Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Ould bothers..or everything that can go wrong...

Leicester square London; the view from the grass
My darling mother in law has an expression that I love when it comes to discussing the various ailments of her elderly relations and friends, she calls them; "ould bothers" and I think, given the time of the year and all the ailments my garden has managed to produce in the last few weeks, it's a fitting title for this blog post.

So I know you were all labouring under the assumption that things always go smack smooth here and I produce perfect veg, perfect fruit and grow prolific herbs, flowers and salads too (I hope you are sitting down now when I tell you it's far from the case). Maybe it's about time I delivered on the other side of gardening the "interesting challenges" that keep one on ones toes, particularly when one is just arrived back from swanning around Chelsea and Bloom to find plenty of ould bothers have appeared in your absence....

Yesterday for instance I arrived home to find the cold frame broken. Glass everywhere, shards in my seed trays full of next months lettuces, herbs and salads. I should not be in the least surprised given that Sooty(the cat) uses it as a springboard to higher altitudes on the bathroom window and a shortcut to the side of the house.

Taking the aforementioned (much beloved) mother in law around the garden on tour last Friday afternoon I spotted one of my beautiful summer purple broccoli plants ( I only planted 4 but they were smashing) thrown down, turning purple and wilted looking. I pulled it up easily to find the root well chewed and the plant on the way out. Worse! all three other broccoli plants are showing early signs of infestation...its my first year experiencing the bloody cabbage root fly.

Signs of the Cabbage root fly

My picture perfect bed of garlic (that I was so proud of) having dutifully saved the seed from last year, sown them early and happily given it away to all and sundry has got rust, lots of it, every fecking plant in fact! (and walking over to another Allium bed I found out the overwintering garlic not only had rust but has bolted too).

rust on garlic leaves

Having spent a solid day digging and re-digging  one of the beds to receive carrot seed some weeks ago I uncovered the bed last week (carefully cloched) to find no carrots had germinated and worse than that slugs had eaten all my onions.

My first early potatoes are doing beautifully, but I found three plants with stunted growth, curled leaves and yellowed leaves. It looks like potato leaf roll virus. No bloody cure!

Potato leaf roll virus in the first early bed

My early bed of peas is a disaster. Poor germination, heavy slug damage. Three plants out of ..well.. a whole packet. WORST PEA BED EVER.

worst pea bed ever awards winner

Now it's not so much the bothers themselves as the way you respond to them. Things are bound to go wrong, often multiple things at once, there is only one way forward; assess the damage, work out a solution and plough on. And if all else fails pour yourself a stiff drink and then plough on!

For instance did you know that rust on Alliums can be beaten by spraying it with cheap Gin? I didn't know it either. But guess what I'm buying in Lidl or Aldi this week?
And guess what I will be spraying my garlic with?!

The bolted tops have been snapped off the overwintering garlic. I will make the most of it by harvesting it as soon as possible and using it in the kitchen. Good timing as my stored garlic had finally gone soft and was thrown out two weeks ago.I might put some of my bush tomatoes in that bed instead to use the space.

The replacement peas have been resown in module trays and brought on in the glasshouse before being hardened off outside. They have almost caught up with the four original outdoor survivors and will join them in the bed this week. OK so the peas will be later than usual but at least there will be peas! The Late summer bed of peas will be sown indoors in modules and transplanted out-no direct sowing this year.

replacement peas, "fill the bucket" and "mummy peas"

The broccoli will be dug up and the roots examined of the remaining three plants. Since there is a lot of good advise on how to prevent this pest all my future brassica plantings this year will go into the ground with a small piece of rhubarb and wearing collars to prevent further attacks. If my three remaining plants are not too badly damaged I will wash out the roots, rhubarb the planting holes and replant them with collars on. It's worth a try to see if they can be saved as they haven't become very large as yet. If not I will get replacements and plant them out the same way. I might even get some decent photos of cabbage root fly for the blog!

a remaining healthy broccoli plant

I will dig out the three stunted potato plants (record the varieties and where they came from)and watch the rest for any sign of the potato leaf roll virus spreading.According to the UK Potato Council this disease is spread by aphids that once they have acquired it remains in their systems for life. Buying certified seed is one way to avoid it (which I currently do), removing volunteers and harvesting the potato beds thoroughly is another (do both as well). All that remains to be done is to keep aphids at bay in the first place so more plants to encourage ladybirds, more debris for them to overwinter in, more biodiversity in the garden for hover flies etc.

A ladybird on an infected potato plant this morning

Finally I have bought more carrot seed and I have spare onions so that entire empty bed will be replanted. This time I am watching it like a hawk. Is it slugs? I will be putting down the organic pellets. There are a lot of leather jackets around too, a biological control might be in order.

As for the broken cold frame; its a trip to Martin Begley. While I am there I might as well pick up the missing pane of glass from the glasshouse and visit Terra Nova(O the hardship) Two birds with one stone, (or making the best of a bad situation).

one of the many delights at Terra Nova

This morning I picked up all the broken glass. Sooty came over and managed to look contrite (as much as a cat can anyway).

Sooty s favorite pastime (unfortunately); glasshouse surfing


  1. We were also in Bloom on sat last, great warm sunny day with lots to see.Cabbage root fly I encountered a few years ago when newly planted out cauliflowers just curled up and died almost as I was looking at them,since then cabbage collars have been used religiously on all brassicas without any further outbreaks. I have had the odd potato go much like yours ,never knew there was a leaf curl virus?! We have a blight warning for the weekend, I have planted blight resistant varieties and am wondering is spraying now defeating the purpose?! You have weathered the Auld Bothers so hopefully that is the sum total of them for this year!

  2. I hope so Peggy although I have a feeling...its not over yet!!!
    I never spray the blight resistant varieties, they do seem to cope very well with blight especially Tibet.But the others(non blight resistant) I will spray tomorrow (its the best day according to the met office for spraying before the deluge on Friday(God help us all)!