While the world seems to have hit the reset button and we contemplate a changed lifestyle, at least for a while, the garden carries on bursting into life. The bees are buzzing around the flowing plants and the birds, as a lovely friend of mine noted in her own garden recently, are busy finding new morsels of worms and grubs to feed their young. I wish they would pay more attention to the snails and perhaps to the leaves of the broccoli where the cabbage white butterfly has been laying her eggs. (Check for yellow eggs on the back of leaves and squash before they hatch and eat your plant!)
My morning wandering thoughts have recently been on preventing disease coming in to our little ‘garden world’ and ways I can protect the life within. I can’t ‘lockdown’ the flying insects and with them and the wind comes our own version of ‘virus’. Much like the human world, some things in the garden need a bit of help sometimes to be the best that it can.
As I potter I look at the freshness of the greens and a few early ripening cherry tomatoes and know that I have given them as much healthy soil as we can so they can develop strong roots and help their own fight against virus. Earlier in the season, I was already sad to see that the garlic once growing proudly had succumbed to ‘rust’. We suffered this last year too and so I had followed advice, planted with more space in a different area but they have still been affected. I make a note to plant the garlic around the apricot fruit trees next year, as they are beneficial partners which detract a burrowing bug that affects the bark of the tree, even if they succumb again, they will be doing a job. The leeks still stand proud and green so I’m pleased with that, can we just not talk about the onions!
I look at the field of sunflowers that o/h is so proud of and remember the 100 or so potato plants that were planted there last year ready for our arrival. Despite being shown how to care for them by one very proud landlady’s mum, it seemed at the time we were truly incapable gardeners as they almost overnight died off a few months later. We were distraught wondering how to confess we had managed to kill them all off! Was it blight, had we over watered, is something wrong with the soil here? Then I got a text from the landlady, “Mum says the potato plants should be dying off and be ready to harvest...,” she said. Doing as we were told and very much relieved, we went on to harvest the most delicious red potatoes.
I have a chuckle and drag my mind back to the problem at hand, finding organic and preferably home-made solutions for pests and diseases. I look at the tomatoes and will them to be as fantastic as they were last year only being affected by powdery mildew right at the end of the season. The courgette were not so lucky, after an initial burst of life and a few fruits, they were weakened and stopped producing. This year the courgettes have been pampered, they are out of draughts, as much as can be, planted with our own compost mix and I have been spraying the leaves with a mix of apple cider vinegar and water which helps fight the fungus spores. I am on watch for the tell-tale signs, which can affect the tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, peas, peppers, and melons all of will be sprayed. I look for yellow blotches on the leaves, which will lead to a powdery white substance forming that will eventually kill the leaves, which weaken the plant. I remember trying a milk mixture previously but don’t fancy spraying milk all other the garden so I will put my faith in the vinegar mix and cross my fingers. The apple cider vinegar mix is 2.5 tablespoons per one gallon water and I spray in the mornings once a week.
As I complete my ever-growing morning checks, I note with satisfaction that my other prevention methods are taking shape. ‘Inter cropping’ is a great way to prevent disease from destroying your vegetable garden, for instance; I have planted more ‘sacrificial’ radish near the courgette, which will help repel bugs and aphids. Alongside of them are more climbing beans that will help fix nitrogen in the soil and thus benefit the overall health of the plant and the marigolds and nasturtium are starting to grow among the tomatoes, these also attract insects away from the plant. Happy we are doing what we can without pesticides I wander back to the kitchen for more coffee.