The garden at Midsummer 2018: apples, ants & aphids


This season has been one of many tears in the garden.  Despite my best organic efforts, the slug colony is a worthy foe and keeping their numbers in check quite difficult.  This year alone I'm using copper tape, eggshells, juice traps and will soon add nematodes to the mix. They have completely eaten all the artichokes, the first planting of lettuce, butternut squash, sunflowers and I suspect they are the reason only one black eyed susan has sprouted.  Slugs *love* young growth so not only veg but many perennials are also on the menu.

In addition to the losses because of slugs, I've also lost every lily in the garden which I suspect is a product of the late cold weather we had.  I don't bring any bulbs up during the winter so I realise this is a risk I take and reluctantly admit that hardy plants are probably the only way to go.

The chinese lanterns I planted with great joy in 2017 have yet to make an appearance and at this point I've nearly given up hope.  Although my autumn blooming aster has yet to start growing so perhaps they'll be late bloomers? Fingers crossed.

I also moved three trees recently which IS A VERY DUMB IDEA TO MOVE TREES IN THE GROWING SEASON but they were looking so poorly I was worried I would lose them entirely and am willing to sacrifice this season if they're happier in their new space.  Hopefully next year they'll be looking much healthier.

These three trees are all the same kind of tree.  The one on left is only one that seems happy so I moved the other two closer to it. 
Fairly happy apple tree with apples growing. 

Extremely unhappy apple tree, I moved it here to hopefully give it a new lease on life.  We won't know until next year but fingers crossed. 

I've also been waging a very personal war against the green & black fly (aphids) which are taking advantage of the little new growth that exists on the vulnerable apple tree and the ants that herd them (not joking) by spraying the tree down with warm water mixed with garlic pulp. It seems to work.  Also, you really see how healthy plants are able to fight off pests.  There isn't an aphid on the healthy apple tree.  The poorly apple tree has been infested and I've cut away nearly all of this year's growth.  I read that catmint can help to deter aphids so I'm definitely going to plant one underneath the above apple tree.

But all is not lost.  There is mixed lettuce, kale, cabbage, tomatoes and carrots coming up in the front veg bed.  The peonies were amazing this year,  helped by the sunny weather and little rain meant they stayed upright, longer, without shattering. The blue sea thistles were a very good choice and are just coming into their blue brilliance now.  The contrast with the fading peonies is good.

Baby mixed lettuce & kale

Peonies in full bloom, early June 
L to R: lavender, crocosmia, blue sea thistle (front), roses (back), peony 

My quest to fill in the gaps in the border and have some kind of colour all year round continues.  I'm debating weather to add some salvia and a black elder with dogwood (for the red stems in winter) to add variety and if that wasn't enough, would like to add wisteria to the front garden as well.

In the back garden this year the soft fruit is looking great.  I'm pleased with where the loganberries are and how I tied them up last year and will definitely be doing the same this year.  The blackberry bush is starting to flower so once the loganberries are finished, there will be blackberries on the way.  In the veg beds there are leeks, courgette (one), beet root, and one pea plant.  Not a great showing so far, to be honest.  In the next few weeks, with a heavy does of nematodes, I'm hoping to add more veg.

Loganberries

The mint is coming up and tonight is the first time I've used it to make our summer salad dressing of plain yogurt mixed with mint from the garden and some lime juice.  Very light and refreshing!


Cut some fresh mint, mix with plain yogurt and a splash of juice from a lime

Speaking of all things homemade...this year is the first year I've made my own elderflower syrup.  It was super easy, turned out really well and is nearly gone so I'm going to try and make another batch before the elderflowers completely disappear.  So far we've been using it mainly in sparkling water and on pancakes.

Fresh elderflower

Elderflower syrup steeping
So my next big jobs in the garden are: adding nematodes, weeding and spraying tender shoots with garlic water to discourage aphids.  Bizarrely, its been a very dry June for us and while I'm happy to let the grass die back, I'd prefer not to lose the perennials so I am watering those as necessary.

So that's where we are, there's loads of work to be done but the heady scent of lavender at this time of year is keeping me going.  That and Gardener's World, of course. Happy solstice & enjoy the season. 

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