After three days of constant rain last week, I switched on the evening news and heard the weather forecaster say the ‘sun will come out tomorrow’. True to their word, on Friday it shone intermittently but the weekend was glorious. Yes, and that dreaded jet stream has finally shifted and allowed us to experience a little of what summer should be like.
At the weekend I arrived a little later than normal at the allotment and there were no parking spaces anywhere near the allotment. After weeks of keeping members away there was a rush to get back to pleasant hours of gardening and start to salvage something from this poor season.
There were, however, many distraught gardeners on the allotment as blight - the potato grower's worst nightmare - has appeared. The humidity is high and, the temperatures have risen, creating the perfect conditions for these airborne spores to seek out potato leaves. There is no simple solution to this disease, as many of the fungicides that keep it in check have vanished from the garden centres. I am organic and would never spray anyway, so on the last of my early potages I have had to cut off the foliage and bag it up and remove well away from the allotment. The tubers should be fine in the soil but I have to keep a wary eye out for that pesky ground-hiding slug. If it is not one problem it’s another!
On the upside however, the runner and French beans have perked up no end and there are at last some tiny beans hanging there. This period of sunshine has encouraged those hungry bees to take to the wing and the pink and white flowers on the beans have certainly attracted them in droves, so hopefully it will not be long before a plate of beans will be my reward for this long, patient wait.
The downside is that these flying insects have been joined by the butterflies. Most of these colourful ones are welcome to fly over my plot but I live in fear of the cabbage white variety, who is seeking out my cabbages for a place to lay her eggs so those hungry little caterpillars can devour the leaves in double-quick time. The nets are out and I have thwarted this attack so desperate butterflies are trying in vain to get to these tasty treats but will soon leave for pastures new.
It is not only the gardeners that have suffered this year from the massive population growth in slugs it appears that dog owners are suffering from these slimy pests too. Because of the wet conditions they have been active during daytime, so dogs have been eating some of these slugs and have been suffering from lung problems. I hope these dog owners join the army of gardeners who are trying to readdress the balance of these pests.
I see one of the best slug controllers, the hedgehog, is getting help on many fronts. The Wildlife Aid Foundation has the 'Save the Harry' campaign, whic is is being supported by politicians. They are urging Government to introduce an act to give legal protection to this important species. Their population has plummeted from 36 million to just one million today. They are hoping that many measures will be put in place to reverse this decline before they face extinction. It is no coincidence that as the hedgehog population has declined the slug population is rocketing. We have gardeners have not helped this natural pest controller by using those nasty blue pellets which has contributed to their decline. Many more roads have been built, where these creatures once roamed free, and they have met disastrous consequences. So let’s all pull together and help reverse this decline.
So, with summer entering at a gallop now, let’s put a recovery plan in place to salvage those rain-beaten plants and, with a good feeding regime and by keeping them weed free, there is still plenty of this summer left yet to reap great harvests. There were doubts at one stage whether any surplus crops would reach the freezer or whether there would be any chutneys and jams for next winter’s use but I am confident that this will not be the case.
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