Tackling the wilderness

We’ve managed to regain some control over mother nature, for a while anyway. She at least blessed us with a spell of dry weather on Saturday morning, allowing us to do more than we’d imagined we would. The clouds seem to change so quickly from friendly fluffy white ones, to grumpy grey and then downright angry, scary black ones. It’s hard to fathom where they come from so suddenly. When you’ve got your head down towards the earth, concentrating on pulling up weeds, you can loose track of what the sky above you is doing, and just lately it changes by the minute.

So knowing we were on borrowed time, we stepped up a gear, and worked pretty hard for 4 hours. In that time we pretty much weeded the entire plot (just the leek bed at the bottom end still to do), mowed and edged the grass path, pulled up the rest of the garlic and hung it in the shed to dry, and harvested beetroot, courgettes, spring onions and broad beans. We got home just as it started to rain. Phew!

So a little progress report:

Tomatoes are doing well so far, though with all this rain I’ve got fungicide at the ready in case of blight. I don’t want to use it if I don’t have to, and the last couple of years have been fine, so fingers crossed this will be too. I’m keeping a close eye on them though. I’ll also take some of the lower leaves off as they grow, as the leaves that touch the ground are more susceptible to picking up the disease.

The sweetcorn has transformed from the spindly wisps of grass they looked like when I planted them. They’re going to need a lot more sunshine for them to produce anything worth eating though.

The squashes are now starting to spread themselves across the ground. I should really put a mulch around them to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in.

The courgettes have started pushing out fruit.

I seem to have planted one green and one yellow variety. I don’t remember planning that, so maybe I didn’t, but full credit to me if I did.

I’m not having much luck on the broccoli front this year. The calebrese (standard big headed green type broccoli) is ready too early and is starting to bolt (see previous post), and the purple sprouting broccoli has been attacked by slugs. This is definitely slugs and not caterpillars by the way, the slimy trails are a slight giveaway. I’ve been growing them under cover to keep the butterflies and pigeons off, but of course that means the slugs are protected from predators and can munch away in safety. You can’t win! I’ve now put some organic pellets down, but it’s possibly too little, too late. They’re not all this bad, but I fear the others won’t stay untouched for long.

They’ve also been chomping on my sunflowers and some of my dwarf beans are now a stumpy, leafless, slightly slimy, stem. The rain has provided the perfect conditions for them, so there are more than ever. I don’t notice any snails, and I don’t think they cause too much trouble anyway, but you only have to turn the soil over to find huge black slugs. The black ones aren’t so bad, the smaller greyish brown ones cause the most damage. It’s worth noting the different types, more info here.

There are many methods you can try when it comes to slugs, I favour protection over attack where possible, though I think it might be time for some nematodes this year. If they’re demolishing my plants above ground, the root crops will be very vulnerable once they start to swell.

There is a massive difference between my carrots and parsnips. They were both sown back in the glorious dog days of March. The weather turned cold again after that, which didn’t seem to bother the parsnips, but it seriously upset the carrots and they refused to germinate. So these babies are Autumn King carrots that were my third attempt to get some going. In the meantime, the parsnips have grown up, left home, started up their own dot.com company, ran a couple of marathons, got a mortgage on a small semi-detached, written an autobiography about their wild youth and are now about to retire to the Devonshire coast. The carrots have got some serious catching up to do.

The beetroot is growing in a shady spot between the parsnips and the raspberries, but it doesn’t seem too bothered. There are gaps in the row, but I’ve sown into these gaps and there are some baby ones coming through, so I actually have an unplanned perfect succession of beetroot to see me through the summer. I love it when a plan fails and nature does a better job for you.

One of the climbing beans has made it to the top of its pole, and is now winding across the horizontal supporting pole. Show off!

And is flowering nicely.

As are the calendulas. It’s hard to capture the vibrancy of these on camera, but they really are very bright en masse. Even with grey skies looming!



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