15 Minutes of Fame for the Grumpy Gardener

15 MINUTES OF FAME FOR THE GRUMPY GARDENER

I believe it was Andy Warhol who said that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.  Well, I’ve just had mine.

Regional Radio

The organisers of national Slug Week (5 – 11 April), in which children and families are asked to go into their gardens and count slugs and measure the largest,  asked me to talk about it on BBC Radio Devon.

 

Well, it obviously struck a chord because I then did interviews on radio stations in Manchester, Coventry and Warwickshire, Kent, Derby and Somerset.

The interviewers all thought it was a clever idea to attract the children and encourage them to look into different aspects of wildlife – even slugs.

All things slugs

I did a bit of research and threw in some interesting slug facts. Did you know that slugs can have as many as 27,000 teeth, have their own individual slime trails and a cubic metre of garden soil contains an average of 200 slugs?   Slug Week was organised by the company that makes Nemaslug, a nematode-based slug control.

Most of the interviewers didn’t know what nematodes are so I explained they are microscopic worms that live naturally in garden soil where one variety seeks out and destroys slugs.

Early start

Unfortunately, most of the interviews were over the Easter weekend and I was on air between 7.20am and 7.50am. The Bank Holiday alarm didn’t delight Mrs GG but, despite the early start, all the interviewers said that I didn’t sound remotely grumpy.  However you, dear readers, know better than that!

Happy gardening.

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!

 

A Coronavirus free zone – but still plenty to grumble about

A Coronavirus free zone – but still plenty to grumble about                                                                       

Cast your mind back about three weeks and all that torrential rain. Now here we are with Easter just gone and what am I doing?  Getting up an hour earlier than normal so I can water my greenhouse and the outside pots and urns before the sun warms up.

It is quite ridiculous to have moved from flood to virtual drought in a matter of three weeks. One of my two 45-gallon water butts is already empty and the second about two thirds full. I really didn’t think I’d be praying for rain at this stage of the season.

Beware! Slugs!

Beware, the slugs and snails are already active.  I found a snail this morning in the greenhouse, heading up the framework towards my spring cabbage plants. He got more than a headache. But seriously, it has been a warm winter and they will have bred vigorously, so take precautions now.

Take extra care if you have over wintered pots and urns, here is the triple risk of slugs, snails and vine weevils. I use Nemasys nematodes to control the slugs and vine weevils and hand picking for the snails – always look beneath the pots.

Nematodes

The nematodes are poured into a 5-gallon container and mixed thoroughly.   This forms a stock and a fixed proportion of the stock is poured into a watering can which is then filled with water and poured onto the areas to be treated.  The proportions and other vital information is printed on the inside of the Nemasys pack.

Daffs

The daffodils are absolutely lovely in the garden but, already, we are dead heading the early blooms. This is back aching work but vital if you want to have similarly lovely blooms next year. One tip my grandfather told me is that before the leaves of the daffs die back, give the whole area a good feed with a liquid fertiliser diluted in a watering can with a fine rose.

 

 

 

Winter hasn’t done with us just yet

Winter hasn’t done with us just yet

At the risk of sounding even more grumpy than usual, I have to say that this ridiculously warm weather is really not good news for the garden.

Insects and invertebrates – including slugs and snails – are active in the open garden when they should be hiding from the cold. If the warm weather continues, it means that many of the more devastating pests will have an extended breeding season and our plants will be at risk throughout the season. So, begin to take remedial action now.

Nematodes

I am now watering nematodes, specifically Nemaslug, around the outside of plants and pots, and also inside the greenhouse, as many of the awful little pests will have emigrated into the warmth of the greenhouse in pots, brought in for over wintering.

Many of the pots now look as though they are ready to go back outside and the root and plant munching critters living in their containers are coming back to active life.

In addition to Nemaslug, I am watering larger containers in the greenhouse with Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer. Pests must be brought to book now, before they start breeding.

In bloom

My lawns got their third full mow of 2020 over the weekend – which is a good three months earlier than normal. Snowdrops, crocuses and even daffodils are now in bloom and the magnolia tree looks as though it isn’t far off blooming.

Being a pessimist as well as grumpy, I really do think there will be a price to pay. I really do believe there will be some cold weather around the corner and this will risk damaging everything, including any early nesting birds.

Seed boxes

Friends tell me with glee how many planted seed boxes they now have in their greenhouses. Mine are still in their pre-season disinfected state in the potting shed, where they’ll stay until the end of February at the earliest.

I know that we are all experiencing climate change but, personally, I don’t think winter has done with us just yet.

And on that note, happy gardening from the Grumpy Gardener!