This past week has mainly revolved around trying to deal with what nature has thrown at me. Or more accurately, crawled up on me.
Having a resident hedgehog (and a small population of frogs) in the garden seems to keep the slug and snail numbers down. But the Bank Holiday rain brought them out in numbers beyond even Russell Grunt's capabilities.
My cut & come again lettuces have been pre-chomped, and half of my Amish Paste tomato seedlings have been decapitated. I could hardly pluck up the courage to examine the damage to my Sweet Wrinkled Old Man (chilli pepper). Fortunately, the few seedlings to germinate were fine, but all my cucumber seedlings were chomped. At least the crops that have suffered the most damage are ones that I still have time to re-sow.
And now things have dried out, another plague. This time ants getting into the kitchen via a ventilation grill above the window, marching two by two down the frame, then peeling off in different directions. I have visions of a minature version of the elephant march in Disney's Jungle Book, morphing into Fantasia's Pink Elephants. I've been taking them out with a washing up sponge or a spray made from white vinegar and bicarb. The window sill is littered with ant bodies, and there are dozens floating in the washing up bowl.
This morning I realised they had started to nest in the Crassula plant on the kitchen windowsill, so we had to move that outside, soak the pot in a bucket so the plant can be cleaned up and repotted.
I'm dreading Flying Ant day. The main nest is somewhere near the house in the front garden by the front door, and I have visions of giant ants headbutting the windows to get to me to take revenge for massacring their babies.
Also found a Rosemary Beetle on by plant in the front garden. They're a recent arrival in the UK, but the Rosemary Beetle is a long established and destructive pest on the continent. Shame they're so unwelcome as they're very pretty - metallic purple and bronze stripes.
This afternoon, whilst reading the wildlife spotting guide, I read something that female hedgehogs attract mates by moving through the undergrowth, making loud snorting and grunting sounds and that the young are born in June. The early weeks of Russell's visits to our garden were notable for how noisy the little blighter was, and we were amazed at the rate of growth over the past couple of months. We haven't seen him for a few days, and the food hasn't been taken every night lately. So I'm now wondering if our visitor is a female and is at present tucked up somewhere with a litter of baby hedgehogs. So I will probably have to boost my feeding efforts, maybe even holding a few slugs & snails "captive" for a night time forage.
It's easy to think up names for a male hedgehog - any ideas for Mrs R?
Much of the remaining weekend will be taken up by me sowing another batch of the crops that suffered the most slug damage.
The majority of tasks set out by the Wartime Weekend Gardener are planting out crops, such as tomatoes (include in that peppers & aubergines), savoy cabbages, kale and broccoli. Also recommended
is sowing another batch of French Beans. It's a good idea to plant a variety that can be used dried as well as fresh. Good varieties to try are Canadian Wonder, a dwarf variety which has red kidney type beans, a cannellini bean and a borlotto.
Goes without saying to put out some slug traps. But I now have a dilemma. Should I use beer in the slug traps if I'm possibly feeding a nursing mum?