Last month I wrote about the lack of wildlife in the garden. Just to prove me wrong, nature made a bit of a come-back immediately afterwards and I saw a little frog in the fruit cage and another in the pond (was it the same one ?) and also two newts in the pond. I haven’t seen any of them since but it makes the point that a lot goes on that we don’t know about. Our best bit of garden wildlife this month was when a fledgling chaffinch flew inside our conservatory …
I was able to catch it and put it back outside in a Japanese maple by the conservatory window. It sat there cheeping quietly for a bit and then we were fascinated to see the mother chaffinch fly from a tree on the other side of the garden, land by the young bird and then fly back to the tree immediately followed by the fledgling.
I also said last month that one bit of wild life that I could do without was the slugs and snails and now I am even more fed up with them. I came back from a week’s holiday to find that several of my newly bought michaelmas daisies have been heavily chewed and three quite large dahlias that I had planted out after growing on in pots in the greenhouse had been entirely stripped of their leaves. I have never experienced this level of damage before and it seems this is due to the recent wet conditions coupled with the mild winter which wasn’t cold enough to kill off some of the slugs and snails. I have now put the dahlias and the michaelmas daisies back in pots in the greenhouse and I will leave them there until they are bigger and the slug onslaught has perhaps died down a bit. I don’t like using slug pellets in the open garden because of the danger to pets and birds but I do use them for added protection in the greenhouse where access can be controlled. I have also had a lot of damage done to petunias in containers and I am using pellets in the pots and covering them with wire netting to keep bird and pets away. You need to remove dead slugs and snails that have come into the open before dying as they can be a hazard if they are eaten by birds.
Michaelmas daisies have gone out of fashion in recent years, probably because they are prone to mildew attack. They can provide lovely colour in September and October though so I am giving them a try. My book on asters recommends a programme of spraying to protect against mildew and, as I am not a strictly organic gardener, I shall see if this works. Many effective garden chemicals have been withdrawn because of the hazards they present but you can still buy garden fungicide.
Some plants are difficult to grow while some are all too easy and rapidly become a nuisance. High on the list of the latter category at this time of year are aquilegia and love-in-the mist. Both are lovely flowers and aquilegia are great for colour in May when the spring bulbs are finished and many herbaceous plants have yet to flower but they do seed very freely and they can spread everywhere. Dead head all of them as soon as the flowers die unless you want to multiply a particularly attractive colour. In this case put a label on the plant to note the colour and then collect the seed when it is dry. Love-in-the-mist also calls for rigid control. Be ruthless in weeding out seedlings where you don’t want them and, where you do want them, keep them thinned out as the seedlings grow, a few good plants look better than masses of thin weedy ones.
There won’t be another edition of The Loop until September so I need to remind you to be thinking about entering fruit, vegetables and flowers for the Biddenham Show which will be held on 11th September. There has been an encouraging growth in the number of entries in the last couple of years so do your bit to keep the trend going. We do not expect competitors to be growing to the exacting standards of specially prepared produce. Just get a copy of the show brochure to see what the classes are and then look around the garden to see what you could enter. Nearly everyone has something in one of the categories of flowers, fruit and vegetables.