Monday, 27 August 2012

Coffee outlawed as slug deterrent

According to today's Daily Telegraph, European Union bureaucrats have stated that using coffee grounds to deter slugs is illegal.  Using anything that has not 'passed through the system' to officially be called a pesticide risks prosecution for the gardener.  The list of forbidden items stretches to salt, eggshells, tea leaves, water infused with garlic and other methods used by gardeners throughout the UK who only wish to fend for  their plants by the most innocently organic means.  Presumably EU politicians have total disregard for gardening in a way that is cheap or organic or that might even be fun (anyone with a sadistic streak who has poured salt on a slug will know what I mean).

Brussels politicians must wake up to this kind of thing every morning

Dr Andrew Halstead, principle plant scientist at the RHS has warned that gardeners using coffee grounds as slug repellent could risk heavy fines - although the chances of prosecution, he suspects, are remote.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Furry Foes

Hours spent gardening: 1 (cannot think of any gardening jobs suitable for August, what am I missing?)
Slugs killed: 3
Plants bought: 0 (wrong time of year I guess)
Gardening magazines purchased: 1

Slugs have been on the wane here so my attention has turned to next door's cats who like to have a dump on my borders.  On warm summer days I peep through the orange fence to spy on them sunning themselves on their lawn.  They have a little routine for these moments: relax, have a stretch and then think, "I know, I'll go and have a crap next door."  No wonder that I broke one of my mantras this week ("Claire, thou shalt not covert more gardening magazines!") when I saw this month's feature in Gardener's World: KEEP CATS OFF YOUR BORDERS.  It shouted to me off the shelf.  This turned out to be worth the money as there were a few things I didn't know about cat repelling, such as putting a string of wire on top of your fence.  Unfortunately this isn't really suitable for a small garden unless I want it to look like Her Majesty's Holloway Prison.  Sprinklers are also mentioned but this is madness for someone without a lawn.   Here's my own summary of my anti cat tactics so far.  All tests were conducted under controlled clinical conditions.

Lion dung: 0/10
Anti cat spray: 0/10
Lemon peel (kindly suggested by the owners of the cats next door): 0/10.  Thanks for nothing.
Lavender (apparently a cat repellent): 0/10, goodness what I am doing wrong as I counted 11 lavender plants in the garden and it is only about 4 metres square.  (Can you have too much lavender?  A topic for another post I fear.)
Sonic cat repellent gadget:  this works really well so I give it 8/10.  The only thing is you have to be prepared to cash in  your life insurance policy to afford the new batteries it needs all the time but it is well worth it not to have animals going to the toilet in your veg patch.

Here's one of them about to launch an attack on my perennials:

Feigning disinterest

Caught in the act

The look of defiance

Apparently a water gun works well but I'd have to sit there all day like some sniper in downtown Sarajevo and people would think I was insane.  Also I'd have to give up my day job in order to watch the garden effectively but then I suppose I'd then have time to grow some seeds.

On a brighter note, this gladiolus callianthus came into flower this week.  I was a bit surprised as I thought all the bulbs had come up blind.  A massive sycamore and some squirrels are to blame (oh dear, I can feel all the new topics welling up inside of me!). It was supposed to be part of my late flowering scheme to avoid the August gap but as only one in fifteen or twenty of them planted have flowered I guess I won't repeat them next year.  Famous last words!

Gladiolus callianthus

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Knautia Macedonia and rambling on about the Olympics

Dry weather has meant there is a sudden lack of slugs in the garden.  The end of nightly hunts with the salt cellar has left me wondering what else there is to do.  What is the meaning of gardening without a couple of slugs to spear?  I've deadheaded a few flowers which lead me to wonder if I'm using the garden in order to express inner violent tendencies and would be locked up if it wasn't for repeat flowering perennials.  The Olympics have also distracted me from the garden. We live in spitting distance of the stadium (not that we could get tickets for anything *bitter!*).  Sour grapes have faded to smugness as team GB are now firmly ahead of Le Photographe's country in the medals table.

Anyway, I've digressed as this is a blog about gardening and not a commentary on the state of British athletics.  Although gardening is relevant to the Olympics as apparently Sarah Price's planting in the Olympic Park is well worth a visit.  I'll definitely go and have a look at the gardens but you need tickets for the Park to see them (did I mention I didn't get tickets?) so it will have to wait until after the games.  I just hope that Ms Price knows what she is doing when it comes to late season planting.

I digressed again!  Sorry.  I'm going to be good now and write about gardening.  Plant of the moment is Knautia Macedonia.  I love this plant and always wait eagerly for it's first flowering.  I planted three of them two years ago, recklessly placing them in the eastern bed when the label said full sun.  As punishment for not listening, I lost two of them in the first winter but one of them has soldiered on.  Having a north facing garden has meant that I never know if it will re sprout until June when I give thanks to the miracle of nature and start smothering it with liquid feed and cutting back anything else that might impede it's progress.  Once up and running it ticks a few style boxes for a small garden: repeat flowering, reasonably slug resistant and adds a bit of height to the border.  I first discovered it in the pages of Garden's Illustrated which also must elevate my garden a bit in the prestige stakes.

There have however been two disappointments about this plant: a tendency to powdery mildew and poor results when it comes to seeds.  Powdery mildew is easily dealt with by a dash of non organic, non biodegradable, eco unfriendly toxic chemical spray that I squirt shamelessly about the place.  Seeds however are a bit of a mystery.  Instead of drying off to a nice tufted seed head the flowers sort of just mould away to nothing in autumn.  To be honest, I am not brilliant with seeds.  Come spring, I'll think, 'Great, let's plant some seeds!'  I'll congratulate myself when they sprout but seedlings are like toddlers: take your eye off them for a second and they misbehave by growing white mould, outgrowing their pots or cavorting with weeds.  Seeds need constant attention and are not for a slap-dash gardener like me, in fact I don't think they are suitable for anyone with a day job.

Good writing should flow and be succint but if you've got this far you'll know that I'm guilty on two counts of jumping from topic to topic and going on about a lot of random stuff so thanks for coping if you're reading this.  My last word for today is that if anyone has an Olympic ticket they don't want then I am your most willing recipient.  I especially like athletics.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

First time a winner

Apparently I have just won a £50 voucher for Creative Garden Ideas thanks to Ryan of Ryans Garden.  Thank you Ryan! 

This blog is getting little attention due to my becoming an armchair sports commentator during this 2 weeks of Olympic fever but I hope to find some slugs to complain about soon.