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Growing veg in containers – garden pests
I’ve a confession to make: my efforts at growing veg in pots, as part of this year’s Grow Yourself Healthy campaign, haven’t been a great success. The French beans I sowed indoors germinated well, but as soon as I moved the pot outside, Sid the blackbird dug them up, looking for grubs. The second batch of seeds I sowed suffered the same assault. Sid then mysteriously disappeared – has another frustrated gardener taken revenge?
The third batch of beans is barely past seedling stage. I’m sure the plants will catch up, but I might not get a harvest until August. My spinach hasn’t fared any better – that was eaten by snails.
It’s not all bad news. My tomatoes and chillies in pots are doing well and the cut-and-come-again lettuce leaves have already provided me with a couple of salads. There are also some salad crops growing in my lawn, including a radish and various lettuce varieties. I don’t know how they got there, but they have so far avoided the attentions of the snails, so they can stay. Who knows, perhaps salad crops growing in lawns will be next year’s big trend at the Chelsea Flower Show. Don’t forget you heard it here first.
There is a small allotment outside the offices of Gardeners’ World magazine, where there is space for a few of us to grow fruit and veg. We have runner, French and broad beans, spinach, chard, courgettes and some wonderful raspberries originally grown by my granny.
The runner, French and broad beans were heavily infested with blackfly when I visited two weeks ago. But, as there were two or three ladybird couples mating on the plants, I chose to let nature take its course and let the blackfly be (ladybird larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids). This week I popped down and found so many ladybirds that I worried there weren’t enough aphids for them to eat. There were hundreds of them – mating adults, eggs, larvae and pupae ready to hatch. There were native two-spots and seven-spots, and the foreign harlequins in their many guises. It was like one giant ladybird party, and it didn’t look like it was slowing down any time soon. I suspect the dry weather in London has contributed to this mini-population explosion.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a bit of a soft touch when it comes to ‘pests’. I don’t control critters in my garden – the blue and great tits tackle the aphids for me (ladybirds don’t get a look in), while the frogs and blackbird do a good job of keeping vine weevil numbers down. The frogs also make sure the slugs have no chance of establishing a population but the snails can be quite a nuisance, as can the blackbird. I take the rough with the smooth and on the whole my relaxed approach works well.
I’m glad I chose not to remove the blackfly from the allotment beans two weeks ago. Sometimes it takes a while for the ladybirds to arrive to the scene, but they nearly always come eventually. It helps not to be too tidy in autumn – ladybirds and other insects hibernate among dead foliage and leaf litter, so if you provide such shelter for them over winter, they’ll be on hand much quicker to tackle any aphids before they become a problem.
In the meantime, I’ve left some very dead chard plants standing on the on the allotment, as they are effectively Ladybird Party Headquarters. They’re not looking pretty, but we’ve planted tomatoes around them. Back home, I’ll be re-sowing the spinach and keeping an eye out for marauding blackbirds. I’ll get there eventually.
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