Saturday, 30 June 2012

Still not in control of pests

A trip to plot 18 and we have returned with some more spinach and our first spring onions of the season. Chatting to other plot holders it seems we are all suffering from losing our plants to something hungry. The blame is being spread between, slugs and snails, pigeons, partridges, rabbits, mice and deer.

I discount rabbits on our plot; our fence is good, there are no droppings and some uncovered plants which have not been touched would have been demolished by rabbits. Similarly I discount deer. They could easily hop over our fence, but there are no tracks or droppings and they would browse everything.

There doesn't seem to be a firm pattern. We have covered mange tout peas which have been demolished. I don't expect any crop from them. There were slug trails near there and we have put out slug pellets, but the rain may have washed some away. Mice could get under the edges of the netting, but I doubt birds would. Spinach is in the open and untouched, it must not be to the liking of the scoffers. Some onion leaves are still being munched, but only at the edge of the bed, where the CDs and strings are not covering it well. Here I suspect birds. Parsnips are in the open and untouched. They are the best looking parsnips we have ever grown, but it's the roots I'm interested in so we have to wait until we pull them to really see how good they are. Our dwarf French beans have been nibbled under a net, so again I blame slugs. Our strawberries are under cover and are beginning to ripen and as they do the red bits are getting nibbled, again slugs or snails. There have been some black fly on the broad beans, but not much and nipping the tops off has dealt with it. The bean pods are growing well and some will be ready soon. Our courgettes are not doing well with the plants not enjoying the cold and the few tiny fruit quickly nibbled away. Undercover cabbages looked fine, ones in the open have gone. Fruit bushes all look good, with signs of ripening berries.

I suspect we are just getting assaulted by multiple pests and I especially blame slugs, pigeons and maybe mice. I wonder if some creatures thrived in the warm March and there are now more mouths to feed. We will get some produce, but we will miss out on some too. More to learn about yet I think.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Internment camp

Improvised bird proofing
Mange touts in a tent
Our allotment plot never looks perfect. When it has just been dug over from end to end it probably looks at it's tidiest, but there are always scruffy bits, piles of canes or poles, untidy edges near the fence and hedge and so on. At the moment it looks like some kind of miniature internment camp, with wire, fences, dangling CDs and mesh everywhere. Some of the structures are more carefully planned and constructed than others, but all are a bit ugly. They are also always in the way, you can't walk around the plot without climbing over or squeezing past something. To get at any of the plants means uncovering them from the mesh, which then gets tangled up with something else like the fence.

Healthy beetroot
Covered cabbage and eaten cabbage
I feel we have little choice with everything getting so badly eaten, but I wish it wasn't needed. The fact is it is needed. We deliberately planted out excess cabbages alongside the covered ones and they have been eaten, with some plants completely gone. The idea was to be sacrificial, but they were probably just wasted.

Broad beans
The broad beans are doing very well. They are tall and straight and covered in flowers with some small beans beginning to grow. The cane and string supports are simple and encourage the plants to support each other which stops them breaking in the wind but also stops them breaking against a hard support too. There were a few black fly in the tops of some plants, so I nipped the tops off of all of them to get rid of the fly and force them to put their vigour into beans.

We put more slug pellets out - there were some huge slug trails around the plot. We took some spinach for later.

Monday, 18 June 2012

All out

The greenhouse is empty. We have not been robbed, we just put everything out that was still in there. In the past few years we have grown about four courgette plants and we've been overrun with them. Really nice as very fresh courgettes are, there's only so many we could eat and when our neighbours were not accepting them too we knew we had grown too many. this year we grew five plants and determined we would only plant the two best ones, which we did a few weeks ago. The three still in the green house have been watered and kept out of the cold and they have done much, much better than the two outside, even thought they have been constrained in their pots. Today we planted out the three from the green house, but we will pull up at least two when we know which ones do best.

We also planted out the remaining mange touts. They too looked as good in their pots as the ones previously planted out. We have had some damage to the ones outside where they have grown through the mesh covering and been eaten, probably by birds. Last year partridges scoffed the lot, so today I built a plastic mesh cover propped up on canes. The plants are well away from the mesh, so, hopefully, the birds won't get close to our peas. It might be a nuisance to uncover to pick the pods, but we'll see.

We also planted out the cabbages that Gary gave us to replace the ones razed by birds. I made a plastic mesh tunnel supported by wire hoops and held in place with tent pegs. We had a few extra cabbages left over, so we planted them out in the open to see how long they last and as a kind of offering to the pigeons. The pact is they can have them if they leave everything else alone, but I don't expect they will understand that.

A few strawberries have been nibbled - I suspect slugs. I put down some bark chippings around the plants, but I think I need more, and more slug pellets too. There are no berries looking ripe yet, but lots of small green ones so if we can keep the slugs off we should get a good crop.

The broad beans stems are huge. They have flourished in the wet and they are tough enough to thrive in the cold. They are covered with flowers and the bottom ones have set into small bean pods. No sign of black fly yet, but lots of patrolling ants.

We took some rhubarb, it won't be long before we stop taking it so the plant bulks up again. The stems are still red and it cooks down really nicely.

When the broccoli at home is ready it will spend a few weeks in the greenhouse before being planted out. Just like cabbage, it will need a  lot of protection from the birds and unlike cabbage it will grow outside for months and be vulnerable through the winter. I hope it makes it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Spinach looks good

We went to harvest some spinach this morning. I was a bit unsure what we would find, but to my relief the plot was fine. Our Heath-Robinson approach to covering our plants seems to have kept the veg scoffers at bay. The sweet corn does look a bit better than I hoped and the leeks are all as we left them. We tried and failed to find a supply of suitable netting - we'll have to look a little further afield.

The spinach looks really good; cooler weather does suit it. It was just 11°C at 10am Mid June. The ground is nicely wet too, so this current weather is good for some things.

We bought some seeds for early purple-sprouting broccoli today - it's a touch late to sow it but since it grows for nearly a year I'm sure it will catch up. That should be a treat next February when not much else is available to harvest.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Eaten away

Jean planted out the remaining leeks and sweetcorn a couple of days ago. Today we went up to check how the rain had helped the plot only to find the leeks and sweetcorn had been badly eaten. It is odd. I don't know for sure what is causing the damage, but some things are untouched, such as large spinach plants in the open. We have tried to cover the leeks and sweetcorn with netting and frames. At this rate we will just need one giant net over the whole plot.

Across the road from the site there were a couple of men shooting wood pigeons, and they seemed to get quite a few. Many people have commented how there are lots of pigeons around at the moment. Pigeons are high on my list of suspects as veg gobblers.

I'm not sure the sweetcorn will survive. Its leaves are mostly eaten away with just the stalks remaining. The leeks probably will as they grow for much longer and there is more of the plant still to grow from. This year has been odd, warm in March, very wet and cold most of the time since, maybe that has forced the wildlife to look for different food supplies, but this has, for sure, been the worst year of losses since we started.

I'm going to look for some extra netting and canes to support it. I hope the men with the shotgun keep bagging pigeons too.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

First Leeks

Jean planted out the first batch of leeks and hung some CDs over them to keep the birds off. She also put out some more spinach and beetroot too.