Our vegetable garden: June 2013

Everything is looking really healthy in our vegetable garden this month. We’ve had months of rain, which has really helped the plants spring to life, especially now the sun is out. I’ve scaled back our vegetable growing after last Summers lack of sun. I’d grown tomatoes for the last 2 years but last year hardly any ripened (cue the green tomato chutney) and the effort outweighed the outcome / benefits.

First lettuce and spinach harvest

It doesn’t feel like Summer has started until we harvest our first batch of lettuce and spinach. And the first harvest is always the best because it feels like you have to wait forever until it’s ready to eat.

Colander of picked salad leaves

Homegrown salad leaves and spinach

The cooler weather and rain has really helped these plants flourish. I’ve been more prolific about manually removing slugs from the garden which has mean’t the lettuce seedlings haven’t been gobbled up before they’ve had a chance to grow.

New neighbours

I’ve been finding caterpillars everywhere. This year they are loving my mint, parsley and lavender bushes although I’ve found a couple on the strawberries too.

Plump caterpillars on leaves

Garden caterpillars

I haven’t seen many chrysalis compared to last year. Not sure whether there are actually fewer or whether the caterpillars have got good at hiding from my prying camera lens.

Strawberries

Our strawberries are looking really healthy. The leaves are deep green with strong stems and there are lots of fruits.

Strawberry flowers with white petals

But the whitefly seem to have taken a strong liking to them 🙁 I don’t know what it is with whitefly and this garden, I think the whitefly population of Farnham must reside here.

Underside of strawberry leaf covered with white fly

Whitefly on strawberry leaves

We’ve discovered wild strawberries growing in our garden. They look the same as normal strawberries only much smaller. I’ve fenced some of them off with string and canes so they don’t get moved over. Will be interesting to see what happens with them.

Getting rid of whitefly without chemicals

I can’t remember where I read this, but someone suggested putting tin foil at the base of affected plants. It works like a dream. All you need to do is scrunch up a few pieces of tin foil and lay them under the plant.

Tin foil nestled into plant

Deterring whitefly naturally with foil

Apparently the whitefly don’t like the light bouncing around the underside of the leaves so they go. I nestled foil in my oregano and thyme because they like these herbs more than the others. No whitefly on them and the plants are strong and healthy.

Deterring ants from garden pots naturally

Last year we had a problem with red ants. They were everywhere. My neighbour poured boiling water on the nests but I couldn’t bring myself to do it 🙁 This year we already have ant nests forming under pots and in a raised flower bed. Last week I went to plant something in an old pot I’d let run wild and it was FULL of ants and larvae (circled).

Red ants and larvae in soil

Red ants and larvae

Previously I tried putting strips of lemon peel under pots which didn’t work. Neither did cayenne pepper. But I’ve found something that works: generously sprinkling equal quantities of ground black pepper and cinnamon under each pot. It’s been 5 days since the last application and the pot appears to be ant free, huzzah!

Beetle nesting

I have another abandoned pot next to the ant pot. I went to move it one day and a few beetles scurried away. After reading about beetle decline I decided to leave it there because they seem to like living underneath it.

Beetle on soil

Beetles hiding under old plant pot

This ‘beetle home’ was a bit of a happy accident because it really is just an unused pot with a small gap underneath, resting on dried leaves and small stones. I have a quick peek every few weeks and there seem to be a few more beetles each time. I’ve tried identifying them and I think they’re Lesser Stag Beetles – but I could be wrong. Are there any beetle experts who can tell me if I’m correct?

Chilli plants

The chilli plants have been struggling with being kept indoors so they are looking a bit leggy. It’s my first year growing them so wasn’t really sure what I was doing but they have started to flower, which means red hot chillis will soon be on their way. I can’t tell you what is growing because I planted a couple of different types in pots and then muddled the pots up. So you’ll be as surprised as I am when I reveal what has grown.

“I won’t be long …”

Is what I call out when I head out into the garden. But a quick bit of weeding ends up with me discovering beetles, caterpillars, whitefly and wild strawberries. No wonder I’m always out there for an hour or more.

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