Boy, the bugs have been out in force recently!
Pollinators have been taking advantage of the garden flowers – bees and hoverflies seem to take particular delight in visiting the herb beds’ thyme, feverfew, marigolds and even the parsley which we left in for them after it’d bolted last month. But it is the lone phacelia plant (left over from our green manure sowing last year) in the cut flower bed that is a particular favourite with the bumblebees. They don’t turn their nose up at the clover in the lawn or the flowering weeds along the path either. The sensory border is also starting to attract their share as it’s getting going after we’ve finally finished planting it out this month.
We’ve been taking advantage of this great bumblebee abundance and doing some bee watching at the Garden – you can read all about it in the stories from the PLANT Science and Earth Explorers sessions – here and here.
Warm and still weather a couple of days ago even brought out some butterflies into the sunshine. Peter has been worried about the whites getting to the cabbages so we have been very careful with keeping the protective nets over the beds. Apart from the whites we have also seen lots of ringlets and some small tortoiseshells – neither of them a threat to our crops. This seems like perfect timing for Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count which runs from 14 of July to 6 of August. We would love to see you at our session on Sunday, 6th of August, 2-4pm.
Unfortunately, not all of the bugs are as delightful as the bees and (most) butterflies. To our dismay, we discovered red mites and thrips on our cucubrits and french beans in the polytunnel. Fortunately, we caught it really early and call on help from two of their natural enemies, Phytoseiulus persimilis and Amblyseius mites. After their release last week, they already seem to be providing some biological control of the pest population, so we should be able to get away with it without having to resort to chemicals.
The garden has been teeming with other beneficial predators. There are plenty of ladybirds and their larvae which are partial to the other common garden nasty – the sap-sucking aphid. We found that parasitoid wasp larvae, Aphidius ervi, are also getting a good feed on those. The adults lay their eggs inside a living aphid and its larva hatches to eat the pest from the inside and then erupts through it’s back like an alien (see photo). Hunting wasps which have set up a nest in the compost bin must be hoovering up all sorts of bugs too. Blackbirds and other birds also have a positive impact – when they are not snacking on our strawberries and blackcurrants that is!
Peter’s got just a perfect ditty for this month:
Big bugs have smaller bug upon their backs to bite them
Small bugs have tiny bugs and so ad infinitem
It’s pretty amazing looking back at the garden just a month ago…especially the polytunnel which has turned into a veritable jungle with a tangle of tomatoes, corn, beans, courgettes, cucumbers and cucumelons. With perfect timing, Peter and Kathleen have recorded a new vlog to help you keep your own tomatoes under control and productive – you can watch it here. Sweet peppers, chillies, basil and eggplants have their own comfy spot in trays lined with capillary matts which makes the much watering easier.
Talking about watering…Dave and Will have made more progress with the polytunnel watering system – the pump is now installed and working, and we are now just waiting to connect the hoses and the solar panels.
It won’t be a surprise that we have been harvesting lots! Just this Sunday we picked three varieties of potatoes (Red King Edward, Lady Christl, Winston), purple and green french beans, broad beans, baby turnips, mangetout, broadbeans, cucumbers, courgettes, cauliflower, broccoli, rainbow chard, cavolo nero and some lovely fragrant sweet peas. Soft fruit in the hedge along the garden fence is coming on and strawberries are almost finished (both make for a brilliant snack mid-gardening frenzy and the kids have been loving them). All this lovely produce is available at our stall every Sunday between 1-4pm at Tayport Harbour.
Janice tells us that there are plenty of ripe black currants and wild strawberries ready for picking at the Garvie Brae play park along our Fruit Tree Walk too – please help yourself!
The rest of summer is looking to be busy – more PLANT Science, Earth Explorers and the highlight of the season – Family Fun Fair on the 30th of July. Hope to see you around:)