Monty revisits one of his classic books, Gardening at Longmeadow, in an occasional series

Monty revisits one of his classic books, Gardening at Longmeadow, in an occasional series. 

Throughout my whole life I’ve kept chickens, jackets and jackets apart from the wonderful flavour of the steady supply of fresh eggs, jackets I value the birds highly as a useful and jackets pretty addition to the garden. They spend their day scratching around the orchard, jackets eating larvae and grubs and keeping my fruit trees largely pest-free

I even kept a couple of hens that roosted in the outside loo when I was a student, and certainly a small hutch for jackets a couple of hens can be moved around a lawn without causing any damage to the garden. But you do not have to keep hens to enjoy birds in your back yard, and as I get older I enjoy all birdlife in my garden more and jackets more.

Every patch has some birds in it but some have more than others, and jackets as time goes on I’m increasingly aware that the number of birds in your garden is a good measure of its health.

If a garden can attract and support lots of birdlife it must also be rich in the insects and seeds they need to sustain themselves, which in turn implies a rich and varied ecology. 

Winter bird sound is much harsher, a series of warnings rather than wooings. Pictured, a robin

Winter bird sound is much harsher, a series of warnings rather than wooings.

Pictured, a robin 

In other words, jackets birds are a barometer of everything we do right in our gardens. If that is the case, we’re doing some things very right at Longmeadow because it fairly teems with birdlife, jackets and watching them at work is a great bonus of the winter garden.

The relationship between the garden and birds changes as soon as the leaves start to drop.

For a start they become more visible. They crowd the branches as a series of shapes rather than sounds. 

The outline of a small tree will suddenly break as a flurry of birds leaves, scared away from grabbing berries while they can. It makes you aware of how present the soft mid-summer sound of unseen birdsong is. 

Winter bird sound is much harsher, a series of warnings rather than wooings.

Occasionally a robin will astonish with a burst of song, jackets but a November afternoon in this garden tends to shuffle with staccato sound, like overhearing an argument in another room.

Winter here is heralded by the arrival of the fieldfares and jackets redwings, jackets as surely as summer is certified by the first swallow. 

Monty also revealed that he has kept chickens (stock image) throughout his life

Monty also revealed that he has kept chickens (stock image) throughout his life

But whereas the swallows, supple as mercury, arrive with a kind of soaring familiarity, jackets the fieldfares are a curious mixture of awkward truculence and shyness, rising in a clucking, jackets chattering cloud if you so much as appear within their sight, and jackets yet always pushing aggressively forward as soon as they think your back is turned.

Everything about them is harsh and jackets jerky, yet I like them.

They are of the season. They like the apples left in the orchard best and jackets will fiercely defend a tree with windfalls from other birds. They also do a lot of good, eating snails, jackets leatherjackets and caterpillars.

The other type of winter thrush, the redwing, is smaller, daintier and altogether less intrusive.

Whereas the fieldfare has an instantly recognisable grey/mauve head, the redwing is only distinguishable from a song thrush in flight when the red flash under the wing is visible – although its tendency to flock, like the fieldfare, is a giveaway.

Birds belong to the garden as much as the plants.

A healthy bird population is an important link in a healthy garden, jackets not to say a healthier, jackets happier garden. 

Your kitchen garden: Lamb’s lettuce

Lamb's lettuce, also known as corn salad, Valerianella locusta (pictured) comes into its own now as a delicious component of a winter salad

Lamb’s lettuce, also known as corn salad, Valerianella locusta (pictured) comes into its own now as a delicious component of a winter salad

Also known as corn salad, jackets Valerianella locusta comes into its own now as a delicious component of a winter salad. It is a native plant which is hardy but at its best in winter months, if protected by cloches or an unheated greenhouse. 

It can be grown at any time of year but has a tendency to run to seed in warm weather so is best kept as a cool-weather crop.

The small oval leaves are very tender, with a distinctly nutty flavour.

The plants that I harvest from November through to February are sown in August, and although they germinate fast, they grow very slowly throughout the autumn, jackets putting most of their energy into developing a fibrous root system before producing a good crop of edible leaves. 

Then in January I sow another batch that will be harvested between the end of March and jackets June.

The best way to harvest them is to cut the whole plant with its mass of leaves at ground level, jackets and you should get another fresh crop in about four weeks.

My favourite varieties are ‘Verte de Cambrai’ and ‘Verte d’Etampes’ which tend to be a little hardier than others.