Tag Archive pest control


Overwintering Chilis, Aubergines and African Blue Basil

My ChilisThat’s it, it is too cold and time for my annual attempt to overwinter tender plants. I should of course give up such a mad endeavour and accept the british climate is what it is and tender plants are what they are. But hope springs eternal and the winter is not that long, is it? It has not all been total failure, two years ago I succeeded in overwintering three chili plants (thus proving it wasn’t a fluke) which cropped well again the next year but succumbed to the next winter. It was gutting.  Read More


More bumble bee love and more squashes

IMAG0811 copy

IMAG0813 copyMore bumble bee nonsense. I may be *am* anthropomorphising my garden bumble bees, because now they are starting to give me cuddles. This may be the bee I saved from the “existential horror factory” otherwise known as my spider population. To be honest, the spider looked at the size of  the bee struggling in his web, stroked his chin and muttered that he was going to need something extra special to handle this big a job. I’d like to think the bee came and rewarded me with a little waggerly dance on my t-shirt but I might be thinking total bollox. I may know that animals even insects are more clever and more feeling than we give them credit for, but this sudden affection for bees is entering tree hugging territory and the hard nosed inner rationalist is not happy.

Besides, as my wife says – bees are the messengers of the Goddess Aphrodite and who can ignore the gods?.

Or my wife.

IMAG0805I have inserted another photo of me stroking another bumble bee. Does anyone in interwebland know how I am getting away with this without being stung?

I am continuing to harvest squashes – I have to say “Crown Prince” is very productive – and adding them to the pile in the living room. There is a fair amount of food – and posh food at that – that will store through most of the winter. I say that though: my friend Stu refuses to cut his winter squashes until the plant has finished in autumn. He may be right, I have a nagging suspicion that early cut ones might not store that long, but I have done it to a) give me a boost of enthusiasm seeing produce in the house and b) to allow the plant to divert energies to the other smaller fruit on the plant. That’s the theory anyway.

My courgettes are now getting powdery mildew, an eventual harbinger of death for cucurbits, but they haven’t stopped producing. The courgettes, unlike the winter squashes, are in large pots. I am fastidious in their feeding and watering, because plants in pots fail very quickly in my experience. I am feeding them with nettle tea, comfrey tea and some freshly finished compost, all nice and juicy, which I am mulching things with.




Stroking Bees and Counting Pumpkins

Pyramid of skulls...uh...pumpkinsMy current pile of squashes (not counting courgettes – which are scoffed straight away) are sat on the table in our living room where I can admire them and remind myself just why I am growing vegetables. They have hard skins and some sound hollow. I’m hoping they will last well into winter – here’s hoping.

IMAG0801And there’s more to come. Some frenzied feeding, watering and cosseting that I’ve been doing (because I can feel the onset of autumn and I’m panicking) seem to have had an effect and all the squash plants have started growing more fruit. That is except for one. I have read him the riot act and he knows his days are numbered unless he bucks his ideas up.

I can’t say I’ve had a glut but veggies are definitely trickling into the house and it has made everything worth it. My knowledge is increasing as I do it, so I know it should be even better year after year.I’ve dug up my potato onions which a kind man who specialises in breeding these veggies (you know who you are) sent to me. I have 12, losing 5 to slugs and English weather but the photo to the left shows the results. Some of them are small but I got the seed late in the year and I am very pleased. They show a high variety of characteristics: flask shaped, torpedo shaped, round, white and yellow, even with a touch of red.

If you have never heard of potato onions, you may have heard of multiplier onions, they are just like shallots in that they reproduce by dividing and not by seed. That is they don’t normally set seed: very, very rarely they do and my potato onions are the product of this. The onions shown will be my seed onions for next year, which I will cosset under glass until I am sure of the security of my stock.

Potato onions from seedI have now stroked the backs of two bumble bees in the garden, a summer hobby taught to me by the missus who has been doing such bonkers things for some time. Are these potentially painful friends actually drunk on nectar as she suggests. Does anyone know?

Bumble bee drunk on nectar, unable to escape my strokingTalking of ecosystems, as you know I have been controlling slugs and snails not by chemicals but by the force of my size 12 boots. Well the smeared corpses of my gastropodic enemies led to an explosion of blue bottle flies which for three weeks were everywhere and very annoying. We’re talking scores of them.

Well, yesterday I noticed a reduction in the number of bluebottles as well as an explosion in spider webs and spiders. Over the next few hours I watched the spiders eat the bluebottles with a growing sense of horror until today the bluebottles have gone and the spiders have packed up their webs and gone elsewhere.

Not only is this the sort of pest control that organic gardeners have been pointing out works in nature, it is also the sort of existential horror story that I have heard about but never experienced first hand. Not just that I created the feeding frenzy by providing the food for the bluebottle breeding frenzy in the first place. This ghastly story played out thanks to my actions.

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