The Emperor strikes back!

The Emperor strikes back!

There is a mystery in my vegetable garden that is making me particularly grumpy. I grow my plants from seed and the Scarlet Emperor runner beans are always very productive, providing they have plenty of water.

Each autumn we dig out a trench in different areas of the garden and fill it with well-rotted cow manure then cover it over with the soil. The corners of the trench are marked with canes so I know where the manure is and can plant the beans so their roots reach down into it to feed.

It was all yellow

There is a framework of crossed over canes, tied together at the top with lateral canes to provide stability in the wind. So far so good. I planted out 36 plants four weeks ago and they all looked splendid and quite quickly started to twist round their supports.

At the weekend, Mrs GG came in with the bad news that eight of the plants had gone yellow and were wilting. I pulled up a couple and inspected the roots that hadn’t really started to grow out of the shape from the 3” pots in which they were grown.


I have absolutely no idea what has caused this but it’s a real nuisance and very disappointing. Happily, I have located some replacement plants which are now growing in their own 3” pots.

I have given the remaining beans a seaweed extract liquid feed from ‘envii’ and they look strong. As I have to put the replacement beans in the same spot where the previous occupants kicked the bucket, it will be interesting to see whether they thrive or go the same way as their predecessors. Watch this space.

Where there’s muck, there’s brassica

One bit of good news is that all the brassica plants seem to be thriving, rather indicating that, after almost 30 years, the club root disease has died out.

Fingers crossed. If it comes back I’ll be massively grumpy!


Hot under the collar

Hot under the collar                                                           

I’m thoroughly fed up with this unremitting hot weather. Mrs Grumpy Gardener loves the sun and keeps telling me to come and sit down. No time. As soon as the sun is off different areas of the garden, I’m out with the hose and watering can.

The vegetable cage is the most difficult because the planted-out brassicas, beans, leeks, courgettes, squash and spinach beet are all desperate for a long, cool drink once the oven is turned off.  It’s a two-hour job every evening and goodness knows what the cost will be on the water meter.

The water snake

The herbaceous border is also tricky because most of the plants do like a drink – but not all of them. And then there is the damage caused by the trailing hose. My silent curses plumb new depths with the performance of the water snake. Not only does it damage plants, but it also kinks and stops the flow of water. I stomp off down the line of the hose to find the cause only to realise, once I have been drenched, that I didn’t turn it off first!

Water lot of effort

The real exceptions to my watery grumpiness are my urns, containers and hanging baskets.  I derive a great deal of enjoyment from them – apart from the Sherpa Tensing slugs that crawl up at least three feet to feast on the content of the urns. It’s the order of the boot for those little perishers.

Watering my urns, containers and hanging baskets is quite different from the rest of the garden. I use a two gallon can without a rose and each Sunday I give them a liquid feed. We have four stone urns along one South-facing low wall plus smaller stone baskets and they all need a prodigious volume of water – every evening in this hot weather.

Bird bites

Then I have to look after my little avian friends. Mrs GG puts out crumbs and finely diced pieces of fat onto the bird tables each morning and I fill the feeders with fat balls, peanuts, tiny little black seeds the name of which I have totally forgotten and sunflower hearts.

Almost all the birds love the latter and we have a wide range of tits, gold and green finches, nuthatches, sparrows and, of course, robins that love them.

Grey matter

Two chief grumps: firstly, the wretched grey squirrels (tree rats) destroy the feeders on average every four or five weeks and then, the more easily remedied bird mess.

Do any readers of this column have any remedies for solving my squirrel problem? What I’d really like is a clear Pyrex feeder that the rascals would not be able to dig their teeth into. Oh for the return of the lovely red Squirrel, Nutkins, of my childhood.

No angry birds

As for the other problem: every fortnight I take the feeders down around lunch time, when the birds don’t seem to be active, and wash them with a mild solution of weak disinfectant. I then dry them thoroughly, refill and hang them back up. At least my garden birds are not grumpy!