Trials of Gardeners Summer 2012 – by Karen Ashton

Anyone who grows their own fruit and vegetables will already know that it is a constant learning curve, sometimes quite a frustrating and disheartening one!  In my own garden I have found through bitter experience that I have to cover the brassicas with netting, otherwise the cabbage white butterflies lay their eggs and the resulting caterpillars munch through the lot.

I now also have to net off the peas as the local sparrow population seem to have developed a taste for the young shoots and can destroy the years crop before they’ve even managed to flower.  Considering that pea shoots are now served in the top restaurants, its obvious that the sparrows know when they are onto a good thing.  This year instead of watching them destroy the plants we have watched them trying to eat through the twine holding the netting in place and picking off any shoots that have managed to grow through.

Unhappy at not being able to get at the peas the sparrows have now started taking dust baths in my onion bed and as a result have started filling in all the holes left for the young leeks to grow into.  So now I am having to put twiggy pea sticks across the area until the leeks are more established.  Slowly the vegetable beds are starting to resemble a maximum security prison!

As for fruit, the blueberries also need to be netted off, usually from mid June until they stop cropping. Not the sparrows this time, but the blackbirds, which will quite happily eat them before they are even ripe.  So far they have been so busy trying to figure out how to get to the blueberries that they haven’t noticed the raspberries yet, which are just on the other side of the path.

Blueberries

One important thing to note however is that when you are using netting in the garden you have to ensure that it is taught and is tied down so that no birds can get into or trapped by in it.

This year has been testing in the kitchen garden, not because of the birds (I’m prepared this time) but the weather and the amount of slugs which seem to be enjoying the damper climate.  The first peas that were sown around March/April never germinated so I had to sow another batch in root trainers and planted these out in May.  The unexpected cold weather then meant that I had to cover them with fleece until conditions improved.  I’ve picked my first crop of peas this week and having got them this far I’ve now got to prevent my other half from eating them before they make it to the pan, there is no better taste than a fresh pea straight from the pod, and netting isn’t going to hold him back.  The courgettes that I planted out in May have started fruiting later than in previous years and so far the fruit have been small, hopefully this warmer weather will see them on their way and I can look forward to better cropping during August.  I am now on my third attempt at growing climbing beans, which are usually no bother.  The slugs and snails have destroyed the last two attempts, so similarly to the peas, this time I’ve grown them in root trainers, and planted them out when they were a reasonable size.  Fingers crossed this time they will take off and we’ll enjoy a good crop later in the year.

Peas Victorian Colossal Climbing

Just about every seed that was direct sown this year has been a disaster they have either drowned in the amount of rain we have had or the erratic temperatures have meant that they haven’t germinated, those that did have had a battle for survival with the slugs and snails.  Having said all of this we are now enjoying the onions and garlic planted last autumn, their space has now been taken by the leeks mentioned earlier.  Elsewhere the tomatoes and peppers are starting to form fruit and the mangetout is cropping well.

Onion - Red Baron

There have been plenty of birds in the garden over the last month, with quite a number being new fledglings with their parents. Our resident blackbirds had a new addition to their family and the blue tits that were nesting in the bird box also had two youngsters. We have also had young sparrows and starlings. These birds may not be anything out of the ordinary, but as our garden starts to mature more birds visit on a regular basis. This in turn helps to keep the garden in balance with pests and the reason why I don’t use slug pellets to kill the pesky slugs.

Meanwhile the garden itself is starting to bulk up and despite the weather is looking good for what is only its second year in flower. Although the planting is geared to be at its best later in the year there is still plenty in flower now that can be enjoyed.

Erigeron Karvinskianus

Lavender

This post was compiled by Karen Ashton, Client Manager at Balance Accountants.

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