Meet the garden staff: head gardener, weeding assistant and pest controller.
Here is the head gardener, taking away another barrow-load of weeds:
I spotted this rabbit among my marigolds and was going to chase it away or make it a nice bed between two layers of pastry when I noticed it was ignoring the marigolds and eating the weeds, so it instantly got promoted to assistant gardener.
Another important task is getting rid of caterpillars that are eating the plants. This pair of Thread-waisted wasps was taking a break from caterpillar hunting to make more wasps.
Once the eggs are fertilised, the female wasp will sting a caterpillar so it is alive but paralyzed. It will then stick it in a hole and lay an egg. The wasp larva will eat the caterpillar alive, from the inside. It would take a quirky sense of humour to invent one of these.
Before and after pictures of my extremely weedy garden, and a nature puzzle for you to solve.
Since I’ve been working away from home for a while and the weekends have been days of heavy rain, my garden has turned into a weed bed. Some people think a weedy garden is a couple of dandelions between the flowers. This is what I call weedy:
To make matters worse, I had grown Datura last year. You can see the remains here:
The Datura remnants are the brown sticks with little balls on them. This is why it made weeding harder – when I put my hand in to rip up a weed by the roots, there was a risk of grabbing one of these instead:
Those spikes are very sharp and hard. I think they will succeed at keeping the animals from eating the seeds.
But after four hours’ work, I found the soil underneath:
Now for the puzzle. I found this in our driveway, under trees – about the size of a golf ball, white and about the consistency and weight of polystyrene. When I cut it open it was bright yellow with a hole from the middle to the outside. I’m guessing it is some kind of gall. Does anybody know? Please leave a comment if you do.
I had made a rectangular garden at the front of the house quite a few years ago. During one of my absences, it completely grew over with weeds until it looked like this:
You can just make out some iris leaves on the far right at the front. There are more but completely overgrown by all that quack grass, which has such strong underground rhizomes which grow so thickly they form a continuous carpet which is a huge effort to dig, as you can see:
(Rhizomes are not roots, they are underground stems, which means they grow new plants every few inches. This makes quack grass my number one enemy as it is almost impossible to eradicate (which is Latin for uproot).
So I decided to dig up only part of it, enough room to replant the irises one the grass was cleaned out, and then to bury the rest of it under a layer of newspaper with a thin layer of manure on top. This seems to be enough to stop the quack grass from surfacing. It tries to go a bit further underground which leaves it weaker and it dies after a year, so then I can make holes through the newspaper for new plants and get a new garden for much less effort.
I also decided to terrace it while I was doing it, so I built a wall in the middle to make for a lot less slope so the rain doesn’t run off before it soaks in.
The final result is:
Yes, there were even some bushes buried in all that grass.
Weed are the worst, for me. It took me about 3 hours to do the front path alone. Now that it is finished, it looks like this:
I was supposed to get a lot more done but I have spent more time on photography than gardening; the results will come on my next post.
The other pests I found were Colorado potato beetles on my Nicotinia (flowering tobacco). Since Nicotinia is in the potato family, they are subject to the same pests, as are tomatoes. I applied the anvil and hammer pesticide (pinch them between finger and thumb), though I’m sure a few escaped.
Here is the larva:
Ugly, isn’t it; even it’s mother probably thinks so as she is prettier though just as deadly to nightshade-family plants.
The best thing to do is look for eggs in mid- to late-June. They’re easier to find and kill than the tiny larvae. By the time they get as big as the one above, they’ve already done a lot of damage; I’ll be lucky to get any flowers for a few months and if I’d waited another week there would have been nothing left.