It’s been another hectic month of non-gardening based activity, but last weekend I eventually found a few hours to give my veg patch some much needed attention; finally getting round to harvesting my first major batch of produce.
The results of my hard work so far? It’s been a mixed bag; with some satisfying successes, but a fair share of disappointment too.
With the wet weather last year, slugs and snails munched their way through months of hard work and toil, with the slimy beasts destroying most of my plants seemingly overnight.
This year, the slugs have been kept at bay thanks to a combination of hungry chickens, regular torch lit hunts (see ‘Slug Solutions’ http://tinyurl.com/mpd43w5) and the recent stretch of hot weather. As the months have stretched by, I grew naively optimistic that pests wouldn’t be an issue for me this year.
How foolish of me.
The slug has now been replaced as my number one enemy by a much more beautiful, but equally destructive creature; the butterfly. Sure they may look all sweet and lovely, but trust me, they’re buggers. All of them.
I have never experienced any problems with these winged devils before and consequently, have always forgone protecting my crops with mesh netting, especially as I have always thought netting looks a bit naff and – as stated frequently throughout this blog – I am a massive cheap skate.
I soon regretted this decision making process though as the start of the July saw the arrival of handfuls of Cabbage White butterflies, all descending upon my broccoli plants. I didn’t pay much attention at the time (silly boy….) but whilst weeding a few days after the initial invasion I suddenly realised that there were hundreds of tiny little yellow eggs all over the leaves of my broccoli plants.
I tried to scrape off these balls of impending doom, going from leaf to leaf muttering obscenities to myself and shaking my head. I knew exactly what would happen if I didn’t manage to rid my plants of these eggs; I could picture the destruction that awaited.
Inevitably many eggs escaped my wrath and the all too predictable result was lots of very little, put very hungry caterpillars (Remember the book? Frighteningly accurate), which then proceeded to munch their way through juicy leaves, reducing my once proud broccoli plants to pot marked, hole-ridden shells of their former selves.
I went a little bit mental, running around brandishing my garden fork in the air, shouting ‘buggeroffyoubloodybastards’ to any butterflies that came into view and weeping manically.
Hardly the most effective of solutions, but it made me feel better.
What was worse, the butterflies’ attentions were not just for my brassicas; they inevitably landed on surrounding plants and laid eggs on my peas, chard and pak choi, rendering a few of these plants unusable.
So, a decision had to be made; invest time and money in some last minute netting or, call it quits, pull up the broccoli and hope that this would stop the harmful attention of the winged destroyers. Inevitably I went for the cheap option (remember; me = penny pincher) and pulled up the broccoli; after all, it was so damaged I doubted it would ever make a proper recovery.
Thankfully this tactic seems to have worked, but my veg patch is looking rather sad and empty without my lovely broccoli which was so painfully close to harvest.
However, where there’s been failure there has also been some psychologically beneficial, spirit lifting success.
My wife and I eat a vast quantity of garlic and onions (we smell fabulous) so it made sense to plonk some onion sets and garlic cloves in the ground earlier in the year.
I only planted a small number after a neighbour had warned me that he’d never had much success with these vegetables and I’ve only got limited veg growing space in my garden; I wanted to play it safe.
The lack of a ‘normal’ Spring (ie. no sun, no warmth and therefore cold soil) definitely hampered the development on these plants, but what I have managed to harvest is of fantastic quality and I now have a greenhouse full of small, but perfectly formed drying garlic heads and onions, producing an almost overwhelming aroma that hits me like a smelly sledgehammer whenever I enter the greenhouse.
Next year I shall definitely be planting a lot more of both crops, but try and get hold of some straw to place as mulch around the plants as possible in an attempt to keep any warmth that’s locked into the soil.
The peas I planted have been a great success too, with pods now bulging full of little round balls of yumminess. They taste brilliant and I am having to restrain myself from eating all the raw peas myself; popping open the young pods and munching the delicious contents as I wander to and from my shed when seeing to the chickens in the morning and afternoon.
My only regret is that I haven’t planted more of them, especially when one considers the nitrogen fixing benefits of these little beauties.
Another success story that really appeals to the recycling fanatic within me was how well my old shop bought potatoes performed when plopped into the ground.
I had a few sprouting spuds sitting at the back of my veg rack one day and I thought I would try planting them out in a rather unloved, chicken decimated patch of ground; if they grew, brilliant, if nothing happened, never mind.
Apart from some initial teething problems when my chickens dug up the small potatoes (shake fist, shout, run around garden, get ignored….), this little project has been a ‘winner’, with these compost bin bound rejects producing a healthy crop of miniature spuds. What’s more, the ground has been nicely broken up and looking incredibly healthy, ready to be added into my sphere of cultivation later in the year.
These successes have helped to quell the rage brought about by my broccoli based bungling and when combined with the regular harvests of lettuce, pak choi and swiss chard that I have been able to gather all month long, I am feeling fairly content with the progress of my horticultural pottering.
Progress is being made and I think I need to learn to let a few mishaps go every now and then.