Aphids, Chickweed, and Last Year’s Tatties

So, we’ve weathered the storm and the sun has returned. The forecast for the week is mild and calm for a change, so naturally our thoughts turn to gardening. There’s plenty of wee projects both in the veg patch and the flowerbeds that need doing, so lots to keep us occupied in the coming days! Today’s chat is about gardening woes: weeds and pests and an unexpected problem.

The vegetable patch has been overcome by a green sea! The days of rain have done wonders for the young broccoli and lettuce in particular, but there was another benefactor, the weeds! The job looks a bit too big to tackle by hand, in between the rows at least, a bit of hoeing is definitely required.

This year we are fighting a battle against what seems to be an invincible army. Chickweed is an unassuming plant with leaves of a pleasing pale green. It’s net-like root system is the problem, blanketing the rows in a green carpet, which when pulled up, disrupts all the surrounding plants as well. Every time we turn around more seems to appear, I think we will have to consider mulching in future!

A less visible army has been fighting geurrilla-style amongst my started seedlings. Aphids have been a significant source of woe this year, first, nearly killing my lemon tree as it already suffered from winter blues, before moving on to my early chitting potatoes. I found them calmly devouring the summer and winter squash and finishing with an old favourite of theirs, my young rosemary. You would think the essential oils in these plants would put them off, but it never seems to! A fatty acid cocktail has been the weapon of choice this year, but I can’t wait to get my plants out into the predator filled world. This year I have planted marigolds and nasturtiums to act as soldiers in the fight against pests. Can’t wait until they flower!

An unexpected contender amongst the entries for “most annoying plant” this year comes from one of our favourite garden crops, the potatoes! We have planted several different varieties this year: Red Duke of Yorks, Anyas, Golden Wonder, Blue Danube, Fir Pinks and the ever-popular Maris Pipers. It’s the potatoes we didn’t plant that are the problem! Last year, a still unknown pest attacked many of our potatoes, leaving soft fleshy holes in many of the tubers. We still haven’t decided if this was a slug, a nematode or the grubs of some suspicious black beetles that were often found at the scene. We made the rookie error of leaving these unattractive tubers in the bed after we’d harvested the others, with the end result that potatoes are literally popping up everywhere! We’ve rotated our crops, so it means that last year’s tatties are wreaking havoc amongst the peas, carrots and parsnips this year. It is a mistake we won’t be making twice!

I hope you are all enjoying good weather where you are, perhaps doing a bit of gardening yourselves. Today’s task is to plant out the beans and sweet corn. But first, to tackle these weeds!

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