Grow Your Own! Pests, plagues and pretties.

*reader warning- more bad language than usual

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It’s all kicking off in the Boomboom garden, please admire the newly painted shed.

I’ve got a few days off the day job this week and today was always aside for completing my tax return so obviously, here we are with some garden updates!

Spring has truly sprung now on the Essex coast which basically means regular rain and mildly chilly evenings punctuated by the odd Express-headline-grabbing 48 hour freak hot spell. And the garden loves it, we have growth in abundance and all kinds of wonderful activity best observed on a Friday evening in the shade with a huge glass of vino blanco. That sounds lovely and glamourous doesn’t it, who doesn’t fancy a cheeky glass of wine ‘neath the leafy boughs to mark the start of the weekend? Unfortunately the more regular evening activity is my daily stern faced walk around, stooping to strip out the weedlings or curse at the arthropods to then lay in bed at night contemplating the karmic value of preserving life in all forms vs the fact that I really hate bloody snails- the slimy greedy bastards.

snail

Shelled slime demon

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a real snail problem. There are hundreds of the buggers, and I am not inflating this figure for dramatic impact. Various credible sources have predicted a creepy crawly boom this year due to the bug friendly combo of 2015’s wet summer and warm winter. They have stayed awake, eating and breeding for longer than usual in conditions more favourable to the success of their gluttonous, oozing offspring. They are going to be everywhere, eating everything, and something needs to be done. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The obvious answer is of course pellets, little blue bombs of death to fizz up their glubby bodies and bring a none too swift death by dehydration. I have several issues with this, and although it is low on the list the bubbly salty death is one of them. Bigger is the issue of the introduction of chemical nastiness into our soil, particularly in my veg areas where I want to eat what is growing at some point. So, ok, maybe just use pellets to protect the shrubs and lillies then? Works in theory however will this not drive all of them up the garden away from the blue pellets of doom and toward the less protected lettuces? A slow moving tide of destruction by moonlight, worthy of a three movie straight-to-NowTV horror franchise. I shiver in my seat at the thought. Much as I have been kidding myself that I don’t want to kill dozens of snails for the debatable crime of Snailing I must admit that I found a monster sneaking towards one of my equally monstrous onions last night and after a brief battle that fucker is now resigned to the history books. They have to go. In the short term, anything found north of the fig tree will be physically picked off and chucked into the compost bin to think about itself/feast to extinction on grass cuttings. I will be watching the Schwarzenegger back files to inspire some suitable parting one-liners as I rain down this destruction. Longer term, I have a three point plan:

  1. Sand borders for the veg patch to scratch their fat, sticky bodies so they go away
  2. Beer traps for mass murder which we can pretend isn’t such a bad way to go and doesn’t leave behind any toxicity
  3. Excessive reading on snail identification that I might be able to preserve the yellow shelled carnivorous breed that will eat the common garden ones. I think I found a dead one the other day…..
  4. More bird encouraging behaviour- in particular scorning our crappy tree hung feeders for scraps out on the scummy garden table we haven’t skipped yet as they seem to notice this more. Hopefully if they keep coming back they will notice the dessert lurking in the Erysimum and do for a few of those too. I shall now rejoycfully document the daily return of our resident Great Tit pair who are both affectionately known as ‘Titty’.
  5. Tossing the really big ones gently over the fence where my wisteria murdering neighbour may enjoy their presence. At least my snails won’t ‘damage’ her fence. Humph.
  6. Executing stage one of The Pond plan as a few toads would have these buggers under control in no time. Plus, who doesn’t want toads?

I would gladly love to hear your snail control successes as I refuse to believe I am the only person so obsessed in these matters.

Moving on now to the plants, everything now seems to be patience and maintenance. Lawn mowing, border trimming and the like. We have had some fairly brutal cutting back of the shrubs in particular the unruly buddlejas and purple splotch bush.
Weeds are a constant source of perfectly balanced stress and relaxation as my panic stricken evening rounds of plucking them from the soil is most mentally relaxing in other ways.
It is also a pretty wonderful time for discovering the other resident perennials as they transform enough to be identified. We have a rather thrilling yellow tree peony, a glut of wild geraniums, a potentially majestic foxglove and some maybe-lilly-of-the-valley patches waking up. After being forced at gunpoint to go to Barn Plants yesterday I shall soon be adding some lovely monochrome petunias and other such pretties to break up the dominant green and purple motif we currently have in place. These will be going out later today before after I get to grips with that cursed tax return.

To close, the edible update.

Cabbages: January King variety, planted out at the weekend after much soil improvement with forking and compost addition. Shoots should be seen in a few weeks to lead to theoretical early winter harvest.

onion field

gallivanting onion growth

Onions.  Red Karmen variety planted from bulb in ground and in pot. Absolutely storming effort here, doing really well in the patch though I think I might have to thin out the ones in the pot as they seem to not be growing so quickly. Absolutely recommend these for low maintenance gardeners or if you want to get kids into it with quick, visible growth results. Expect chutney and pickling recipes to come.

 

lettuce

happy lettuces, soon to harvest

Lettuce. Red and Green Salad Bowl variety planted from seed in ground and pot also progressing wonderfully. I plan a tentative first harvest of a few leaves next week if current growth continues. I mention now that these are doing really well in the most shady patch of my veg area so well worth trying these if you aren’t south facing or have unused lower light areas in the garden.

 

pots

carrot pot with more onions behind

Carrots. Nantes 5 variety planted in the last week of March in ground and pot. Seeing sprouts now though they aren’t doing very well in the ground. I expect this has something to do with the big, fluffy, grey horrible bastard cat which particularly likes this quadrant of my patch to crap and scratch in. I call him Moby Dick and have purchased some stinky green plants with a complicated latin name which I am assured will make him take his toilet breaks somewhere else. I really hope they do because I am losing faith in myself as a lover of all animals and feel the constant hate waves are leading me closer to the Darkside with every passing hour.

Rosemary: Seedlings abandoned after zero growth activity, probably due to not having a stable enough warm temperature to sprout in.

Established Herbs: Oregano and Rosemary now in bigger pots and doing well both growing nicely and covering the crappy rotten bits of the low conservatory wall.

Hazelnuts: Treeing away without notable change.

Fig Tree: Bigger leaves. Pretty boring.

WTF Trees: Blossomed and shed already, expect confirmation soon as apples, tiny buds starting to show.

Chilli Plant: Not looking too happy and showing no further fruit. In fairness he has lasted much longer than he should have but may sadly have to be put to death as we don’t have anywhere light in the house where a bigger pot will fit.

Lemon tree: Having a lovely time in the conservatory.

mint pot

Pot up your mint or it will run riot

Mint: Just when you thought I was done ranting, Mint! Gah!
It. Is. Everywhere.
And sadly seems to be something the bloody snails don’t want to eat. I would say it is growing like a weed but it is much worse than this, it is a herbal zombie apocalypse. It is in the beds, it is in the lawn, it is in the veg and under the trees and poking round the sides of the shed. On the advice of garden guru Auntie P I have harvested two pots worth for culinary usage as it has wonderful flavour and now dedicate some time on my daily walk round to ripping the rest of it out. Gardeners note- you can be seriously brutal when propagating mint it seems it will bounce back from anything and grow in sun, shade, wet, dry and wind battered spots.

 

So there we are, despite the bad language, I love my garden and never expected to, and I’m going to go and have my second coffee out there now whilst hexing the snails and throwing stuff at cats. Soft stuff. I actually quite like them when they aren’t pooing.

bloody cats

Related links:

if you fancy some chilling scientific viewing: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36166774 

and seriously, if you live near me and love your garden go to Barn Plants in Stanway http://www.barnplantsgardencentre.co.uk/ 

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