I ordered my usual three 70 litre bags of compost from Local Hardware Store during the week, and remembered to add a couple of bags of well-rotted horse manure to my order. So there’s now a layer of it sitting on the soil around my redcurrant bushes:
This is a follow on from my last post, where I’d discussed the sawfly problem with a fellow gardener. I also had a go at a bit of light pruning, clipping off any diseased twigs and removing one or two big branches that were rubbing up against other branches and generally getting in the way. But frankly I still don’t feel I know what I’m doing when it comes to pruning redcurrants.
The next stage is to wait till the leaves come out, and pick off any larvae that I find from the undersides. Hopefully most of them won’t have made it that far, thanks to the manure.
Encouraged by today’s lovely weather, I also turned over the compost heap, picked off surplus figs from the fig tree and divided the sorrel (grows in a black bucket, not visible in the above pic).
compost, crops, other pests, pruning Tags:
compost, fig tree, figs, horse manure, manure, redcurrants, sawfly, sorrel
I had a great conversation with another vegetable grower the other week, over a game of bowls. I mentioned my sawfly/redcurrant problem (see this post), and she gave me the following tip: horse manure. Stick a layer of horse manure over the soil (in early spring, I think she said), and the sawfly larvae will have a much harder job to emerge and plunder your redcurrant bushes. Something to think about.
Earlier this week, I was congratulating myself that my tomato crop had been a reasonably good one, especially considering the fact that the summer had such a slow start. However, today I noticed something that shook me out of my complacency a bit – many of my tomato plants had tiny “nibbles” on the skin of the fruit and also on the stems/leaves. The pic below shows an example (click for biggering).
A bit of googling came up with a possible culprit: the flea beetle. I have ordered some yellow sticky sheets off eBay so hopefully I can catch some of the little barstewards and ID them conclusively. I will have to be careful about not re-using the tomato compost, because apparently the flea beetle overwinters in the soil where the affected crop grows. (Maybe I can dump it by the rose bushes in the front garden, well away from any vegetable plants.)
Back in June (see this post), I reported on how some of my elephant garlic plants were doing really well, while others… weren’t. These had failed to thrive and had succumbed to our garden’s massive snail population before they had a chance to flower. The failed garlics one thing in common: they were the plants where I’d grown mizuna in the pot as a companion crop. I think it would have been OK if I’d taken the mizuna out the moment it started to bolt, but I left it in there and I think it probably sucked all the nutrients out of the compost, thus weakening the garlic plants.
The “mizuna garlic” bulbs never ripened off properly – they remained as undifferentiated globes. The healthy garlic plants (the ones with no mizuna) remained undamaged by snails and flowered as you’d expect. When I pulled them up in mid-August, the bulbs had matured and split into lovely big cloves. Which taste fab. (The “globes” are OK to eat as well. At least, we haven’t suffered any ill effects.)
Conclusion? Ten inch pots are fine for growing elephant garlic, provided you pull up any companion crops before they have a chance to weaken the garlic.
Elephant garlic harvest showing “non mizuna” and “mizuna” bulbs
It’s the second week in September, and the tomatoes are *just* hitting their stride. I’ve sliced a couple of Brandywines and fried them with our Sunday bacon and egg, and for the last two weeks we’ve been enjoying a small but steady supply of Gardener’s Delights and Tumbling Toms in salads. Today I made a tomato sauce to go with pork meatballs and linguine. I love this time of year.
I talked about the mysterious entity that was eating our raised bed redcurrant bush in this post. Turns out that it’s now moved on to the bush that’s growing in the dustbin.
Thanks to a fellow gardener in a forum that I’m on, I’m reasonably confident that the “entity” is the gooseberry sawfly, which also likes redcurrants. There are several options from here on:
1. Pull out the redcurrant bushes and grow something else.
2. In late March/early April when the leaves come out, start checking the leaves for signs of larvae and squish any offenders. (Apparently they owverwinter in the soil underneath the bushes.) According to the Royal Horticultural Society, there are several ways of dealing with sawfly, including organic pesticides (e.g. pyrethrum), and nematodes. I’ve also heard that neem oil is a natural alternative to conventional pesticides.
So, looks as though I will either be ripping out the redcurrants altogether, or pruning them back come late Feb/early March, and going on sawfly watch in April. Fun stuff.
I’ve noticed an interesting thing about our elephant garlic plants. Some of them have grown up tall and strong, with flower buds waiting to burst into bloom, while some of them appear to have failed altogether – their stems are yellowing stumps that have become prey to slugs and snails. The failed ones are those which I companion planted with mizuna last autumn. Maybe I left the mizuna in too long (it had bolted, flowered and gone to seed), so that it was sucking vital nutrients from the garlic?
As an experiment, I dug up one of the mizuna-containing pots to see what was underground, so to speak. Answer? an unripe bulb of elephant garlic, which will hopefully have grown and divided in a month or so’s time. I will do more companion planting of this sort next year, but I shall remember to uproot the mizuna before it starts to bolt.
Right: the tall, strong plant without mizuna. Left: the sad sack plant with mizuna
Uprooted “sad sack” plant showing perfectly healthy looking (albeit unripe) bulb
We have two redcurrant bushes. (Well, actually we have three – there’s another one in our front garden, doing its best to disguise itself as an ornamental deciduous shrub.) OK then, we have two redcurrant bushes in our back garden. One of them is in an old dustbin and is doing OK (see bottom pic). I picked a couple of punnets’ worth from the dustbin currant on Sunday, and have put them in the freezer.
The other bush, which is in the raised bed by the back wall, isn’t faring so well. It’s being eaten up by a mysterious pest, which has destroyed the leaves and nobbled any fruit before they had a chance to develop. The back bed is also a haven for snails; possibly it’s these which are responsible for eating the fruit. I confess I have neglected this bed – I’ve let the brambles run riot and I haven’t pruned the redcurrants, because the whole subject of pruning fruit bushes scares me. I’m going to have to get over my pruning phobia if I want to get any fruit off this bush next year, and also monitor the bush more closely in the spring for signs of any larvae/insects.
From what I understand (http://www.gardenseeker.com/pruning/pruning-redcurrants.html), you need to prune in late winter/early spring and cut back the older growth to the ground, as well as cutting any wispy side shoots from the previous year’s new growth. So this post is a reminder to get my secateurs out in early March.
PS: the bonus cat is Magnus. We’re down to just him now, since Lottie the tabby died a month ago at the age of 22 🙁
As of last week I have been feasting off the strawberries in containers in our front garden – although sadly, the ****ing snails are feasting off them too. I make a point of doing a “snail check” every morning and evening, and any that I find get unceremoniously chucked into the shrubbery on the other side of our front path. I don’t use slug pellets (don’t want to cause harm to local bird/cat life), so the snail checks are the price I pay. But the strawberries are worth it. Amidst the strawberries is this fine terracotta strawberry planter, which I’ve planted with… Tumbling Tom tomatoes. My neighbour from three doors down gave me the planter – he doesn’t have time to garden right now so I’ve promised him some of the fruits of my labour. (In case you’re wondering, the two tomato plants growing out of the top of the planter are Gardener’s Delight.) All my tomatoes are doing OK a week after being potted up. None of them have flowered yet though – don’t think we’ll be eating any home grown tomatoes till August.
Today was the first day I put my tomato plants out to harden them off. They’re just getting two hours today, to ease them in gently (last year they got a bad case of windburn from having been left outside from 8 am to 4 pm, in blazing sunshine). Given that there’s still nearly another week before dear old Thanet District Council collects our ghastly eyesore old bed, I thought I’d once more put the upturned divan to good use, by pressing it into service as a shelf for the tomatoes:
Handy tip: to speed things up each day when you put your toms out for hardening off, keep the pots in old washing up bowls or something similar that has reasonably high sides. The pots are secure when you lift the bowls and carry them outside, and won’t fall.