Parasites of various kinds

Today, we went to a lovely talk on birds at the University of York, which was part of York Festival of Ideas. This festival takes place over two weeks in June every year and has lots of interesting talks and other activities.

The talk was followed by a walk round part of the university campus in order to see some of the birds which had featured in it. I must say that I enjoy watching the birds in my garden more but I did enjoy learning more about the landscaping of this part of the campus.

Basically, the buildings are surrounded by a series of ponds, which were mandated because the site is a flood plain. However, it has made sense for the university to grow wildflowers rather than having oodles of lawn, as the latter costs a lot more to maintain. They even have a local farmer who comes once a year to mow the wildflowers, which keeps the meadows at their best and provides hay for him without costing the institution a penny.

But as any gardener in this part of the world will know, the grass will just keep coming. So, one of the wildflowers is yellow rattle, which is a parasite for grass.

Pond and meadow at the University of York

Yellow rattle, which does indeed rattle when the seeds are ready to pop out their pods

While suppression of unwanted grass may be a good thing in certain environments, there are times when suppression of other plants is most unfortunate. I recently posted that wildflowers (aka weeds) growing next to crops may be beneficial. The rationale is that they help stop water evaporating from the soil. Thus, I decided to keep the phacelia and poppies which had self-sown close to a row of broad beans.

However, while there had been flowers on these bean plants, they did not turn into pods. I think this must be because the flowers were too tall and prevented the pollinating insects from getting to them.

Broad beans once the phacelia and poppies had been removed

Now, I’ve sown cucumber seeds between the broad beans. It’s a long shot, I feel, as I can’t believe they will germinate, let alone thrive, but I have sown some others in pots as insurance. These in any case won’t be big until the beans have finished (for what it’s worth).


About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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