Garden 101 Blog

A week in the garden: 11 July 2020

Freshly picked strawberries and loganberries

Only two days late!

It feels like it hasn’t been a busy week in the garden, given how little time I’ve managed to spend out there, but once I started listing all the things I should mention I realise that it is busy… without me!

Let’s start with things I have done. I finally put up the compost bin – hooray! We had a horrific pile of ‘compost’ i.e. a pile that I’ve just slung garden waste on for the last year. As I deconstructed this pile, I realised that there is actually quite a decent amount of compost in there; however, there was a significant amount of bind weed around the place so I’ve now got to make difficult decisions about what to put in my compost pile and what to put in my green bin (the one collected by the council). I suppose that what I take from this is that for some people difficult decisions are actually difficult, whereas in my world a difficult decision is soil based (or, at least, that’s true for my garden world).

Purple cornflowers to attract bees and other pollinators

I tidied up the wild flowers at the end of the garden. I always dedicate the last metre of my vegetable garden to pollinator-friendly plants to bring in the bees and butterflies and, also, to just make the end look a little bit more appealing. It’s all a little bit concrete up there and there’s a lovely older lady whose back windows overlook it, so I like to try to make it colourful, even if it’s just to give her a better view!

The next think I’m pleased to have got done over the weekend was the planting out of my tomatoes. Let me take you on a tomato journey. At the start of lockdown, I really struggled to get seeds of any kind, so I planted some tomato seeds that I found around the house from goodness knows when. Two weeks in only one had germinated. At about the same time, I bought some sugardrop cherry tomatoes from Tesco and thought I might plant a slice of one – it seemed I had nothing to lose given that the others weren’t germinating and I thought I’d get one or two out of it that might resemble the parent plant. Who knew? Also at the same time, I found myself in a garden centre, where I bought six new tomato plants, given that the others weren’t growing.

Lots of tomato seedlings grown from a slice of a cherry tomato in a small pot

Cue: everything growing all at once, so now I have something like 25 tomato plants.

Admittedly, I left a lot of them in the greenhouse in too-small pots for far too long, so it’s definitely possible that I’m not going to get anything off them, but now that they’ve gone to the effort to grow, I might as well give them a chance. If they all grow, I get a whole winter of home-made tomato sauces in the freezer.

And now the bad garden news. Aphids. Are. Everywhere. I’ve honestly not seen anything like it before – it’s incredible. I’m rinsing them off and squishing (grim) and I’m really pleased to see quite a number of ladybirds getting their buffet on, but I have now ordered some more ladybirds to help out. Whole stems of my beans are black, but I really don’t want to start using chemicals, so I’ll continue with my squish-wash-predator regime.

Other pests that I’m currently experiencing would be the enormous number of caterpillars in my greenhouse, which have totally destroyed my curly kale and savoy cabbage, and a totally different caterpillar that started attacking my roses. Research needed on that!

Possibly one of the most shocking things I’ve seen this week is the thousands of flying ants on Sunday. I always have a lot of ants in the garden (they farm the aphids, after all) but they tend to stay around the edges of the wild flowers and the lawn. Fine. We all have to learn to share. On Sunday, I mowed my lawn and went in for lunch – I looked out the window and (I’m not exaggerating) there were so many ants on the floor that I could see the surface of the path moving. There were flying ants taking off – 5-10 of them every couple of seconds. I went out to have a look and I was absolutely astonished. Everywhere I looked after that I could see large, queen ants wandering around my vegetable patch. I checked it our on the RHS website and it seems as though I should just tolerate them for now. Did you know that they chew their own wings off when they’re done with them? Neither did I . Savage! The video below doesn’t do the quantity of them any justice, but nevertheless, enjoy.

Let’s end on a high. The loganberries continue to ripen and I’m picking them every day. Strawberry season is done, but there’s enough left to go in a mixed fruit jam. This week, I enjoyed the annual treat of gooseberry crumble. The rhubarb just keeps going, aphids or no aphids, as do the peas, cucumbers and courgettes. The chillis are ripening and the cucamelons are beginning to grow and it’s lookings like there will be sprouts for Christmas. And a bonus: today, the Sarah Raven catelogue arrived – bedtime reading sorted, so I can drift off dreaming of tulips!

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