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."