Collateral damage

What a day of disappointment: I went up early to check the crops and plant a few extra dwarf French beans, and water if needed. And what did I find? Destruction by the little beasts. Everywhere. Five celeriac have disappeared from their neat little planting holes. I don’t think I can blame the slugs for that as the roots have gone as well. Plucked by a bird looking for some juicy nesting material? Uprooted by my new neighbour the Big Scary Rat? I don’t know. But the body count continued as I walked the rows: five cabbages have been grubbed up, six peppers no more, and of the seven climbing beans I planted last week I’m down to three. So vexing as I can’t see the creatures that are doing the damage. I inspected the beans carefully and can’t find what is chewing the leaves.

I have lost yet another cucumber – making a mockery of the elaborate climbing frames I have put up for the plants. And just to really slap me in the face with a grubby gardening glove – I even found lily beetle down at the lily pots. Grrrr.

On the good side I can say that the potatoes are fine (even though there is even a bit of slug damage on the leaves – they leave the tell tale slug slime trail), the flowers are all fine, so too the strawberries and little celery plants. My herbs are still there, but the pumpkins are looking battered. The peas are romping away – even the ones I planted recently. And the broad beans are putting on growth. And black fly. But the ladybirds are trying their best to eat their way through them. And if I wanted to be reassured that all is not lost I just have to look at the onion bed. All fine there.

I went to the shed and tried to think what to do. First course was to water the plants and hope that the ailing pumpkin and cabbage could fend off the pests with good growth. And I squished as many black fly off the beans (making sure not to hurt the ladybirds) as I could.

I even resorted to an ‘organic’ bug killer product to save the rest of the broad beans. I was squirting away when Mick came up to inspect my plot and tell me that he has sprayed some of the neighbour’s plot. He then pointed out the most glaringly obvious change in the plot next door. Someone has chopped the big overgrown shrub down. In my dismay about my crops I didn’t even notice. But that is good news: I don’t know if it is the absent Charlotte, but it does mean that someone intends to do something to the wasteland next door.
I checked my little potting table for any signs that the slugs have found the juicy climbing beans that are too small to be planted out. (Too small? I don’t know if I dare plant them out at all? Can’t I just keep them in a pot and save them this unnecessary ‘pruning’ by all the grubs known to gardeners?) And everything looks fine there. The grevillea really is poorly, but I’m hoping that its new growing medium will help it along.

I sowed the dwarf French beans in all the holes left by the missing plants, pushed in extra ones around the poles. And then added a few sunflower seeds for good measure. I suspect they won’t thrive in my tough old soil, but at least I can fool myself they are a backup measure for the ones I have grown in pots and thought I would plant out later. Now I’m not so sure.

So in all, not a happy visit. To cheer myself up I donned heavy gloves and secateurs and had a good old chop at the brambles growing through the fence and into Janet’s flower garden a few yards down from my shed. Felt better after that.  And I went home with the car scented with a handful of lemon verbena I plucked from the bush. Plus some sage leaves for dinner tomorrow night and two (count ’em two) French beans from one of my plants. It won’t quite make a salade niçoise but at least I can say I have harvested something.