Early summer is the perfect time to step out in the garden with a nice cuppa, and bathe in the satisfaction that all of that hard work this spring was worth the effort.
And so it was that whilst surveying my garden at the weekend, over a hot cup of tea, I heard the quiet munching of leaves from just behind me. Snails! A perennial plague in my garden!
I took some time to admire my new friend, before launching him on the ride of his life, as far from my Dahlias as possible. I heard him land somewhere off in the distance and can only assume that he won’t be back for a while!
I try to avoid slug pellets where possible, or at least try to use wildlife friendly slug pellets. We have a thriving population of frogs and a fair few hedgehogs, so slug pellets can have a really devastating effect.
It seems that there has been a population explosion of garden pests this year. Aphids have been particularly bad, with Blackfly devastating my Broad Beans. I turned to an eco-friendly combination of ladybird larvae (who love to munch Blackfly), and growing Marigold ‘Naughty Marietta’ as companion plants. The strong smell is supposed to deter aphids. This was working quite successfully – until the snails ate the marigolds!
On the plus side, the Tomatoes and Runner Beans are doing nicely, and we have Courgettes and Pumpkins which are are growing away well, so all is not lost in the veggie garden.
I’ve been pleased with my Lilies this year. From April to May, I set about systematically eradicating Red Lily Beetle. They’re tricky little beasties to catch, dropping to the ground upside down so that you can’t see them. My persistence has been rewarded, and this year we have barely a nibbled leaf in sight!
Unfortunately a new menace has taken hold in the garden. Scale insects! This is the second year that it has infected one of my Hydrangeas. Yesterday I found more scale insects on the Euonymous, a well as another Hydrangea. I frequently go over each leaf, squishing the bugs as I go, but I must now admit defeat, and have just ordered some pesticide.
Like most gardeners these days, I have a fair few Vine Weevil out in the garden. Although they keep themselves out of sight, the damage is unmistakable – little U-shaped notches are cut into foliage. They seem to particularly enjoy Euonymous and Bergenia, which is slightly annoying as the damage to their evergreen foliage is a year-round reminder! Although unsightly, they don’t seem to do as much damage here as you might expect, so I tend to turn a blind eye to them under the mantra of live and let live.
It’s not all bad news though. Sitting outside in the evening reminds me that my small urban garden is alive with wildlife! Last night I spotted bats, stag beetles, frogs and a multitude of fluttering moths – all in the space of a couple of hours!
Tadpoles in the pond have been abundant this year, and the birds have been busy popping in and out of nest boxes. It reminds me that the wildlife which we label as garden pests are often the food that support the creatures that we look to encourage into our outdoor spaces.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online. I have a keen interest in drought resistant plants and a passion for perennials, particularly hardy Geraniums. I previously stood as regional secretary for the International Plant Propagation Society which gave me lots of opportunities to see what other horticulturalists were up to in their nurseries and gardens.
I keep a plastic cup (not single use as it’s over 20 years old now and who wants china or glass in the garden) to hold under the lily leaf whilst grabbing for that pesky red thing. If I miss, it drops into the cup and I get a second chance at slaughter.
I also gently pull off the anthers and drop them into the cup for later disposal. Their removal doesn’t harm the aesthetic but means no pollen to get on a cat’s fur. Plus I’ve found that the flowers tend to last longer – same principle as pollen-free lilies as no pollen means less pollination to put the brakes on flowering.
These are great tips. Will definitely try your Lily Beetle capture technique! I agree about the anthers of the Lilies too. We have lots of cats around our neighbourhood (including a large ginger tomcat who lives with me). I always remove the anthers to prevent the pollen being transferred onto one of our feline friends. It certainly does seem to make them last longer too 🙂