Butterfly Friendly Garden

It’s just over a year ago now that I started transforming the front garden into a butterfly and bee friendly garden (http://blog.v-s-f.co.uk/2015/08/front-garden-transformation/). In the last post I finished the article with some photo’s of the garden from April showing the newly planted borders.

The garden was a huge success and I’ve been very p. The plants grew up more than I’d expected, filling in the gaps nicely (in some cases too much!). My neighbours all commented on the Red Dahlia’s which I thought wouldn’t grow after being frosted a number of times!

Here’s a few pictures of the garden at various stages.





But the main reason as stated above for transforming the garden was to encourage more butterflies and bees and the garden certainly delivered! We had a wide variety of butterflies in the garden at times with over 20 butterflies at a time. Here are pictures of the different butterflies and caterpillars we saw during the year.

Mullein Moth Caterpillars

Yellow Tail Moth Caterpillar



Red Admiral

Painted Lady


Speckled Wood
speckled wood

Small White(?)

Small Tortoiseshell

There were a couple more that I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough to take a photo unfortunately, but one was bright blue and small about the size of a 10 pence piece. The other was brown with orange spots and might well have been a female Adonis Blue. Next year I’ll have the camera ready!!

Front Garden Transformation

For the last few years, I’ve grown wildflowers in the back garden to attract bees and butterflies into the garden. The flowers were really successful the first year I grew them, with the border full of cornflowers and poppies.
Since then I’ve not had quite as much success – despite throwing ten thousand poppy seeds in the garden two years ago! This year the Red Campion from the year before took over, so we did get wild flowers, just not much variety…
(This photo shows the Red Campion before it flowered, taking over the border)

About this time last year, I decided to revamp the front garden to make it bee and butterfly friendly. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the border before I started and could only find this photo from 2002(!)
(In the picture I’ve ringed the holly tree [very small at the time!] and an arrow to show the side with the neighbour + the very difficult to remove bushes)

The front garden has two borders, the one with the neighbours’ garden which is about 6 meters long and the other which joins at 90 degrees to the other spanning 8 meters.
I started on the border with the neighbour first as the other one had a twelve foot plus holly tree which we were going to use for the Christmas tree in 2014. It took a couple of months to clear the area of all plants and dig it over.
I then stupidly though “why not sift the soil!” hahaha. 2 months… and 1 cubic yard of soil later… I’d nearly lost the will to finish the project.
Having sifted sooo much rubbish out of the soil (plant rubbish and nasty weeds), it became apparent the only way to prevent some of the nasty weeds from spreading from the garden next door was to put in a fence with gravel boards to as deep as I could summon the will to dig.
Luckily the weather was kind to me and despite having measured the fence length incorrectly and having to purchase and dig an extra fence post hole, I got the fence in at the end of October/beginning of November. After that I finished off the process of soil transportation, sieving and began planting the border.
(This is a picture with part of the new fence)

In December we cut down the holly to go in the house (all 11 feet of it!) and what a lovely tree it made.
(This is the holly tree in our sun lounge).

Instead of sifting the soil in the next 8 meters of border, I took the approach this time to dispose of it and fill in the border with compost which was so much easier!
Then came the fun part – ordering plants online to create a new bee and butterfly friendly garden.
(This image shows the new plants when relatively new)

The total cost of the project was around one thousand pounds! But it was worth it.
…more to come in another post

Home Monitoring (home made) – Reborn

I’d previously shared on my blog the home made monitoring application I’d built to aggregate pv, meter and weather data – see: http://blog.v-s-f.co.uk/2014/03/home-monitoring-home-made-overview/.

Over the last few months I re-wrote the app to not only output the data to PVOutput every minute, but store that same data into an HSQLDB on my server. The new code base uses less Java than the previous version and moves a lot of the aggregation into Mule flows. I also took the opportunity to try out Git Hub, so the code is all available online here: https://github.com/vls29/aggregator

So far it’s been running very stable since the start of January and the refactoring enables new data sources to be added very quickly, e.g. Mains Voltage as can be seen below on the graph as a purple line starting above 3000W:


(link to my system on PVOutput: http://pvoutput.org/intraday.jsp?id=4836&sid=4409)