The badgers have been visiting again and in desperation I have invested in some extremely robust hurdles to surround the raised bed where I grow some of their favourite foods i.e. carrots and parsnips. These are going to be extremely expensive vegetables!
Not the 17th century variety that had people speculating vast fortunes on a single bulb, but the effect of attempting to resolve the annual problem of too many bulbs and not enough pots to put them in! Last year this was sorted out by planting them in the borders, but since I discovered that badgers dig tulips up and feast on them, that is no longer an option. They had a go at the newly planted iris reticulata bulbs last week, but they are obviously not as tasty – there were several chewed bulbs lying on the garden path. The rest of the iris are now planted in pots on ledges, tabletops and windowsills. Having badgers in the garden is a bit like having toddlers in the house – everything has to be put out of their reach!
In the greenhouse: The tomatoes are ripening nicely, starting with the Sweet Olives, which look like they will have a bumper crop. I’ve started to remove the lower leaves on the plants to aid ripening and encourage the plants to put their energy into the fruit. Not much else is happening in the greenhouse right now as everything else, bar a couple of basil and chilli plants, is perfectly happy outdoors.
Sweet Olive Tomatoes
In the coldframe: The carrots I transplanted from Roottrainers are leafing up nicely – it remains to be seen whether the roots grow big enough to be worth the effort.
In the garden: The problem with going away is that the garden doesn’t put itself on pause during our absence. We came back from Wales to find something more like a jungle than a garden, but I’ve enlisted help and a couple of days concentrated attention should get things back under control.
Stop Press: Badger Bother –Last night when I was in the kitchen I could hear a lot of noise coming from the gate that leads into the courtyard. I shone a torch out of the window but, although the noise continued, I couldn’t see the badger. Andrew decided to have a look and went outside with the torch – only to do a quick pirouette and scuttle back indoors pursued by a cornered badger! Luckily it shot straight past him and exited stage left through a hole cut in the courtyard door (for our cat) that leads through to the front garden. We are still laughing.
The wisteria that cascades over the wall is at its most stunning right now and its delicious musky scent hangs heavy in the air. Nearby a perennial stock is in full bloom – fragrant enough to stop me in my tracks. Outside the front door, the lily of the valley is thriving and elsewhere mint, lemon balm, and best of all, lemon verbena release their scent when brushed against, while at the far end of the wall a holboellia is heavy with fragrant flowers. It is all rather overwhelming – but wonderful.
On a less positive note, the badgers are back! In the autumn they kept us awake digging up and munching our tulip bulbs under the bedroom window. Now they have rooted up the broad bean plants, just as they were coming into flower. In the past they haven’t bothered until the beans had set, now they are just being vandals. Well, I expect the explanation is that they are digging for earthworms, but it feels like vandalism to me. I hate having to barricade everything, but if we want crops I think we will have to add an extra layer of fencing to keep them at bay. Especially as our apricot tree will have its first crop this year and I’ve read that it is the thing they love above all else.
Apparently they will scramble up the tree (they are members of the bear family) to break the branches and feast on their ill-gotten gains. The beans have all been re-planted, some temporary barriers are now in place and Monday’s heavy rain might mean that the plants will survive and we will get some beans after all.
The tomato plants are now big enough to be transplanted into their grow bags. I’ve previously tried growing them in the greenhouse border and in large pots, but the most successful method is to use Growpots in conjunction with grow bags. It’s worth shopping around for them as prices vary. The Growpots are a bit fiddly to set up, but once you have got the tomatoes in situ, they are easy to manage and will produce really good crops. And they are robust and re-useable – so it’s a once only purchase.
Seed sown in the greenhouse: Basil – thinly scattered on the surface of compost in a 10cm pot, lightly covered with vermiculite, then sealed in plastic bag to await germination, Crystal Lemon and Green Fingers outdoor cucumbers, Avalon Butternut and Honey Bear squash in 7.5cm pots of compost.
Moved to cold frame: French beans, runner beans, onions
Potted on: sunflowers
On the allotment: planted out beetroot plugs, picked asparagus and rhubarb