As all gardeners, keen or otherwise know, spring is the time for new planting and growth. This is particularly true in the vegetable patch where the salad and vegetables for the coming year are grown. Over the years, we have improved our veggie area and slimmed down our ambitions, basically we grow what works. Less is more and all that. In practice it means none of the tricky little veggies that have 5 minute harvesting windows, like peas for example.
Due to problems with slugs eating everything, in previous years we have grown everything in pots and planted out strong healthy plants. It’s a lot of work and a lot of watering. Two years ago we installed a custom made carrot box that is slug and carrot fly unfriendly. This year, I decided to bite the bullet and plant all the root crops and onions direct. What could go wrong?
The answer in two words is blackbirds and slugs. Now we love blackbirds. We even put out special feed for them; every day. However, 5 years of regular mulching has turned a damp desert into a thriving soil packed with worms. With young to feed, it was the perfect hunting ground for at least one blackbird family. With regular soil disturbance, nothing grew. Well, not strictly true, a couple of turnips poked their heads up, but they didn’t last long. But that could also be down to the slugs. Despite the nematodes, they have been spotted in late evening amongst the fragile vegetables.
Finally, I put the nets up. Nets are great, but they too have their downside, mainly that no matter how carefully you install them, the birds always find a gap. So they need constant checking so the intruders can be released. Occasionally, they have to be cut free. That said, they butterfly nets are essential. Unless, of course, you find picking caterpillars off for hours on end to be a fun activity. Plus, it makes life harder for poor old Mr and Mrs Blackird, cue guilt trip.
Anyway, luckily, I did plant a few ‘reserves’ and they are now planted out so all is not lost. That said, I had to dig up the turnips as they were fast disappearing and a cabbage and kale have also succombed to slug’s munching. On top of all that, there are zero onions, unlike last year, and only about six beetroots. After writing this, I’ll be off to plant seeds to make up for what’s missing. In pots. In the greenhouse.
The polytunnel is planted up and is looking good. However, I made the mistake of turning the automated watering system off during the winter months. Result, soil that makes the Gobi desert resemble a water meadow. Cue lots of watering. I turned on the automated watering system to find it wasn’t working. The timer was working fine but only a trickle of water emerged at the alloted times. Baffled, I took it to pieces. Amazed at the engineering ingenuity but finding no obvious fault, I put it back together again. To my surprise, it now works perfectly.
Despite all of this, we are hoping for another good crop leading to a winter packed with fresh soups