Thursday, April 27, 2006

Our struggle against the carrot fly

To the vegetable grower, carrot fly is the worst thing in the world. They lay their eggs in the soil, and when you come to harvest you find that the young maggots have eaten up most of your crop.

Students of the Old Testament will, of course, remember that the Lord would regularly send a small pestilence of carrot fly unto the land to vex his people. But perhaps not as well documented, but equally important, is the appalling starvation suffered by the peasants of East Grinstead during the Great Carrot Famine of 1754-55.

As we hope to avoid this sort of misfortune, we’ve surrounded the carrots with a shield of horticultural fleece. We hope they now won’t find their way in.

Shortly after we’d finished building this (frankly magnificent) shield, we asked one of the veterans of the allotment if anyone had ever had any trouble with carrot fly. ‘No no, we never get it here,’ he assured us.

Oh, well. I suppose that’s good news.

‘But we do get a hell of a lot of wireworm.’

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Any dead slugs yet?

Yes there are! The beer trap caught about 12 on the first day. Then we set out some more traps and filled it with a different brand of beer and then we caught none! Further research reveals that slugs are very picky when it comes to what brew they like. They seem to like Fosters, but they don't like Sainsbury's Basics Lager. Apparently it's something to do with the fermentation they use. Some lagers use a sugar based process, whilst others use a more wheat based method. It's the wheat which is important as that is what attracts the slug. In fact there was an American study done on this and the published paper says that Budweiser is the alcoholic beverage of choice for slugs but we're going to try other brands first as Bud is a bit pricey to be wasting on slugs.

The nematodes solution has gone in but this was very tricky as the water supply has not been turned on yet at our allotment which meant that we had to haul water in three trips from our flat. We've also now put down some organic slug pellets to see if this will kill any more. Hopefully, this will wipe the slugs out!

As for growth, some of the tomatoes had to be repotted yet again as they are growing extremely fast. The squash has slowed down considerably and it may be due to the root disturbance it suffered upon transplanting.

Down on the allotment, the potato plants are looking excellent and we were complemented on them from a fellow allotment grower. The raspberry canes are flourishing and the pak choi, spinach and rocket appear to have germinated well.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Die Slugs, Die!

Slugs are evil. This is a fact. This is because they eat up all your hard work and they don’t care. It is because of this that we have decided to take evasive action. As we want to try to be organic, we’re not going to be using the usual evil slug pellets that not only kill slugs but also harm wildlife. After looking at several alternatives we have decided to start with traditional slug traps filled with beer as well as nematodes. Apparently slugs love beer and are lured by the scent to a watery end and we have made these out of yogurt pots with lids, punched holes into the sides, filled them with beer and then sunk them into the ground.

Now nematodes are a fairly new, organic and biological slug control. Basically they are microscopic worms and you water them into your soil and they get inside the slugs and kill them. They are only harmful to slugs and should a bird eat the nematode ridden slug, they will not be affected. We are using a brand called Nemaslug as recommended by Sarah Raven.

Tom Toms and Squashes

Before we left for our adventures in Dubai, we planted some tomato seeds. We planted four varieties: Sungold, Gardener’s Delight, Brandywine and Sub-Arctic. These were chosen as lots of books have told us that they are tasty. We put them into small pots with compost at first and wrapped the whole lot in newspaper and left them next to the radiator. According to Sarah Raven’s The Great Vegetable Plot, you then have to wait a few days for them to germinate and then when they show any signs of life, you should take off the cover and put them in full sunlight which is what we did. They sprouted magnificently and then we had to leave them whilst we went to Dubai, hoping that they wouldn’t die whilst we were away. We came back and found that they hadn’t died. Huzzah!

A few days ago we transplanted them to larger pots and they are looking fabulous.

When we planted the tomato seeds, we also planted a seed from a butternut squash that we had bought from Tesco’s. Amy didn’t think that it would grow but she was wrong and it is growing very well. It has been put in a big pot after the initial germination as squashes don’t like root disturbance.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring is here!

All over the allotment, plants are beginning thrust manfully through the soil. The garlic has sprouted. The raspberry canes have leaves. The potatoes have probably appeared, but since I have no idea what a potato shoot looks like, they may simply be potato-shaped weeds.

We also got a letter from the One Tree Hill Allotment Society telling us that thanks to our sterling efforts with the fork and the spade, we have passed our probationary period.