Friday, 29 July 2016

Those Pesky Carrot Crunchers

24th July 2016
Warfare in the Polytunnel
There is warfare in the polytunnel. Everything is growing brilliantly. Tomatoes and cucumbers are now cropping, the Uchiki Kuri and Butternut squashes are rampant and the sweetcorn is reaching for the skies. The peppers and aubergines are forming fruits and the courgette plants are reaching epic proportions.
But in one hidden corner I noticed today one of the melon plants looking very sickly indeed, showing all the tell tale signs of Red Spider Mite infestation. These tiny little creatures live on the underside of the leaves, sucking the life out of the plant. Despite their name, they can be many colours. In reality, they are so small that my 50 year old eyes can only just pick them up.
Red Spider Mite prefers hot, dry conditions. It has its favourite victim plants. Melons and cucumbers are a favourite, along with aubergines and beans, but it can get on almost anything in the polytunnel. After heavy damage for the last two years, I took as many precautions as possible this year. The main deterrent is to keep the soil moist and the air humid. The mites don't like this. So I was a little surprised and disappointed to find that it has established a foothold again this year. I mixed up a lethal concoction of soap, lemon eucalyptus oil, chilli and garlic and sprayed the plants thoroughly making sure to drench the underside of every leaf. However, those pesky little mites are resilient. They weave fine meshes of silk which, along with the hairy underside of the leaves, affords them quite a bit of protection. I could buy in some biological control, a predator to control them, but it is not cheap and not guaranteed to work.
I did, however, discover the possible reason for the mite invasion into that corner of the polytunnel. I had wondered at how dry the soil was, little colonies of ants being a sure sign of dry conditions. When I turned on the sprinkler system I noticed from the outside of the polytunnel that the walls at that end were not getting wet. On further investigation I found that the overhead sprinklers at that end of the tunnel were blocked by spiderweb silk, not from the mites - that would be ridiculously clever! But the effect was to neutralise my main deterrent of not letting things become too dry.

Carrot Crunchers Not Welcome
There are larger pests at work too, for the Carrot Crunchers have moved back in. I'm growing lots of carrots in the tunnel this year as it affords them a good level of protection, but when I was harvesting the baby sweetcorn I  noticed that some of the carrots underneath had been nibbled, sure signs of vole attack. In fact one carrot was even nibbled while I left the tunnel for half an hour!
So I set the traps and within an hour I heard one snap shut. There will be more than one vole, but as long as I keep on top of checking the traps I should be able to nip this little problem in the bud before I start losing all my carrots.

25th July 2016
We have a rather useless porch adjoining the side of the garage. One of the supporting posts was never put in properly and the whole thing has dropped on one side. I discussed with Sue the possibility of removing it and she came up with the brilliant idea of moving it and turning it into a log shelter.
With the weather still holding dry, today seemed a good time to paint the end of the garage before the log store is constructed. As ever, this took longer than I thought but it looks good now.
What a Smoothie!
The paint dried quickly in the sun and it was thirsty work climbing up and down the ladder. In the winter I would be refuelling with soup, a great way of eating vegetables. I have now discovered the equivalent for a hot summer day. Smoothies. The freezers are already rapidly filling with fruit, so much so that it's hard to see where the forthcoming vegetable harvest and the late autumn meat will go. Today I whizzed up some yogurt, apple juice, a couple of mushy bananas and a handful of frozen raspberries. Delicious! And disgracefully healthy!

A Major Hair Cut for Outside
After lunch I did something I had been avoiding for quite some time. After two days the mower battery had finally charged up and it was time to start it up. I was not optimistic. I pumped up the tyres and then tentatively put the key in the ignition and turned it.
The good thing about being a pessimist is that sometimes you get a pleasant surprise. The ride-on started straight away and I got straight to work.
Four hours later I'd mowed the veg patch, the orchard, the top paddock, the central walkway, the back lawn, the front lawn, the pond area and the borders round the spare veg patch. A very, very good day's work.
While the going was good I hardly stopped for a break, but I did stop to take a quick snap of the sun bursting through the clouds in the evening sky.

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