the toolkit – from charts and graphs that track your energy expenditure over a given period or analyse what areas you use the most energy on to a comparison tool that allows E.ON customers to see how their performance rates in relation to similar households in their local area – so you’re sure to find ways to cut energy usage.

The whole purpose is to encourage households to only use as much energy as they need and that’s why these great features are combined with plenty of hints and tips on how to reduce energy consumption.

How will it do that?

Many customers may well be entitled to have an expert visit them at home – someone with the knowledge and understanding of how your home should be performing in terms of its energy use. This is important as not every home is the same, for instance a house with solid walls will have different options available to a home with cavity walls.

They will be able to spot ways in which you can cut back on your consumption and subsequently your costs.

You could also be eligible for a range of discounts and special deals, or perhaps a smart meter, which provide more accurate readings and ensure that you do not overpay on your bills.

If not, you can gain access to a multitude of helpful tips to help you to target ways in which you can improve energy efficiency. These aren't complicated things – just easy to follow, simple and practical bits of advice that will help you to run a happier home.

By following the advice on reducing your wasted energy you can actually reduce how much you use without having to cut down on comfort levels, there is no need to be cold this winter to save money. Cutting waste is also not just a one off thing, by making your home more efficient you will save year after year!

What to grow in November

Although the weather is still reasonably mild, and lots of trees are still hanging on to their leaves, there are plenty of signs that winter is on its way now. The days are getting shorter and after the clock went back last weekend its dark in the evening too. Frosts will soon be a regular visitor... so it is easy to relax and imagine that there is little to grow at this time of year. Think again! There's actually lots of preparation and plants to get started in November. So what vegetables can be grown in November in the UK? 

Of course it is possible to start your garlic in the the Spring with some varieties being perfectly happy being planted in early spring, November is by far the best time. Garlic really does need a good dose of frost as this cold will encourage the bulbs to split into cloves. And whilst planting them you can think back to the sunnier times in June and July when you were harvesting them. 

For a guide to growing garlic, check out our handy guide on how to grow garlic. 

Onions & shallots
By now we are just about as late as we can go for planting onions or shallot sets in before Winter really gets going. Personally my favourites are the Japanese Sensyhu onions as these are nice and hardy as well as being pretty easy to raise (a perfect combination). 

Broad Beans 
Usually the advice is to sow your broad beans late Winter to Spring between February and May, so why would we be advising growing them in November? The reason is to extend the growing and therefore the cropping season. If one just relies on your Spring sowings then you would expect to be harvesting your produce between July and August. However by having an Autumn sowing as well you'll then be able to have an additional crop in June as well.

Exactly the same idea as with your broad beans, start some early and crop earlier as well potentially up to 6 weeks earlier.

Whatever you choose to grow enjoy it and keep warm!
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