The last week has been spent battling with pests in the garden & trying to encourage friendly creatures to create some sort of balance. This is typical May, the weather improves, the days lengthen & all residents of the garden make their presence known.
Some residents are more welcome than others. Box Tree Caterpillars (Cydelima perspectalis) have been munching their way through the Box hedge in the raised bed. These hatch from larvae of a moth recently discovered in this country. I’ve got hold of a biological insecticide spray, but apparently the best method is to pick the caterpillars off by hand & drop them into a bowl of water. So at various times of the day, we sit next to the hedge in the sunshine & remove the creatures. I just hope that a Nitrogen-rich feed will save the Box plants.
On a more positive note, the friendly creatures in the garden include the joyful sight of adult birds swooping around with beaks full of worms for their young. I saw a slow-worm a couple of weeks ago, & although they look like snakes, they’re a kind of leg-less lizard. More importantly they eat slugs & snails. I’m delighted that they’ve chosen our garden to make their home in, it feels like a testament to keeping an organic garden.
Meanwhile, apart from picking caterpillars off plants, there’s plenty to do in the garden this month.
Whether tender plants can go outside or should they wait, is the big question for me. We had frost a couple of days ago, so I’m being extra careful & bringing courgettes, squash etc outside in the daytime to acclimatise them.
Seedlings of carrots & beetroot need daily watering, early in the day.
Weeds compete so much with crops for space & food, hoe or pull them out ruthlessly.
Check for frosts & have coverings of fleece, old net curtains or newspaper, for overnight protection of any tender-ish crops.
Make supports for peas & beans, chicken wire supported by canes or hazel sticks work well for those tiny tendrils. Though chicken-wire is a bit of a faff to clean up at the end of the season, it’s worth it to have reusable kit.
Dig up early potatoes when they start flowering.
Sow parsley & coriander seeds, it’s so good to have a plentiful supply of fresh herbs.
The Rest of the Garden:
Tie in Clematis as they grow, mine are romping away, no doubt helped by all the well rotted compost I put on the soil a few weeks ago.
Dahlias & Chrysanthemums can be planted out, just check to make sure there’s no danger of frost, & then keep a look out for slugs. If you cant plant them out just yet, harden them off outside during the day & take them in at night. The foliage becomes tougher & less tender, therefore less attractive to slugs, so well worth it.
I’ve got my Zinnia seeds ready to plant directly into the soil, once these cold nights are less threatening. I’m going to hedge my bets & just plant a few seeds, keeping some back as back-up.
Keep a look out for Box Tree Caterpillar, it’s a relatively new problem in London & surrounding areas, but it is spreading. More about it here.
More about slow-worms here.
Take care of yourselves
All photos: Jill Anderson