Bitter, cold, dry weather conditions have made this spring of 2013 the hardest I can remember. The countryside is barren; the buds on my Horse Chestnut tree have yet to burst into that wonderful wave of green which in my garden marks the arrival of springtime. My seedlings in the polytunnel have to be nurtured like premature babies in an incubator. I have to cover them with fleece each night. Alas the few that escaped cover suffered severe frost bite recently. Most things will recover if allowed defrost gradually in early morning: keep them out of direct sunlight until later in the day so their cells don’t collapse.
I have moved out a lot of the hardier herbs and salad vegetables including Lettuce, Mizuna, Rocket and Parsley. Regardless of this intense cold, young plants will require watering. Aim to do this before late evening to avoid chilling! Once the temperature rises by about 5 degrees and the rain softens the atmosphere, we can commence planting in earnest. Any of my herb plants on sale inside – such as the local supermarket – will already have been hardened off so just leave them outside in their pots before planting.
I just planted the first batch of early potatoes last week but still have plenty more to plant. Everything is very late this year. My three tomato varieties have failed to emerge; the first time this has ever happened so I will have to make repeat sowings. Luckily I never sow all seeds at once so losses will be minimal.
I had the unsavory task of checking for any vine weevil larvae (Otiorhyndus sulcatus) which may have over-wintered in potted plants from last season. These small white grubs with bronze heads adore munching on roots of certain plants such as Primulas and some have even formed a taste for my Mint plants. They completely devour the plant’s root system and if not manually extracted cause awful damage. I avoided physically squashing them this year and choose instead to feed them to my goldfish in the pond. Lots of protein after a difficult winter will enhance their health! If the vine weevil larvae escape detection, they mature into nasty adult beetles which attack the foliage of many shrubs in summer, creating semi circular bites along the leaf edge. One way of identifying this brownish vandal is to knock it over and watch it play dead: it is a deceptive creature. One can invest in the organic, biological control by nematodes. These are microscopic pest parasites which are mixed with water and then applied to the soil. There are well over 100 species used to control a variety of insects and pests including slugs. It is an expensive but highly effective method however the weather condition, e.g. temperature must be correct to ensure success. I have never used them, possibly preferring to indulge in my own sweet revenge of elimination or better still biodiversity!