Joys of gardening….and pests!

It’s June already!  The speed of growth is incredible this time of year, but I am reaping the dividends of no-dig/no-till in that weed control is definitely easier. Having said that, we have had some lovely soft rain the past week, and no doubt the weeds will also like this! The garden occupies a lot of my time, but it is so rewarding!

Photo below shows how much the potatoes have grown in three weeks:
Sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes (Losetto) and chilli peppers doing well. A glimpse of the enormous rhubarb plant in the right of the photo too.
Herbs (thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano and tarragon) doing well in the old ash bin
Superb crop of peas at the moment, and plants growing so vigorously that I am struggling to keep them supported
Also reaping broad beans, beetroot, spring onions and lettuce.  The smaller variety of Chinese cabbage has also been great – tasty ( I love their crunch!) but also the right size for the two of us. Infestation of flea beetles has been very  bad though – whilst they do not destroy a crop ( like cabbage moth does) they make the leaves look awful – dotted with a myriad tiny holes.  Their name is very apt.  Look closely at the photo below ; they look like fleas and jump like fleas so are impossible to catch.
The other bugs that are driving me crazy at the moment are aphids on one of the espalier apples. Infestation of grey aphids cause the leaves to curl up and wilt. I am not keen to use any insecticides because of the bees, so have been spraying with a mixture of Savon Noir (a linseed oil based soap) which smothers them. It works, but a week later they are back, so it is an ongoing battle. Aphids feed ants in a symbiotic relationship and on the espaliers it is difficult to control ants – in the other trees in the orchard simply wrapping sticky glue bands around the trunks works fantastically, but the multiple layers of the espalier, which touch the wall in places makes this impossible.

Birds are another problem. The soil in the raised beds is rich with worms which the birds love, but in their digging for a tasty morsel, they disturb seeds and young plants. I’ve developed a couple of counter- measures!

1: Slate around young spring onions limits access to birds 
2. Strategically placed plastic piping keeps them off young brassicas
3: The netted hoop is wonderful for protecting just one row of seeds
4: Bird netting works well for more than one row – here young lettuce and pepper seedlings as well as parnsip seeds. It does make weeding more complicated though.
I was horrified to notice yellow leaves on my otherwise very healthy tomato plants. Initially I thought it was one of the fungal diseases which would wipe out the crop, but on more careful analysis, I have decided it is chlorosis – an iron deficiency. I’ve had the same on one of the boxes of strawberries. It’s weird that it is not affecting all plants though. Foliar feeds of iron chelate should solve the problem, though getting the right proportion in a foliar feed can be tricky. I’ll just have to wait and see…
Weather has been hotter and drier, so the drip irrigation went in last week. Of course, since then we have had rain, so no need for it!
Seeding in situ in the last two weeks include carrots (Nantaise Amelioree) beetroot (Detroit) and spring onions (Freddy) and parsnips (Palace) In seed trays, both kale (Calvolo Nero) and broccoli (Purple Sprouting) have germinated – the latter rather erratically.  Seed is probably getting a little stale, so will need to buy new next year.  Seeded this week in trays: Cauliflower (boule de neige) fennel (Orion) red cabbage (Red Ball) brussels sprouts (Genius) These will be for autumn/winter cropping.


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