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!

 

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!