Archive for the ‘Pest control’ Category

SOWING RADISH AS A CATCH CROP WITH ANTI-SLUG DEFENCES – SECOND WEEK IN JULY 2010

My 8 courgette plants are growing, but not as fast as I expected which leaves some areas of bare soil. Nature does not ‘do’ bare soil unless we’re talking earthquake aftermath or mudslides. I’ll have a go at sowing a few radish seeds to use this vacant space but the slug threat needs a response.

Recently I got a present of a role of copper tape which the packet claims will halt advancing slugs and snails. (Thanks Zoe.) Like Sellotape it needs a pot or something rigid to stick on to. Laying it in the soil would not be very effective I’d say. So what I need is the proverbial ring of steel. The next best thing I have in the shed is a riddle, but placed up-side-down on the soil it becomes a ‘ring of steel’ with a wire netting across its top.

I wrapped the copper tape around the edge of the riddle, sowed the seed and covered the round patch of seed-bed with the copper clad ring of steel. Little did I realise the first wrecker to arrive was not a slug but Arthur the cat as the picture  shows. Thankfully, he soon got bored with the novel high-security seed bed and moved on to let the sun warm the newly sown radish.

The variety I sowed are an heirloom variety which are for sale on the Irish Seed Saver website. Called German Beer or Beer Garden, they are a white radish, which I’m told can grow as big as a small turnip. Time will tell.

DEALING WITH APPLE POWDERY MILDEW – FIRST WEEK IN OCTOBER 2009

Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn

After the joy of winning a first prize in the Naul Horticultural Show for parsley which grows well under the apple tree, I was then brought back down to earth to discover a white fungus on a branch of the apple tree above. I read up on the symptoms in ‘Natural Pest and Disease Control’ by Jim Hay, a Century Paperback from 1987.

The symptoms match apple powdery mildew, a fungus disease which overwinters on the tree in the dormant buds. I cut away the infested branch area using a saw. I took the infected wood indoors to further cut it up for the fire in winter. Some organic growers put bee’s wax on the wound left by the cut, others say leave it to heal on its own. Jim Hay says if the disease persists, spray with a lime sulphur solution immediately after the blossom has fallen in the Spring and again four weeks later.

Meanwhile, I will clear some of the vegetation under the apple tree as lack of air circulating could be a contributory factor in creating conditions for apple powdery mildew which is also quite sticky, a bit like candy floss.

Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn

SAVING THE BRASSICAS FROM THE CHARMS OF THE WHITE CABBAGE BUTTERFLY – FOURTH WEEK IN JUNE 2009

large white cabbage butterfly

Large White Cabbage Butterfly

This is the week when I bought an 8m x 6m garden net for €8.50 from Charlie Corr’s my local hardware shop. I need it to protect my cabbage patch from the alluring but potentially devastating cabbage white butterfly. Although this little creature is very soft on the eye, unfortunately it’s offspring are very hard on the cabbage.

I have posted a video on this site showing the cabbage patch and the whole back garden at the end of June with before and after shots showing 9 bamboo sticks, topped with 9 upside down empty plastic water bottles holding aloft the netting once it is tied at the centre supported by a central taller bamboo. This ‘net tent’ is held down by 8 old tent pegs around the edge.

Two species are worth remembering here. The Large White and the Small White. The Large lays its eggs in clusters on the underside of brassica leaves which are easy to detect and destroy if you spot them in time by rubbing them away with your thumb. The Small White differs by laying its minute eggs singly on the underside of brassica leaves. Trouble is, if you do not spot it in time, each resulting caterpillar begins its eating odyssey at the heart of a cabbage and only appears on the outer leaves when extensive damage has been done to the plant.

It is for these reasons that I bought and erected the net ( with a little help from my friends, thanks Lorcan and Ciaran). I still have to lift the edges to retrieve slugs and snails at night by torchlight before bedtime. However the net is still loose enough to not impede the watering can during the almost daily early morning watering routine.

FIRST WEEK IN JUNE – GOODBYE BLACKFLY ON BROAD BEANS

What a scorcher of a holiday weekend with temperatures in the mid twenties! Thanks to Bord Bia and their key sponsors, Bloom in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, did a great service in encouraging armchair gardeners to have a go at growing some of their own food. I had the honour of opening the Michelle Obama garden or more officially the ‘White House Garden’. This opening took place in the presence of the Acting-Ambassador from the USA, Mr Robert J Faucher. The Acting-Ambassador graciously accepted a bag of fresh radish from my garden in appreciation for the help from the USA Embassy in establishing this iconic garden at Bloom. It is the first time an ‘Obama Garden’ has been replicated outside the USA.2009_0609GrdnClarkes-cfinn0034

Meanwhile back at the ‘ranch’ in my own garden, the blackfly colonised the growing tips of my broad beans. Solution? A hand held mist sprayer filled with water and a drop of washing-up liquid. Find a jet setting by twisting the nozzle. A strong jet from the sprayer dislodges these black little aphids. Those I miss will hopefully be eaten by ladybirds and hover flies. This has now become an early morning  routine along with hoeing and watering.

Adding comfrey "tea" to the watering cansThe tomato, potato and strawberries are flowering as are broad beans. Blackcurrants, raspberries and apples are growing their fruits now also. So I am putting a dollop of comfrey feed in each watering can I fill. The comfrey leaves when cut back are covered with water in a barrel with a tap. This ‘Comfrey Tea’ once diluted is a common organic feed used to help plants when they are coming in to fruit. Don’t mind the smell, it disappears as nature takes up the goodness within a few hours I find.

Now is the time to feed and water growing plants, fruit trees especially. We need to balance the necessity for watering our plants with the need to avoid wasting water, such a precious resource. In the video you’ll see some techniques I use, including making that famous ‘comfrey tea’.