The vegetable garden is looking a little sorry for itself at the moment. The last of the winter roots and leeks and brassicas are waiting to be harvested and there are a few weeds showing now. Nothing that a dry, sunny winters day cannot sort out. I have heavy clay soil so I use long planks resting on the side of the raised beds to work on to prevent compacting the soil, which has had some good productive frosts this year breaking up the clods.
The autumn planted garlic and shallots have benefited from the frosts as well and are looking good. So too are the autumn sown Aquadulce Claudia Broad beans. I always get a nice early crop which means some for us and the rest for the freezer and the ground can then be used for the spring onions, lettuces and radishes which I plant in the spaces between the old bean stalks that stay in the ground making nitrogen nodules on their roots to feed the brassicas next year.
I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my potato tubers, egg boxes are ready for chitting on the conservatory window sill, The ground for these will be dug over after the last red cabbage and sprouts have gone.
The garden has suffered with plenty of slugs over the last couple of years so I am very diligent about cleaning up leaves weeds and old plant stems where they like to hide. Any that I do find go straight into the chicken run where they are devoured with relish! Chickens are very good re-cyclers, they love all the outside leaves from the brassicas , swede tops and fallen fruit which they instantly turn into quality manure which is added to the compost along with the nest box material and newspapers I use to line their sleeping quarters. My reward lovely fresh eggs every day to share with family and friends.
Seeds for the season have arrived so I must dust off the propagator to set the peppers and tomatoes at the end of the month. How quickly it all comes round!
Love lies Bleeding originates in Jamaica, where it is also eaten. I might throw some leaves into a green risotto and see what happens. What it has done for me though is to bring a jungle effect into my garden. Pink monkey tails and greenery gently waving in the breeze.
I sowed my amaranthus seeds late in mid-May in a seed tray kept under shade in my greenhouse. 8 weeks on from there, they got potted on into 9cm pots. After two weeks of growing on, we put them out onto a barren hot and ugly south facing slope beside the greenhouse, planted up with small and barely pulsating small box plants.
The slugs were overly curious for the first few weeks of planting out. I resorted to organic pellets and now the slugs have lost out and the amaranthus motored skywards on thick stalks (Watering to start them off was important). I am on alert for staking but so far there has been no need – they have become slug proof, pug proof and human proof.
The Amaranthus has bought the jungle to my garden and various squashes and the claret sunflower have added to this mood. Sowing with jungle-look annuals and half hardy annuals is an ongoing experiment for me. If anyone has some large, leafy exotic annual plantings to share, I would be very interested.
You can read more on my blog here.
Snippets from this week’s gardening news stories…
Big Butterfly Count
Big Butterfly Count
Butterflies’ dwindling numbers have been in the news a lot recently and we also posted a few articles on how to encourage butterflies into your garden. This week sees the start of the Big Butterfly Count, the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. All you need to do is visit the website, download a butterfly ID chart, find a sunny spot to sit in and count how many butterflies you see in 15 minutes. The survey runs from 20th July until 11th August and you can count butterflies as many times as you like and then submit your results online.
Acute oak decline – be on the lookout
British trees threatened by deadly diseases
Ash dieback has dominated the news in recent months, but now oak trees are being affected by acute oak decline. The bark in the trunk of the tree develops cracks from which a dark, sticky fluid ‘bleeds’. Another symptom is a thin canopy (tree top), a sign that the tree may soon die. Scientists are currently researching the cause of the disease, which may be bacterial. It affects both mature species native to the British Isles, the pedunculate and the sessile oak, but it is as yet unknown whether other oak species will be affected.
Acute oak decline has already been recorded in thousands of trees throughout East Anglia, the Midlands and South East England. The Forestry Commission is asking members of the public to be on the lookout for signs of the disease and to report suspected cases, either via the tree alert form or the tree alert app.
If you’re not sure which tree is which, the Woodland Trust has a comprehensive guide, giving all the information you need to be able to identify them.
Slugs – eating their way through wildflower meadows
Slugs causing havoc in wildflower meadows
Field slugs are the subject of recent research into their impact on hay meadow restoration at Newcastle University. Initial findings have shown that the field slug is particularly fond of red clover among others, an important plant in wildflower meadows because of its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil for the benefit of other plants around it. This is a bit of a blow to the recent campaigns to increase wildflower meadows in the UK, including the Coronation Meadows Initiative set up by HRH The Prince of Wales.
The study found that the slugs’ favourites were red clover, yarrow, creeping red fescue, Yorkshire fog, and rough-stalked meadow grass, many of which are being grown in wildflower and hay meadows up and down the country. Slug populations increased massively after last year’s wet summer and this year’s boggy spring, with gardeners facing a daily onslaught of the slimy critters.
There are several pest control methods, both chemical and natural. Beer traps and used coffee grounds offer some protection, organic and child and pet friendly slug pellets are available and very effective. Nematodes – microscopic organisms that are watered into the garden in spring and autumn – seek out any slugs living underground and kill them within 3 days and are completely safe for use around children and animals.