A Driving Instructor's Blog

Nature

Our Silver Birch in June 2017I originally wrote this article back in 2014, when our tree began to produce a lot of yellow leaves in mid-June. I managed to figure out the cause and the remedy, and that’s what this article was originally about.

Last year – 2018 – was the hottest on record, and it brought in another problem that affected pretty much every tree in the country. Heat stress.

The article becomes popular each year, and things kicked off earlier in 2019. I suspect that was down to a combination of the mild end to Winter, which jump-started Spring so that it was a month ahead of usual, and the lingering effects of the 2018 drought.

I should also add that as 2019 has progressed, and possibly partly as a result of last year’s hot weather and the mild winter, green fly appear to be a problem this year. They’re merrily chowing down on the new leaves on my tree, that’s for sure!

To summarise everything I have found out, premature yellowing and leaf drop in Silver Birches can occur for the following reasons:

  • nutrient deficiency
  • iron deficiency
  • lack of water and heat stress

And I now know that it’s easy to get all three at once.

When the yellowing first occurred back in 2014, we were worried. Googling for an answer was next to useless, since most of the technical advice was North American, focusing on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or the perils of trying to grow trees in either a desert or a swamp. And that was only from the experts – the general public was quite prepared to believe that it was an alien conspiracy, and was more than prepared to defend that view. Our trees had none of the beetle infestation symptoms other than leaf drop, and although the British never shut up about the bloody weather, we were not growing ours in anything other than normally-drained British garden soil.

After a lot of research, and after sifting out the utter crap, I discovered that yellowing/leaf drop is usually caused by deficiencies of nutrients and/or iron in the soil. In 2018, with the hot summer to contend with, I further discovered that lack of moisture and/or high temperatures can produce the same symptoms – it’s called heat stress, and I’ll discuss it later (I wrote a separate article about it in August 2018).

Note that the problems described are not confined to Silver Birches. All trees and plants can be affected by nutrient deficiencies or heat stress, though you may need a different fertiliser to address the nutrient issues.

The problem we had in 2014 was characterised by bright, canary yellow leaves – just like in the Autumn, though not as widespread throughout the canopy – which began falling off the tree. I can’t honestly remember where I found this now, but somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of forum pages and obscure “ask the expert” sites rattling on about the bloody Birch Borer I came across a single one-line comment mentioning two easily-applied ideas that made absolute sense, and which could be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil. Fertiliser and Iron Treatments

Nitrogen (nutrient) deficiency is resolved using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers, such as Miracle-Gro, and can be bought from most decent garden centres and from many online retailers (including eBay and Amazon, where I usually get mine). It only costs about £5 for a box of the granules (you often get multi-pack deals), and there’s enough in one box to manage a decent sized tree for at least half a season. You can also get liquid varieties, which I’ve switched to since 2018 because of my new irrigator toy; and slow-release granules, which work for up to three months, and which are great for those treating small areas (I use them in my containers of Blueberries).

Normal fertiliser is no good for birches – it has to be the ericaceous stuff – and you just dissolve it in water and spread it around the tree. The slow-release granules are just sprinkled on the ground and watered in (I just wish they’d make the damned things in camouflage green, instead of the “hey, look at me all over the lawn” multicoloured mix they actually are).

Leaves suffering from chlorosisLeaves that look like those in the images here are suffering from iron deficiencyknown as chlorosis.

Leaves are green because they contain chlorophyll. Simplifying the subject, chlorophyll allows plants to convert light energy into sugars they can use via the process called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is green – hence the colour leaves usually are – and it contains iron, so if there isn’t enough iron you get less chlorophyll (hence the yellow colour). The plants compensate for the subsequent lack of food by shedding leaves and going towards a shutdown state. That’s what you can see here.

Chlorosis is resolved using sequestered (or chelated) iron, such as Maxicrop, shown above. It’s a seaweed extract, so perfectly natural, and it comes as a liquid. You can mix it in with your fertiliser and water it in at the same time. I’ve recently discovered a source of Maxicrop in commercial 10L containers, which is more cost-effective than buying it in 1L bottles. It stains like hell, so be careful not to drop the concentrated liquid on pathways and decking.

Close-up of leaves suffering from chlorosisAnother symptom of soil nutrient deficiency is that new leaves may be small and misshapen, instead of the classic Birch leaf shape. Some of ours were like that in that first season.

Back in 2014, after a single application of fertiliser treatment, leaf drop stopped almost immediately once the already-dead leaves had fallen. The tree even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In subsequent years, I started feeding every few weeks from March with both fertiliser and iron and we had no leaf drop at all until 2018. In May 2017 our tree looked like the photo at the top of this article, and here’s a close-up of the leaves from that year. Does that look healthy, or what?

Close-up of our tree's leaves in June 2017An additional iron treatment for the longer term is to water-in iron (ferrous) sulphate periodically. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is beneficial for ericaceous plants. It’s also very good for your lawn – iron sulphate is a moss-killer and a grass-greener (it’s sold for these purposes, and I use it several times a year to kill moss in the lawn).

Why does nutrient deficiency occur? Well, bear in mind that when trees and plants die back in winter in the wild, the leaves they shed decompose and return nutrients to the soil as they do so. In urban gardens, though, leaves are usually swept up and taken to the tip to keep the garden looking tidy. That means the soil becomes depleted of those nutrients over time and you get problems like this. It’s fairly obvious looking at it now, but I was like everyone else in thinking that when you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow. It turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus.

You have to keep the treatments going at least once a month between March and September, and you have to follow the same routine each year (or at least over alternate years). If you don’t, the problem will come back at some point.

Now we come to the extremely hot summer of 2018. Around the end of June, I once again noticed a few sprays of yellow appearing. I briefly wondered what was going on, but I guessed right away it might be linked to the prolonged high temperatures and low rainfall we’d experienced up until then. After Googling it I concluded my tree was, indeed, suffering from heat stress. The solution to this is to get water down to the roots – it’s called deep watering – but that’s easier said than done.

One way of doing it is to use deep watering spikes. These are tapered tubes that are hammered into the ground around the tree, and into which water is fed slowly so that it gets to the roots deep down. I didn’t have time for that in 2018 (with the ground as dry as it was, it’d have been like trying to hammer a 6-inch nail into plate steel), so I went for the longer-term sprinkler method. Every night, I set the sprinkler going and watered for a couple of hours in each of several zones to ensure even saturation (we didn’t have any hosepipe restrictions, and I wouldn’t have continued if we had). This allowed water to seep down deep into the soil, and it fixed the problem in less than a week (it also turned a completely brown lawn into a lush green carpet).

With hindsight, all trees in 2018 had much thinner canopies than usual – as I mentioned earlier, heat stress isn’t just confined to birches. The leaves on my own trees were smaller than they were in previous years, but about a week after starting deep watering the tree produced some new shoots and the leaves that appeared were much larger. And some very fat catkins also appeared.

As a result of the heat stress problem, and still needing to keep the other treatments going, I have now invested in a combined watering/fertilising system, which I have written about separately. I can highly recommend that device – the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor.

I’m updating this in early May 2019, and our tree is now in full leaf.

Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?

No, probably not. The important thing is that by feeding and watering the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable within a short time.

I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since pale leaves are not necessarily dead – they’re just iron-deficient. In that case, you might be able to save some partially-yellowed leaves by applying the chelated iron treatment. As an example, in early June 2018 (before the heatwave really kicked in) I noticed my neighbour’s usually-dark green Cherry Tree leaves were very pale and many yellow ones were falling. I told her about the iron treatment and she bought a bottle. The leaves on that tree turned dark green within a few days and no more yellow ones were produced.

Do you have to keep treating the trees?

Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back once the tree has used up what you’ve fed it, especially if you bin the leaves again the following autumn. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients and water, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year (or if the soil is dry and there are no prolonged periods of rain) nothing gets returned to the soil.

Treat your trees from March until September. Feed at least once a month (even two to three times during the earlier months) – and water regularly in hot weather anyway, as they do need moisture.

How often should you feed?

I do it once or twice a month.

Can heat and drought cause them to lose leaves?

Yes. If they are stressed you may get them dropping leaves, and if not treated the leaves can even go brown and die on the tree (I saw a lot of Silver Birch trees on road verges like that in 2018). It’s a good idea to water them deeply during hot, dry periods. Once or twice a week should be enough, though more frequently won’t hurt if the dry period is prolonged.

As I explained above, the hot weather we experienced in summer 2018 caused my tree to produce some sprays of yellow leaves. I commenced deep-watering from June, as well as feeding regularly. This was the first time heat/drought had been a problem, so it caught me out a little. However, after a week of deep-watering leaf-yellowing stopped completely, and the tree was healthy throughout the rest of the heatwave (as was the lawn, which was parched brown, but ended up lush green).

Remember that after a period of drought (or prolonged dry weather) it needs an extended period of rain to wet the soil again, especially deep down. A few heavy downpours won’t do it, and you will still need to help things along.

Will a Birch recover from drought?

It depends on whether the drought killed it or not. A reader wrote to me in 2018, mentioning that his tree had lost its leaves, and I advised that the only thing he could do right then was to feed and water – and hope for the best. He wrote to me in 2019 to tell me the tree had started to rock in the wind, and that a tree surgeon had subsequently declared it dead, and had had to remove it. Apparently, the roots were rotten.

There’s no way of knowing if it was just the drought that did the damage. The tree may have been weakened by not feeding and watering over previous years, and the drought was just the final nail in the coffin. But the 2018 heatwave certainly caused problems.

Birches were showing profuse growth of leaves and catkins (mine was) as early as mid-April in 2019. If yours is still struggling, then it doesn’t look good. The 2018 heatwave did a lot of damage, and since not many people do the feeding ritual that I have covered in this article, trees may already have been struggling. That said, mine has certainly recovered, although I did catch on very early and stopped it becoming a major issue.

All I can say is: water (if it’s not raining much) and feed.

Is there any other way to deal with the problem?

You have to get nutrients and iron back into the soil. And you need water in order for the roots to be able to access those nutrients. Yes, you could use your own mulch or bought compost, but obviously this is not so attractive in a normal garden (removing it is what got you here in the first place). It would also take longer to have an effect. But it would still work, given time.

When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?

The short – and very obvious – answer is: in the Autumn. It can vary a little up and down the country (just as Spring tends to start earlier the further south you are), but in the Midlands they usually start to show sprays of yellow from late September to early October. It often seems triggered by a noticeable drop in night time temperatures. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.

Why do birch trees drop leaves so early?

They don’t. They drop them in Autumn, like all other trees which shed their leaves each year. If yours is turning early, you may have a problem – probably one which can easily be sorted by reading through this article.

How do you apply these treatments?

You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. I have now invested in a combined watering/fertilising system, which I have written about separately. However, you can use a watering can and hosepipe/sprinkler as necessary. Note that if the ground is dry, a watering can won’t get the nutrients down to the roots, so a heavy watering is essential.

I do this up to twice a month between March and September. In 2018, I was deep watering every night during the heatwave.

Why are fallen leaves sticky?

You’ve got greenfly! Specifically, the birch aphid, Euceraphis betulae. They feed on the European Birch, Betula pendula, and they increase in number during warm and dry weather – which is what we have right now (and did have for most of the winter). Aphids secrete honeydew as they feed, and that’s the sticky stuff you’re seeing. Apparently, you can get different species of greenfly that feed on specific trees.

Someone found the blog on this search term in late May 2019. Right now, my tree is very healthy, and is putting out a lot of new growth – but I have noticed something is eating the young leaves. When I looked closer, I saw a lot of greenfly. You will also get a few leaves falling with this problem.

You can kill them with a soap/water mixture, though no one has ever been able to tell me precisely how you apply that to a 20 metre high tree. And the same goes for any chemical method relying on direct contact.

An alternative solution is to introduce predatory insects – something that eats aphids. The best one is the Ladybird, and you can buy them online. There are other predatory insects you can buy, too.

My tree is losing branches and twigs

If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and small branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop. In any case, if it is windy, a few dead twigs are bound to fall off. It’s just nature.

Early in the year, another likely problem is crows (the winged variety). From March (February in 2019) they will be nest-building, and they are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose. We get them nesting near us, and they will tear off a hundred twigs and drop them until they get the one they want. It’s nature, so we don’t worry.

Why do Silver Birches drop so many twigs?

As I said above: crows (and similar birds). As of February/March 2019 they were actively nest building (it’s usually March, but the warm end to winter has kicked them off early).

They will carefully select the twig they want, but the sods will tear off loads more before they find it. I watched one on a dead Birch tree when I dropped a pupil off after a lesson, and he (or she) had broken off a huge twig – almost a branch – and was trying to get into a position to fly out of the branches with it.

Also note that high winds might knock a few loose twigs down.

When do birches start to show leaves?

In spring, obviously, but the precise date varies depending on both the tree and the weather. In 2019, they were about a month earlier than 2018 in the UK.

Someone found the blog in mid-April 2019 on this search term, and I suspect it is because their own tree hadn’t yet shown any leaves. I refer again to the hot summer of 2018, and the effects of heat stress. I’m sure that many trees – not just birches – were killed by the drought, but people wouldn’t realise until the following Spring. In 2019, my own tree was in almost full leaf by mid-April, and certainly by May, with lots of catkins.

My tree is taking a long time to show any leaves

I’m not an expert, but if this happened to me – and knowing what I know now – I’d start feeding it pronto. Of course, it might just be slow – some trees do seem to lag behind others – but a good feed can’t do any harm. Mine was in full leaf by May 2019, whereas neighbours’ trees were still in the process of producing leaves. In hindsight, and following my observations throughout the year, the heatwave seemed to have stressed trees to the extent that their canopies were sparser than usual (leaves were smaller), and this may have been what you were experiencing.

In the worst case, your tree might not be in good condition at all, but you’d have to call the experts in for that.

I’ve got catkins but no leaves

Someone found the site in April 2018 with that query. You’ll probably find that in a couple of weeks you’ll have lots of leaves. As I have said in this article, I start feeding mine from March onwards. Leaves start sprouting a week or two earlier than my neighbours’ trees, and the foliage on mine is usually much denser. The catkins often come before the leaves.

I strongly recommend feeding them regularly as a matter of course – and watering if the ground is dry.

Are the leaves changing early this year?

This was a generic search term used to find the blog in mid-July 2017. The short answer is no, they are not – not in July, anyway.

In hot and dry weather, many trees can become “distressed” and start to shed leaves. Silver birches are affected by this. Also, greenfly infestations can cause leaves to die and fall. If a lot of leaves are turning yellow on the tree then you have a problem – quite possibly one of those which are the main subject of this article. However, a few leaves falling is probably nothing much to worry about.

Do Weeping Silver Birches lose their leaves in Autumn?

Yes.

When do Silver Birch leaves go all brown?

They don’t. The leaves should go yellow and fall off in the autumn.

I had quite a few visitors from this search term in 2018, and when I looked it up it seems that extreme cases of chlorosis and heat stress can result in leaves turning brown (see this supplementary article). It could also be a disease or infestation which you could treat, but the tree itself might also be dead – especially if it has been having any of the problems I mentioned above over previous years. Best to call in the experts.

Could the 2018 heatwave still cause problems in 2019?

It’s possible. Remember that we’ve had a relatively dry winter, too, so there may not be much moisture for the trees to draw upon. If they were weakened by the hot weather in 2018, and there’s still not much moisture in the ground come Spring, it could mean that they are still struggling at a time when they really need a lot of energy to put out new growth.

The hot summer of 2018 almost certainly killed off a few trees, so it is safe to assume it must have stressed the hell out of many others. That was why many started shedding leaves early – they were going into shutdown to protect themselves.

My tree is doing fine, because I water and feed it regularly. So there’s a clue to what you need to do.

Does this advice only apply to Silver Birch trees?

No. Chlorosis can affect many plants, and lack of nutrients is going to be a universal issue. You might need a different fertiliser to address any nutrient problem, but iron will likely fix chlorosis. Lack of water can kill virtually any plant.

Recently, someone found the blog as a result of premature leaf drop in their Betula utilis. This is the Himalayan Birch, famed for its peeling paper-like bark, and it is a member of the same family as the Silver Birch. In the Himalayas, it often grows among Rhododendron plants (look at that fertiliser again – are you seeing the connection, here?), so the advice given above would work for the Himalayan Birch, too. And it also worked for my neighbour’s Cherry Tree, as I mentioned earlier.

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Silver Birch - summer 2017My article about early leaf drop in Silver Birch trees is very popular – but it has really peaked this year (2018).

My own trees started going yellow this time around in mid-June. After a lot of research, I concluded that it was due to heat stress as a result of the prolonged warm weather and low rainfall we have experienced. I know that some places have had torrential downpours, but it isn’t enough. The temperature has remained pretty much in double digits the whole time, and has been in the mid-20s and low-30s most days for almost two solid months, and with no end in sight.

I commenced deep watering right after I found it as a remedy in June, and it has worked like magic. Right now, I simply set the sprinkler going for about an hour in each of three separate locations, and I do this each night (next year, I’m going to install deep-watering spikes to help the water get deeper into the soil). I have also found a way of watering and fertilizing at the same time.

When trees are stressed as a result of high humidity and low rainfall, they can’t get enough water and begin to shut down just as they do in the Autumn. It doesn’t kill them unless it happens year after a year, but obviously you can take steps to deal with it once you notice it.

My Silver Birch in 2017One thing I have noticed with the benefit of hindsight is that the foliage on virtually every Silver Birch I have seen this year is thinner than in previous years (that’s also true for a lot of other trees I’ve seen). The leaves are actually smaller. The reason I say “hindsight” is that about a month into deep-watering and my tree has put out some significant new growth and the leaves on that new growth are much larger, and just like the photo I took last year.

Note that we have no hosepipe ban, and I wouldn’t be doing this if we did.

Once I commenced the watering, the yellowed leaves all fell over the next week or so, but no more were produced. Right now, not a single leaf has fallen in the last month at least and the whole tree is green with the aforementioned new growth. It is also producing fat catkins.

Will a Birch recover from drought?

It depends on whether the drought killed it or not. A reader wrote to me last year, mentioning that his tree had lost its leaves, and I advised that the only thing he could do right then was to feed and water – and hope for the best. He wrote to me recently to tell me the tree had started to rock in the wind, and that a tree surgeon had subsequently declared it dead, and had had to remove it. Apparently, the roots were rotten.

There’s no way of knowing if it was just the drought that did the damage. The tree may have been weakened by not feeding and watering over previous years, and the drought was just the final nail in the coffin. But last year’s drought certainly caused problems.

By now – early April 2019 – Birches are showing profuse growth of leaves and catkins (mine is). If yours is still completely bare then it doesn’t look good. Last year’s drought did a lot of damage, and since not many people do the feeding ritual that I have covered in the main leaf drop article, trees may already have been struggling.

That said, mine has certainly recovered from last year’s drought, although I did catch on very early and stopped it becoming a major issue.

All I can say is: water (if it’s not raining much) and feed.

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The Access Irrigation Fertlizer DilutorLet me introduce you to my new toy – the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor.

One of the most popular posts on the blog is the one about Silver Birch Trees shedding leaves in the middle of summer as a result of nutrient deficiency in the soil. The remedy involves applying fertilizer and watering it in so the trees can get at it.

In 2018, though, another cause of premature yellowing has surfaced. The prolonged hot weather has stressed many trees, and the remedy for that is deep watering.

Ever since I found the solution to the nutrient problem I had toyed with the idea of semi-automating the fertilizer/watering process by combining the two and applying it via a sprinkler system. Indeed, I toyed to the extent that I bought a cheap Venturi mixer – which should have worked, but didn’t. I concluded that my water pressure was not sufficient to provide the necessary lift in the Venturi, because I just couldn’t get it to suck anything up. So I gave up on the idea for a year or two until 2018, when watering became such an issue in its own right.

I started Googling and many things came up, but they were all on a small scale – watering plants in greenhouses or by drip-feeders. But there was an American dilutor which apparently did exactly what I was after. You put your fertilizer in the mixer container, connected it to a tap, connected the other side to a hosepipe, and let it do the mixing before sending it down to your sprinkler or spray nozzle. The problem was availability in the UK. It came in various sizes, and the only one carried by any UK-based seller had a capacity of one pint (damned American units), which is no bloody use at all except for window boxes or greenhouses. The next size up was only available from American suppliers, so apart from the $100+ price tag, there was also the $100+ shipping fee – not to mention whatever UK Customs & Excise (who have become very sharp of late) slapped on it when it came into the country.

I was just steeling myself to order the American product, but while I was searching for the best price I accidentally came across the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor. It hadn’t come up on any of my previous searches over the last three years, and even when it did this time it hardly stood out until I followed the link and read the specification sheet and user manual. As an aside, whoever designed the Access Irrigation website decided to use images of text for product titles instead of just plain old searchable text. As a result, Google isn’t indexing them and normal search terms like  “inline fertilizer dispenser” or “fertilizer dispenser using sprinkler” don’t stand a chance.

Access Irrigation were very helpful with my pre-order questions, so I went ahead an ordered it. It came next day.

Gardena ZoomMaxx SprinklerI’ve also recently bought a new sprinkler – a Gardena ZoomMaxx. Depending on water pressure it can water over a range of between 3m and 18m, or an area between 9m² and 216m² in an almost circular pattern (though the pattern is adjustable). In my case, with a water flow rate of 7L per minute (which is classed as “low pressure”), it was able to cover an area of around 80-90m² – which is about 5 times what my old bar sprinkler could manage.

The Access Dilutor consists of a thick plastic bottle which can hold about 9L of liquid. A screw-fit head assembly consists of a Venturi unit with a choice of Hozelock or GEKA fittings (Hozelock fitted as standard, but both types supplied).

For anyone who is interested, a Venturi is so-called because of the Venturi Effect. This is where a fluid flowing through a constriction in a tube creates a pressure drop, and this can be used for various effects. I became familiar with it when I was still at school, because we used small Venturi devices connected to laboratory taps to produce a partial vacuum when filtering liquids using conical flasks. In the case of the Dilutor, water flowing from your tap goes via the Venturi and down to the sprinkler head, and the pressure drop created inside the Venturi is used to pull liquid fertilizer from the bottle and into the main water flow. There is a bit more to the device than that, though, because as the fertilizer is removed, it is replaced by clean water to keep the bottle completely full. Since the fertilizer solution is more dense than water, this clean water sits on top, so you have a distinct border between fertilizer and water. Access Irrigation says you should use food dye if your fertilizer is colourless so that you can see when it is all used up. In my case, my mixture contains chelated iron, so it is almost black. Incidentally, this is why they call it the “static” dilutor, because you mustn’t move it when you’re using it, otherwise the divided liquids get all mixed up.

Until I tried it I was sceptical, but it really does work. The Dilutor is supplied with a range of nozzles which fit on the end of the dip-tube that carries the fertilizer. This allows you to control how quickly the fertilizer is used up. In my case, since I wanted to irrigate for an hour at each of several locations, and since my water flow was 7L/min – or 420L/hour – I used the light blue nozzle corresponding to this volume of water (edit: I have since changed to the grey nozzle, which uses the fertiliser more quickly, my logic being that I want to get the fertiliser on the lawn, then make sure it is watered in properly). I was doing my first run in the dark – literally – and using a torch the border between the black solution and clean water was dramatic. It was all used up in slightly more than one hour.

Previously, and as I have pointed out in my article about summer leaf drop, I was dissolving solid ericaceous fertilizer in water (which takes a couple of hours), and using this as a concentrate in five watering cans-full each liberally spread over 10-20m² (about half an hour overall), then watered in using a bar sprinkler for about half an hour in each of five locations to get the coverage. Overall, it was maybe 8 hours involving frequent interventions by me.

Now, using a liquid version of the same ericaceous fertilizer, I can make up a full batch in the Dilutor in about three minutes, and just set the sprinkler running for an hour. Then, I make another batch, move the sprinkler, and repeat. It only takes a couple of hours now to get the same coverage – and I’m doing a lot more irrigation because of the heat stress problem this year.

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The Lake District - How it Should LookOr, how to destroy the environment and get paid loads of money for doing it.

This BBC news article reports on campaigners’ claims that the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has “violated [the park’s] World Heritage status”.

They cite the dramatic increase in “off-roaders” on motorbikes and 4x4s, who have damaged the landscape. The LDNPA actually encourages morons to come and tear up the countryside.

Let’s not play games here. Absolutely no 4×4 or quadbike/motorbike rider who goes to the Lake District to ride “off-road” – not a single one of them –  gives a flying f*ck about the environment other than how they can turn it into mud every weekend. If they did, they wouldn’t have a 4×4 in the first place, and as for motorbike/quadbike riders… well, there’s more processing power in a mosquito’s genitalia than there is in the typical biker’s head area, and all they want to do is make a noise and send mud flying in the air.

That’s why the comments of Mark Eccles, the alleged leader of LDNPA, are laughable:

We encourage users to behave responsibly on what can be vulnerable tracks to minimise environmental impact and respect other users.

This idiot WANTS off-roaders to come to the Lake District and to “behave responsibly. There’s more chance of a squirrel becoming Pope.

He then says something which is almost the exact opposite:

[It would be] preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes” [but it is legal].

If he had any balls, he’d stop them or deter them. It would be easy to justify simply on the basis of how much damage they cause. But he is no doubt one of that modern breed of men who have artificially balanced hormones, and for whom “equal opportunities” is the mantra that governs every decision they make. He’s no doubt of a mind that trees have to be cut down to make every corner of the Lake District accessible by wheelchair, and is probably considering painting it pink to try to attract more female visitors. So, in this case, he mustn’t discriminate against monkeys who like things that make a noise and go fast.

For anyone who doesn’t know, The Lake District National Park covers almost 1,000 square miles. And it looks like the photo above when there are no off-roaders around. Once they’ve been and gone, though, it looks like this.

The Lake District - How Off-roaders leave it

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A red panda sitting on a branch?I’ve noticed a serious downward trend in spelling and grammar these days on usually reputable websites. Even the BBC isn’t averse to mistakes.

This screenshot from an MSN newsfeed aggregate made me smile, though. It’s apparently a picture of a red panda sitting on a branch in New York.

I have visions of someone submitting this for their school homework.

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Naruto the macaqueThis story beggars belief. It started in 2011, when a British photographer went to Indonesia to photograph macaques. After a bit of bonding, he managed to get the monkeys to press the camera shutter, and the image above is the now infamous “monkey selfie” that has caused the trouble.

In 2014, David Slater, the photographer, asked Wikipedia to remove the image from their site since he had not given permission to use it. Wikipedia – which is renowned for being written by monkeys anyway – refused, arguing that the copyright belonged to the macaque in the photo, and not to Mr Slater.

As an aside, I wonder if Wikipedia got the monkey’s permission to use the photo?

Although the US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright, it didn’t stop PETA finding someone who would represent the monkey – whose name is Naruto, by the way – and sue Mr Slater back in 2014. The case has dragged on and on since then. Well, we’re talking about America here, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you can’t just state the obvious and say that “monkeys can’t own copyright” and throw the case out. As a much more detailed account of the story indicates, if they did that, PETA would just sue again and again. All they’d have to do is find someone else to stand up on the monkey’s behalf, and everything would just kick off again, and since PETA obviously has nothing better to do with its time, it wouldn’t hesitate to do that.

The best part is that no one is actually certain that the monkey, Naruto, is the one in the picture.

With hindsight, it would probably have been better if Mr Slater had not tried to have Wikipedia remove his photo. But then again, why should a bunch of arseholes get everything their own way just because they ARE a bunch of arseholes, and are prepared to prove it to the power of ten by involving other arseholes if you point it out to them?

The big question is: if the monkey won, who’d get the money? What would a monkey do with several million dollars? Buy a huge banana?

I have a solution to this potential nightmare. They should decide in the monkey’s favour, then award all damages to Mr Slater – since he is the only one in all this who actually had the monkeys’ welfare in mind. PETA would win, so it couldn’t sue again, and Mr Slater would not be anywhere near as much out of pocket as he will be if he has to pay the scumbags at PETA.

Unfortunately, I am only joking. If the monkey were to win, there’d be a flood of similar cases as a result of the new precedent. And then we might end up with a Planet of the Apes scenario, where they start to get involved in politics. One might even run for POTUS. Oh, wait…

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I wonder if anyone proof-reads BBC articles anymore? They’re riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, with numerous typos thrown in for good measure.The Moon

But it’s the content that has me worried. Take this article, entitled How to see biggest supermoon in almost 70 years.

Well, just like on any other night, the usual trick is to go outside and look upwards towards that big, round, glowing thing in the sky and hope that there aren’t any clouds. I almost feel embarrassed at having to explain this.

Incidentally, the photo above is one I took last year. I didn’t have any trouble finding the moon in this instance, nor did I have to look up how to do it.

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The local BBC News site had a warning after some local troglodytes were seen waving bags at stags in Wollaton Park. Bear in mind that it is the rutting season, and the last thing any sane person needs is a pair of deer antlers up their backside.Stags fighting

But this bit is funny:

Kath George, museum assistant at Wollaton Hall, said…

“Our advice is always the same, no matter what the season, or whether the deer have children with them – DO NOT approach them!

“They are wild animals…”

I always thought a young deer was a fawn. But it seems that we’re now anthropomorphising them for some reason.

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The answer is when it is Trent University – which is more of a glorified sixth form that takes people from around the country instead of just locally. I say this after seeing this story in the week. It laughingly refers to the people ultimately responsible for killing a hedgehog as “researchers”.

In case any Trent University “researchers” are reading this, it is probably worth reminding them what a hedgehog normally looks like.A healthy hedgehog

However, this is what one looks like after Trent University “researchers” have got to it.Hedgehog festooned with a radio and various other tags

The dirty silver thing is a radio transmitter, and the various coloured tags are shrink- or heat-wrapped to the hedgehog’s spines. You have to wonder what sort of retard would attach THAT many tags to a single animal. Well, actually you don’t have to wonder too much when you think of sixth-formers pretending they’re scientists.

Wildlife experts have commented that the coloured tags are far too long and would most likely interfere with the animal’s normal behaviour. They could easily have become entangled. Apparently, the radio transmitter was twisted around the animal when it was found by someone in their garden. Experts have pointed out that such a bulky device would have prevented the animal from crawling under low hedges, gates, and fences, and would thus have put it at risk from predators.

The vet who treated the hedgehog removed TWENTY SIX tags.Tags removed from the animal

The hedgehog was:

…dehydrated, underweight, had mange, severe colitis, broken toes on one foot and [sic] intestinal fluke, and died despite attempts to treat him.

This is the part where you need to make your mind up for yourselves. Do you think that a hedgehog festooned with 26 tags, all of them at least six times longer than its spines, and a radio transmitter the size of a matchbox bearing – if you look at the picture – an antenna which appears to be approximately the same length as the animal itself, is going to be adversely affected?

Or do these two quotes convince you otherwise?

Hugh Warwick from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which part-funded the study, said: “Over 30 years of work there is no evidence that our research interferes with the well-being of hedgehogs at all.

“The heat-shrink plastic tags that are now the standard marking technique do not require plastic to be melted onto the spines and cause the hedgehog no trouble at all. It is not far off humans getting hair-extensions.”

Nottingham Trent University said: “The animal is completely unhindered and able to go about its activities – such as feeding and breeding – in the usual way.

“Research is crucial to furthering our understanding of the threats hedgehogs face and to develop appropriate responses to those.”

Hugh Warwick is clearly one of those pseudo-scientists who likes to anthropomorphise things. However, I think it is safe to say that what was done to this hedgehog had f__k all to do with human hair extensions (which, incidentally, cause MAJOR problems for humans if done incorrectly).

And Trent University – who are clearly too embarrassed to identify the cretin of a “researcher” responsible – have managed one of those brilliant paradoxes. They say they want to further their understanding of “threats to hedgehogs”. Obviously by becoming one.

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Following on from that story about the Americans shooting a gorilla as a precautionary measure n their attempts to deal with crass stupidity on the part of their citizens, at least the Aussies are more sanguine about such episodes.Crocodile - not necessarily an Australian one

Oh, I know they were looking down their noses at us over that bloody Boaty McBoatface debacle, but they’re still refreshingly down to earth otherwise. As this story today demonstrates quite clearly.

If the victim had survived in this case, then she would automatically have been in the finals for the 2016 Darwin Awards. Such was the level of stupidity on display.

It happened in the Daintree National park, in Northern Queensland. The presence of signs, local warnings about it being a known crocodile habitat, Queensland’s “be croc-wise” safety policy, and I would suspect a fair degree of understanding of the dangers of living in Australia in the first place, not to mention those associated with just being Australian at all did not deter this 47-year old woman from attempting to swim in waist-deep water. At night. It seems that the only thing she didn’t do was bring some extra crocodiles with her just to be sure. Unfortunately for her, though, one of the resident crocs was also taking a swim nearby, and saw its chance for a snack.

Unlike the Americans, who you can almost imagine tripping over themselves to get their guns in order to blow away a gorilla who had not actually made any threatening moves towards a four-year-old (some reports say he was actually three) child whose parents had been so monstrously neglectful as to allow him to climb through a fence and fall into a moat surrounding an enclosure, the Aussies are a little more logical over this incident. A local politician, Warren Enstch, said:

This is a tragedy but it was avoidable. There are warning signs everywhere up there.

You can only get there by ferry, and there are signs there saying watch out for the bloody crocodiles.

You can’t legislate against human stupidity. If you go in swimming at 10 o’clock at night, you’re going to get consumed.

Meanwhile, Australian police have been practising the art of understatement:

We would hold grave fears for the welfare of the woman.

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