Sunday, 29 May 2011

Gardening trials and tribulations

Gardening is a constant battle with animals and the elements. At least the rains have come back, after the drought conditions of April. But then the winds started up. Fortunately, the only damage the garden seems to have suffered is a couple of slightly buffeted tomato plants and a few lost bean leaves. Now that the weather is behaving reasonably well, it's the turn of the animals.

My mother-in-law offered me strawberry plants last year, and not one to pass up free plants, I accepted and stuck them in a border. They flourished, and the plants are full of rapidly swelling fruits. We've been eagerly anticipating eating our very own home grown berries, only to find the red parts of the fruit chomped off before we could pick them.

My husband laid some netting over the plants in an attempt to keep out the critters, but whatever they were (birds? rats?) proved persistent, and ripped through the netting. We then tried to construct a slightly more forbidding structure, elevating the netting so the animals couldn't reach the berries from above.

Fortress strawberry

We are not the greatest of engineers, and additionally lack the necessary equipment to create a more sturdy structure, but hopefully this will deter the majority of pests. We've been able to enjoy about 15 strawberries so far, which I would deem a reasonable success (considering I spent no money on the plants, and they thrived through no effort on my part).

Other plants that are irresistible to pests are cabbages. If the slugs don't get them, the white fly and cabbage moths will. If, that is, any plants are left once the wood pigeons feast. I'm making one final attempt this year, and I've covered all my cabbage with plastic, but if they still don't survive the onslaught I might just well give up and grow potatoes next year instead.

But at least all the pests mentioned above have a reason for their destruction - they're looking for a tasty meal, just like us gardeners. But our most recent visitor has been decidedly more "anti-social".

My husband went down to water the other day (before the rain arrived) and discovered garden implements and accessories scattered all over outside the shed. And more than just scattered - ravaged! Here's what happened to my boots and gloves:

Obviously there is some animal out there with a taste for rubber. And those are just the gloves that are still present. Half of them have gone missing, and the only ones left are right hands, so I can't even cobble together a miss-matched pair.

I'm going to use this attack as an opportunity to get the wellies I've always wanted, Hunter short knee Argyll wellingtons. I just LOVE the shiny black with red edging - much prettier than my boring old Dunlop wellies. I'll store these at home, far away from thieving, juvenile-delinquent foxes.

Sturdy yet attractive Hunter wellies - not the festival version.

I shouldn't be so down on the gardening - it isn't all existential struggle. There are some plants that are productive and easy to grow. Zucchinis/courgettes for one. Here is the true workhorse of the garden:

A little wind-battered, but already producing fruit. Looking forward to eating zucchini again all summer long.

And if my pumpkins and beans produce, I'll be a very satisfied gardener indeed.

pumpkins and corn