Saturday, 23 June 2012

How do you protect yours?

As the weather has been so challenging lately, I thought it might be a good time to write about ways to protect plants.

So far this year, my garden has presented to huge challenges that I didn't really have the experience of dealing with before.

You see pigeons didn't really seem that interested in a small patio garden in South London with high fences and winds didn't seem to be that much of a problem either.

But now I have a much more exposed garden up in the Midlands - I thought a larger garden would be the answer to a lot of my previous limitations - I can now grow roots in open soil along with many other opportuntities.  However, I did not anticipate the challenges. 

There are 2 main challenges with being more exposed, the first being the neighbourhood birds and the second being the weather.  The weather is so challenging to work with this year not just in my garden but the country as a whole.  Its mostly wet and windy.  It is the opposite extreme to last year.  We have to try and work with it, whatever it is ... but it does not look like we are getting much of a summer this year!

When the forecast mentioned another rainy storm with high winds was coming this week (this will be the third or fourth so far this year) my thoughts went straight to how do I protect my plot?  The birds have also been pinching young tomato fruit so I need to think about protection on 2 fronts - pest and harsh weather.  The tomatoes are now in a tall fleece tent kindly built by my boyfriend and the heritage peas are under netting - that should stop those pesky pigeons eating my peas!  The fleece should help the tender tomatoes along in this years cool climate.

To bring the seeds on to germination, I've learnt this year about putting fleece down.  The idea for this was when I saw agricultural fields covered with rows of clear plastic and I thought that they must have done this to warm up the soil to speed up germination.  Well the fleece worked a treat.

So far the squash are under cloches or upside down plant pots in harsh windy weather.  The main issue I am having with these is a common one - snails.  Snails is something I have plenty of experience with!  The other issue is that they are finding it too cold.  One cucumber plant has completely perished.  I'd been wondering why the leaves were looking yellow - this time I don't think it was a lack of nutrients but that the plant was completely perishing.  When the squash look big and strong enough I shall be removing their cloches, but not before!

To protect against bird damage, I've been thinking of making willow weave cages to fit over the tops of my plants.  I have a plant in the garden which grows branches very similar to a willow tree so I need to learn this skill.

Last year, I built a kind of a fleece tent around an aubergine that was struggling in our cold summer last year and that worked a treat.   Perhaps this year I will make the cages and then if necessary drape the fleece over the top of that.

What methods of ingenuity have you found to protect your plants?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

June Storms

Recently we've had some pretty changeable weather to deal with.  We've had a 10 day summer inbetween lots of unseasonally cool days, followed by lots of rain and then an intense windy storm.

I hope you all fared better than me with the storms!

Prior to our 10 days of summer, I had put fleece over all my germinating seeds to stop the birds from eating them before they got a chance to sprout.  And then the sun came.  With high temperatures averaging 26 degrees C.  The week before we'd had temps around 12 C.  I took the decision to keep them veiled with their fleece as I thought the sun might scorch them and I think I was the only person waiting for that heat wave to end to unveil my little beauties!

And it really did feel like unveiling my patch!  All of a sudden the areas I'd planted were fully populated with seedlings of salad, roots, onions, radishes (including baby rat tail radishes), leeks and the peas finally germinated.

On Jubilee weekend I decided its now June - I can start planting the tenders out.  Naturally I made some bunting with some ribbon, old scraps of blue/white/red cloth and my sewing machine so the whole weekend was not just dedicated to gardening but I did find myself (inbetween watching the Jubilee celebrations on TV) trying to make a start on planting the tenders out. 

I planted out 4 sunflowers, 12 french beans and 4 winter squash.  I didn't have quite enough time to plant out the tomatoes and the remaining winter squash and sunflowers.  I also left some flowers to plant out later.  They were all residing in my plastic greenhouse.

Then the rain came down, and it carried on coming down all week ending in a great big finale of a storm on Friday with very high winds.  I came home to find the greenhouse flat on the floor.  We were devastated!  We love tomatoes!!! 

I rescued all the seedlings one by one, my boyfriend helped me with the carnage.  It was hard work as I'd just come down with a cold and cancelled a weekend to London where I would have been helping my friends at Transition Town Wandsworth's Bramford Community Gardens with their Open Squares event. 

I moved them all the rescued seedlings into a shed, safe from the wind and naturally lost a few squash and some sunflowers - surprisingly all the tomatoes escaped unharmed.

Yesterday, I inspected the veg patch after the winds and all the supports were fine - naturally my boyfiend had done a sterling job with the plant supports a week earlier.  I only had one casualty on the plot - one of the winter squash had perished in the Friday storms.  Luckily I had germinated two of this italian pumpkin variety and this was one variety that had not perished in the greenhouse calamity.  So despite all the drama, I think the population of veg with all the heritage varieties amongst them had lucky escapes.

(I do realise in the grand scheme these are small problems in contrast to the people in Wales who had their homes completely flooded)

However, after all the doom, gloom and vegetable carnage, yesterday was a pleasantly sunny day with the elder flower in bloom and the blackberry bushes budding up with their flowers of promise.  So it was a day of planting - all the tomatoes are now in the new, slightly more secure home of the veg patch (that is providing we don't have another blight epidemic this year and with recent weather patterns this is highly likely!)

And today we are blessed with another sunny day - I really hope it follows true to the forecast today as they are predicting light showers in the evening.  If it remains I shall be planting out all the remaining seedlings currently in refuge in the shed and any seedlings that haven't made it will be laid to rest in my wormery to help those who made it with nutritious worm tea and worm cast!

I do hope the weather's going to start to be a little kinder to gardeners - it must be really challenging for those of us who are just starting out.