Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A sad tale and sorry tail

We had two young squirrels that frequent our garden and provide my father with a challenge in preventing them from eating the birdseed. He's called them Boris and Ken.

On Friday morning we woke up to find a squirrel tangled on the strawberry netting. At first we thought he was just looking for a way in, but he kept thrashing about and we were eating breakfast we realised he was definitely stuck.

At first we decided to wait and see if he could free himself. I needed to nip outside and as I did, realised that he was well and truly tangle by his rear paw. Mum and I decided to don some heavy duty garden gloves. The plan was that I would hold him and mum could cut him free with some scissors.

No chance, all the little fellow wanted to do was try and take my arm off and growl. He was understandably upset. he had trashed around so much the netting had cut deep into his foot. In the end, I let him bite my glove while mum cut around the tangle foot (he wouldn't let her cut the netting clean off). He scampered off across the lawn to hide under the shed - chased by our cat, Merlin, who had come to see what the fuss was about.

I went to work thinking that we had done all we could, even if he did get munched by a fox. But on my return, bad news. Ken, or Boris, had been last sighted dangling in the top branches of a silver birch at the bottom of our garden. He had exhausted himself trying to untangle the netting on his foot which had by now become loose and re-tangled in the tree. By the time I got home it was all over.

He's still swinging there now, but it hasn't stopped his partner in crime from pinching what was left of the strawberries. Dad found him in the fruit cage today but he managed not to get tangled and made his escape before we could catch him.

I'm not sure what to think - they're pests but it's not nice to see an animal die like the first one did. Perhaps wouldn't have been so bad if we could reach him for the bbq...

Midsummer midweek bliss

Have been going down the allotment to water and weed some evenings this week and last, while the days are long. I don't get back from work till well past 7 most nights, so it's not long but it is relaxing to get completely away from the office!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Father's Day at RHS Wisley

Had our first strawberries this week. Dad's made his own frame to net them off against the birds.

We went to RHS Wisley for Father's Day. Took lots of photos of the incredible flowers and went to have a look at the model vegetable plots. I went down the plot to water things afterwards.

RHS Model plot

My Plot

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Moving Marigolds and Weed Excavations

Despite the weather forecast was a nice day to go down the plot. Took some pics to start with. The runner beans coming along well and the spinach and lettuce have really recovered since the rabbit proof fencing went up!

First job of the day was to weed around the spinach and beetroot. Then I decided to excavate my carrots before they went the way of my parsnips and got throttled by weeds. Took a long time of careful plucking to clear the patch but they look satisfyingly good now (see below).

Next major operation was to continue clearing weeds in order to extend my broccoli bird net. Separated out the rogue marigolds from the weeds and moved them into a spot by the fennel. They look stunning at the moment! I finally cleared enough space to move the posts and re-tie the netting.

Henry came down at lunchtime and dug out another patch of weeds and couch grass to plant out his courgettes. Then he went for a BBQ with Steph and I shot off for a party in Guildford.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Making cages - to keep da wabbits out!

Hard work in the scorching sun today. The plot has really come to life. Happy to see a lot of plants that have been struggling looking good. Tomatoes are still alive but something is still chomping through the beetroot and even my broccoli which has been under netting.

The answer appeared in a flash of grey fur when I approached the compost heap - a rabbit! He shot off down the other end of the plot to hide in the weeds.

I spent most of the day pulling out grass and other weeds that are going to seed. Cut back a lot of the overgrown areas. Was pleased to see a lot of Marigolds, Poppies and Comfrey in amongst the weeds. Have pretty much given up hope for my parsnips though - they were swamped by weeds before they'd even got started.

I ended up making a cage for the beetroot and spinach with chicken wire - easier than fixing the whole fence.

By the time I got round to the main order of the day - building a net frame to keep the birds (and rabbits) off my broccoli, it was almost dark. Dad came down to give me a hand watering everything, which was nice of him. As we were packing up I found an altogether more welcome visitor to the compost heap - a small toad. Must be having a field day with all the slugs!


Saturday, 24 May 2008

Ladbird vs. Blackfly in The Battle of the Beans

Didn't get down the plot till late today. Chronically hung over all morning and afternoon but had a nice sleep by the river surrounded by dragonfly.

Discovered that my Broad Beans have a serious black fly problem. On the plus side there were a lot of ladybirds about. I read recently that if beneficial bugs are at work it can be best to take no action and let things re-balance on their own. So, instead of spraying with soapy solution I decided to let the little red bugs keep munching.

*Edit 8 June - The blackfly are now gone, but they have completely decimated the beans. Waiting to see if they'll recover.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Night of the May Bugs

Every year there are a few major ascension dates in the garden calendar. The first of these took place last night with the May Bugs. These beetle or cockroach like insects with Norman Lamont eyebrow style feelers spend most of the year underground as grubs. I often find them while I'm digging. Then for one night of the year they all crawl out to buzz around, frantically bumping into things and mating. Our house has been under assault. Every time you open a window or turn on a light they buzz in like fat carapaced daddy long legs (You can see one on my sleeve - he got stuck behind my hi-fi). They can be quite intimidating...

Yesterday I dug over the new patch in my back garden, which has been moved to where we had a giant overgrown conifer down. (You can see the old patch in the background - the yellow flowers are a sprout gone to seed). It meant digging and tugging out old roots whilst dripping with sweat and covered in dust. Then this morning I bought some landscape fabric and planted the strawberries out into slits and also in a pot.

On the allotment I built a frame for my mange tout peas, and a makeshift wire cover for my broccoli which both seem to have been pecked at by hungry birds. After some heavy weeding I also planted out the first of the wilted toms.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Baked or steamed to death?

Well I got home in a mood to do some gardening, glad to get out in the good weather and bounced out to my plastic greenhouse only to discover that *shock horror* I'd forgotten to unzip the bloody door this morning. All my tomatoes, peppers and broccoli wilted to death in a great seedling massacre. Thankfully a few survived in the shadier shelves and my lettuce at the bottom wasn't too badly scorched, but it feels like I'm back to square one...

On a plus point, the calabrese I planted out on Saturday is still alive down the plot and I have my first broad beans flowers appearing!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Weeds, weeds and more weeds

When I was just growing in my back garden weeds weren't really a major problem. The patch was dug in an area that had been mown grass for years and was too shady for most growth (including veg!).

The allotment, however, seems to be an entirely different kettle of fish. Despite months of digging the plot over and pulling out couch grass and nettle roots, in the last week or so the weeds have gone ballistic on my freshly tilled soil. I spent most of Sunday ferociously weeding - trying to sort out what's veg seedling and what isn't.

I've mentioned this in passing to a lot of the other plot holders I speak to. The key apparently is lots of hoeing and not letting them get big enough to go to seed - "one years seeding is seven years weeding," I'm told. I've since read that some weeds such as fat hen can produce tens of thousands of sees from just one single plant.

This is where our plot is in trouble, it hasn't been properly tended for a few years now. That's quite a few years of weed seed all stored up, waiting for the opportune time at which some kind soul dumps a loads of fertiliser on them, pulls out the established competition and makes a nice fine seed bed.

But, while they are a pain, it's not these seeded perennial weeds that are causing me the most distress. It's an all together trickier customer - Mare's tail.

This segmented plant shoots up in spikes absolutely everywhere before splaying it's thin pines out as it reaches the light. And it is everywhere. The trouble is if you pull the top off, it just grows back even stronger and often splits as well. I've been trying to dig the roots up but can never go deep enough. the black stretchy deep roots just snap like elastic when you tug on them. Like couch grass and bindweed (which I also have in abundance) it only takes a little bit of root to grow back.

I've been told not to bother - gardening books say the roots can go 1.5m or 5-6 ft deep. I hear tales down the allotment that this little menace has been around since before the dinosaurs and horror stories about roots that go so deep they've been found in coal mines. It's a real monster.

Having tried various weed killers to little effect, Jim next door is philosophical about it - "If it's been around that long we aint gonna beat it!" He's also got a bit of advice "Don't let 'em get you down though, just stick at it."

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Birthday and new camera

My birthday today. Rosie's given me her brother's old SLR camera so should have th odd decent picture up on here now. Lovely sunny day. Purple sprouting broccoli is almost ready in my garden patch and the first leeks have started coming up....

Went for a pub lunch and walk in Shere with some funky flowerpots and quaint gardens.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Little helpers

Rosie got dropped off by her Mum to come and help me today. They brought Trampus and Bramble with them who immediately charged onto the plot next door to take a leak on Jim's leeks. Little terrors...

Rosie did a good job sowing some beetroot, onions and parsnips for me.

The first onions are now up, as are the broad beans...

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Was down the allotment with Henry today. We brought an old swing down from his garden to use as frame for runner beans or soft fruit netting. Also made a start on the shed. Cleared a space at the back of the plot, levelled it off and lay the floor boards down on 4x4s. Didn't get much further though as didn't have a battery powered drill with us.

Henry's not actually sawing in this picture - he's just posing for the blog! :)

Instead we started pulling up the carpet on the middle path and laying boards as edging. Makes the place look much neater.

I planted the first of my broad beans under cloches last week. No sign as yet though.