Sunday, 8 May 2011

Glorious (and edible) Garden

Oooh, I love my garden, I do. It wasn't always the case though... About 2 years ago I had a really enthusiastic attempt at container gardening and, although I did get a few tomatoes, courgettes, spring onions and the like, it was basically just an insect and gastropod carnival.

Last year was a bit of a wash out, as work and other things got in on my time first. This year, though, the balance seems to have returned and my lovely garden is taking shape again. I can't truly describe what a pleasure it is, to sit outside and drink coffee (or tea, or wine or cocktails) on the patio of a sunny day.

The smell of roses in the evening is absolutely gorgeous
The actual act of gardening is fabulous too; from the watering and feeding rituals, deadheading violas, seeing seedlings emerging... oh the whole thing is just incredibly satisfying.

We still have a sluggy, snaily problem but are lucky enough to have at least five toads in the vicinity. Yum yum say the toads.
We also have lots of ladybirds and my little beetle friends have been laying eggs recently; I hope to see a ladybird fiesta on my broadbeans, strawberries and roses very soon (as these are already being attacked by aphids / blackfly).

Ants are my real problem pests, we have at least three nests around the house and they make aphid control a nightmare. I can see the little buggers running around in my roses and broadbeans; I do respect their farming prowess, I just wish they'd go and do it elsewhere!

I don't have a greenhouse but did recently discover the next best thing - a small, moveable, flatpack cold frame. Everything I've put in it seems to be extremely happy, including seeds that have germinated perfectly well without the benefit of a proper indoor nursery.

My courgette, potatoes, french beans, chilli plant,
basil, tagetes, poppies and sunflowers all look very happy in their makeshift
greenhouse. I'm still waiting for a sign of life from the sweetcorn,
romano peppers and aubergines though...

The tomatoes are living in one of those plastic greenhouse things, one of them seems happy enough, the middle one is ok and the tiny one is all stunted and miserable looking. I've no idea why, they are in the same gro-bag, with the same watering and feeding schedule. Maybe I should play it some mozart.
I've kept the mint and horseradish corraled in pots since, tasty though they are, they're also nasty bullies and would happily take over the garden if given free range.

We've got sage, raspberries, a baby plum tree, strawberries, scented night stocks, some sweet peas and two fennel plants (one of them self-seeded by the other) in the back garden but everything else lives in a small patch out the front. I couldn't help smiling when I saw the first bright red radish on my way out of the house one morning last week.

I can wear my smug face in the garden too as I don't use pesticides, peat-based composts or chemical fertilisers. I am sorely tempted sometimes, particularly when the aphids and slugs come to feast, or I have a poorly plant like my stunted tomato, but thus far I've held out. Mainly by picturing the sad little faces of ladybirds, lacewings, honey and bumble bees, butterflies, blue tits and robins as they drop dead of poisoning. I just can't handle that kind of guilt! 
I am tempted to nematode the ants though...

We're lucky enough to have clay soil that still drains quite well, so nothing gets malnourished or becomes waterlogged and, with my predatory friends seemingly doing well (not just the pests), hopefully everything will survive.

I've been surprised how easy everything has been this time around. Maybe the weather is helping I don't know, it just seems to have clicked into place. Based on my experience I wouldn't recommend trying to grow too many things in containers, a lot of plants seem weaker for this treatment. If you do have a garden, get a helpful friend or spouse to dig over a patch of grass. Unsurprisingly, plants seem to like that best.

Veg patch plants: blueberry, broadbean, radish, beetroot, sorrel, spinach, spring onion, nasturtium, lettuce, basil, coriander, geranium, bay (in a pot so it can come inside over winter), parsley, oregano, runner bean, rhubarb, chamomile, borage and tarragon.

Organic Garden 
BBC Gardener's World
BBC Gardening Guides
Soil Association
Biological Pest Control
Radio 4: Gardener's Question Time

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