Wednesday, 23 May 2007

War on pests!

After seeing the damage done to my poor bean plants last week by the slugs and snails, I rushed out and found organic slug pellets in Homebase. They're "certified for organic use", more rainproof than traditional slug pellets, and they break down into harmless iron and phosphate in the soil. I tried them on my patio first; usually I daren't leave my seedlings outside after dark, and if I do they're covered in snails when I remember them. With a scattering of the pellets all around them, I've left them out three or four nights now and none have been touched. HA! Take that, nasty little molluscs!
So I spread them all around my crops on the allotment, particularly around the beans and the grassy edges of the plot where I'm sure they must all hide, a few days ago. When I went back today there were hardly any left in most areas, but as we were weeding we kept finding dead slugs and snails hiding under leaves so it looks like they're doing the trick! I scattered more before I left - they're not getting away with it any more!
Slugs and snails are not the only pests I've been dealing with. I arrived at the plot the other day to find the asparagus ferns covered in asparagus beetles. They're funny, exotic looking things - I thought I had a good general knowledge of British insects but I guess you only ever see these on asparagus beds, and mine is the first asparagus bed I've seen! What with the wind and my camera wanting to focus on the ground beyond the tiny stems instead of the stems themselves, I completely failed to take a decent picture, but here is one I found on Wikimedia:

All those I could find met their end today in a cup of soapy water, but not before laying dozens of eggs. You can pick them off but it's a really fiddly, painstaking task so I might leave them to the ladybirds and lacewings - and there are hundreds of ladybirds around, mating everywhere!

SO, apart from the pests, my crops are doing fine. You can see the onions getting bigger, the potatoes are leafier and more vigorous than ever, and the strawberries are flowering happily. The weeds are also incredibly prolific - we dug the strawberries out today from under a forest of them and the onions will have to be done again as soon as we have time. It's been so weedy I've completely missed out on a spring crop of baby carrots, and the red onions must have been completely swamped - they should be up by now but there's no sign. I'm hoping it won't be so bad in future years; the soil must be full of seeds from last summer's weeds, it's been growing wild so long, but of course next year that won't be the case.

The strawberries are going to start to fruit soon and I'll need to cover them with net to keep the birds off and mulch them with straw so the berries don't touch the ground, which will need some thought. I don't really have the cash at the moment to build beautiful frames out of beautiful wood like everybody else does! Also how do I work it? With three rows of plants, I don't want to cover all of them at once and have to remove the whole lot to harvest, but if I enclose each one separately I'll need to leave room for runners so I've got more plants next year, so how big do I need to make them? It's complicated, this business!

The pond is still doing really well, although the water level has dropped dramatically again since the sun's come out. Look - you can see right to the bottom! Although it doesn't look like our very expensive water lily is doing much down there...

Unlike a couple of weeks back, it's bursting with life; the tadpoles are getting huge, we've got at least two different kinds of water beetle in there and our first pond skater has arrived! And our Iris flowered:

The lettuce/spinach patch that I had started in my last blog is planted now, with (are you ready?) little gem lettuce, iceberg lettuce, lollo rossa, rocket, watercress (apparently it will work if I water it enough!), land cress, swiss chard, two types of beetroot, two types of basil, coriander, spring onions, spinach, New Zealand spinach (does better in hot weather), perpetual spinach (does better in cold weather, and should keep going all winter), corn salad (lamb's lettuce) and a patch of mixed lettuce leaves. I probably should have sown just a few of each and then more at fortnightly intervals or something, but I'm afraid I didn't have the patience (and I've been rubbish at keeping up with the things I should be sowing at home), so I expect a glut in a few weeks time and then I'll try to re-sow as I harvest. Actually, the trickiest thing will probably be to stop them bolting in the hot, dry summer we're expecting; I'll have to water them all loads.

That done, I've got almost no excuses left not to dig the next strip of the plot...


Teacher Sim said...


Love the blog... just talked to a 'compactor' in Australia who is interested in your blog...


Dan said...

I'm glad to hear the organic pellets seem to be working for you. I've been using them this year for the first time too and there does seem to be a slight reduction in the damage being caused. I still lost all my kohl rabi overnight last week though!!

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