A frequent ‘pest’ to the Victoria plum in our garden smallholding is the plum moth, the larvae are quite partial to Victoria and Czar varieties. Brown poops (frass) are usually the first thing you’ll see when you slice open a plum troubled by plum moth, the adult moth lays eggs on the fruits in summer and the pink caterpillars burrow in and have a jolly good time eating, pooping and growing. The fruit drops to the floor earlier than usual and this is where the next cycle of life begins.
I’m an organic veg gardener. I don’t spray my fruit trees or anything else with nasty chemicals and I like to think I’m pretty tolerant with a live and let live attitude to most things, but let’s face it, nobody wants to munch on caterpillars (or their poops) so I hope my photos help with identification of a plum problem that may crop up from time to time.
To keep plum moth under some sort of control (organically) I collect fallen fruit regularly from directly under the tree and pile the fruit elsewhere in the garden, allowing the chickens to enjoy them as they free range. The local wood pigeon population enjoy a nibble, late butterflies and pollinators such as bees and wasps appreciate the sugary boost as the weather turns cooler. Pheromone traps are another way to control plum moth without the use of pesticides.
Our allotment site is fenced with chicken wire to prevent rabbits from entering from the railway and fields beyond. As predicted, rabbits are finding ways to get in, along with deer. It was soon obvious that all the plots would benefit from being fenced too, around half of the plots are now protected but those that aren’t are having problems with crops being eaten, including ours.
Last year the little fuzzy butts ate all the carrot tops (then dug some of them, up scattering them everywhere), dug a whacking great hole in the potato bed and pooped all over the plot. This year, rabbits or deer munched garlic tops down to the stalks and damaged fruit bushes. I’m all for wildlife but enough is enough!
Last weekend Rich and I put a fence around our plot using chicken wire and wooden posts, stapling the wire onto the edges of the raised beds and paths to stop anything from digging under. I’ve visited our plot everyday this week and cannot see any further damage. We covered the garlic over with wire frames about a month ago and it’s recovering nicely now. The funny thing is, I thought I’d hate having a fence around the plot, in actual fact I quite like it. It makes the plot feel more like our little place, without losing the feel of community gardening or shutting our neighbours out. And our crops are a little bit harder to get at.
There’s a hole in my potato bed, dear reader, a hole. On my arrival to the allotment on Sunday morning (yesterday) I found this:
It wasn’t there Saturday.
Apparently, the rabbit fencing around the allotment site has been found to have a few ‘flaws’ recently. No kidding! I checked inside the hole for signs of life and found nothing, the hole didn’t appear to lead anywhere. I was beginning to wonder if this was the work of a very large rat, until I filled in the hole using the expertly tilled soil in a mound nearby, along with little round poops, courtesy of Peter Rabbit.
I guess a rabbit-proof fence is needed around our plot very soon. Oh the joys of allotmenteering!
I was admiring how well the onions were swelling the other day, suddenly I noticed some of the leaves had been chewed in a neat circular way. Something had completely sliced open the tips of the leaves (bulbs are fine), so I did a bit of investigating to see what it could be. It didn’t take long to find the culprits way down inside the hollow leaves, complete with lots of green poop. Nice.
After a bit of research it appears the podgy caterpillars I found inside my onion leaves are cutworms. Cutworms are the larvae of several species of night flying moths, they’re not actually worms at all. Apparently, they’re a common visitor to the vegetable garden but I’ve never noticed them before.
They hide in soil or under leaf litter, feeding on crops and other plants at night (more common early in the year), often cutting young plants or seedlings straight down to ground level. I guess that’s how they get their rather cruel name. When alarmed they curl into a C-shape, my personal observation is they have very sticky feet, making them difficult to pick off plants. They’re large and meaty so I didn’t fancy squishing them (I’m useless at killing things anyway), they’d make a heck of a mess. I simply moved on the ones I found and did a bit of hoeing to see if I could spot any lurking in the soil.
Gardening organically and living where I do I’m always going to have the odd ‘pest’ problem here and there, that’s how it goes. I don’t use nasty chemical sprays, my preferred method of natural control will be to keep a close eye for more, picking them off if I see them, digging the onion bed over after harvesting to expose any I may have missed. Cutworms have many natural predators including wild birds, our chickens will scratch in the onion bed later on in the year too.
I could cry when I look at this photo, this is how my carrots usually look around about now. The growing season this year has been a real mixed bag of baking hot or wet cold weather, it’s been either one or the other. My vegetable garden doesn’t know if it should spring into life or slink underground for cover.
Recently I’ve had a problem with slugs and snails eating my carrot seedlings at night (let’s face it, they have the upper hand with the weather being on their side), I found evidence of their night-time activities – sparkling slime trails across the surface of the soil and carrot seedlings half munched or gone completely. I placed a covering of prickly holly all the way round the rows and sowed more seed, I thought this would stop the little rascals in their slimy tracks, and for a while it appeared to be working.
Up popped my carrots once more, thanks to a spell of warm weather. All was looking good for a while, then the rain and cold came back and all 3 rows of my beautiful little carrot seedlings vanished. Gone. Almost as if the ground opened up and swallowed them whole, in one fell swoop. The carrot seed I’m using is fresh this year and I’ve rotated to avoid roots being in the same bed for 3 years running, the strange thing is the parsnips in the same bed are growing like the clappers and have remained untouched all the way through. So, this has got me thinking; Have I bought dodgy carrot seed? Are slugs and snails around these here parts partial to carrots only? Are slugs and snails actually to blame? Will I ever pull carrots this year?
I can only assume the weather has produced a bumper amount of slimers and they’re really enjoying my carrot growing efforts. I’ve never had a problem with slugs or snails to this extent before, I’m not one to go shaking slug pellets everywhere as I’ve never been into harming wildlife or my pets. Beer traps are just yucky things to deal with so I won’t be going down that route either. Perhaps I should give something like organic slug pellets a try (are they actually safe?) or sow in large pots, off the ground?
Are you having problems this year? Go on, tell me and make me feel better.
My broad beans are flowering and beginning to form small bean pods lower down on the plants. I spent a few minutes yesterday pinching out the tops. Pinching out broad bean tops helps to avoid an infestation of black bean aphid, it also encourages the plants to direct their energy into forming nice big pods of beans rather than putting on more top growth. It’s easy to do, just pinch the very tops off with your thumb and forefinger once the lower pods are approx 3in long. If you see clusters of black dot like creatures, often with a sticky substance covering them, this is black bean aphid. Pinch the tops off as normal to try to bring the problem under control.
If you’re a wildlife nerd like me, you might be interested in another way of knowing if your broad beans have black bean aphid infestation – keep an eye out for black ants on the plants. When feeding, black bean aphid secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew. Ants ‘farm’ the aphids, milking the honeydew produced by the aphids as well as moving them to the fresh new growth. Apparently the sweetest honeydew is produced by aphids eating the youngest, freshest leaves – that’s probably why broad bean tops tend to get infested so easily.
Once you have pinched off your broad bean tops don’t throw them on the compost heap, try eating them instead. They can be cooked like spinach or add to a stir fry – just make sure they’re not infested with black bean aphid first!
I’m growing Meteor peas which can be autumn or spring sown, after a disastrous attempt at autumn sowing I decided to wait until March before direct sowing again. This time germination was a success, the plants are romping away and flowering already but my joy has quickly turned to dread because of a pest called Pea Moth. Pea flowers are self pollinating so I’m keeping my peas covered with fleece – just in case the gorgeous weather we’ve been blessed with encourages pea moths to emerge earlier than usual.
I have disturbing visions of eagerly opening up a pod only to be met with nibbled peas and caterpillar poo!
I have two Gooseberry bushes, Invicta and Careless. Both have flowered profusely this spring and are now laden with small forming fruits which I will lightly thin towards the end of the month to allow for larger fruits mid summer.
Yesterday I noticed some of the fruits on the Careless bush are showing signs of mildew, it did well last season but I know this variety can be susceptible to mildew. Pah! My veg bible advises cutting out congested branches to improve air circulation and removing any infected branches straight away. Oh, and to plant resistant cultivars. Whoops.
However, Invicta (mildew resistant) is going great guns so far so I should be OK for Gooseberries this year.