Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Food Issues: Organic friends

We’re passionate about organic agriculture. We pay for organic food, we volunteer to help grow it and we rant about how more people should have the option of good affordable organic grub. There are many reasons we prefer organic food and think it’s the best way to feed people. This one we’ve been paying close attention to recently. Stephen has been tracking the insects and uninvited plants that have ended up on our balcony. — Clare

When your garden is on a balcony three floors up, you don’t expect to see much wildlife. There’ll be no foxes, badgers, or hedgehogs — to make it here you have to crawl or fly. The sheer range of creatures that have done so has taken us by surprise, and this post details a few of them.

Probably the oddest visitors were two leeches (pictured right), seen a year apart, crawling across the glass of the balcony doors during wet weather. How they made it here is a mystery.

The most surprising visitors, at least in terms of making us jump, are the birds — you just don’t expect to look towards the balcony and see a large bird on it. For a short time we made a concerted effort to attract birds, using feeders that stuck to the balcony glass. Unfortunately the only bird they ever attracted was a magpie — and while I like magpies, I was really hoping for a selection of smaller birds. A carrion crow stopped by once, and for a few months two pigeons (who Clare calls our ‘pigeon pals’) frequently rested in the joists above the balcony.

During the Summer we’re visited by a range of pollinators, and towards the end of this Summer I started trying to identify the species, which included common carder bees (pictured left), European honey bees, common wasps, and the hoverfly Eupeodes luniger. We’ve also had some insect visitors most gardeners wouldn’t welcome, such as the large white butterfly and its caterpillars. Clare’s favourite has been the ladybirds, both for their beauty and their attacks on the aphid population.

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