They’re both black and 
pests, in differing ways

Blackfly - curse of the broad and runner bean. It's rampant this year.

Blackfly - curse of the broad and runner bean. It's rampant this year.

Now's the time for pricking out those seedlings. Picture: peganum/Flickr

BRIAN KIDD: It’s full steam ahead as the new gardening year begins

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It’s difficult keeping up with all the jobs that need doing in the garden and in particular on the allotment.

Trouble is, I plan to do one job and then find something more urgent needs doing like netting a cherry tree because every pigeon in Waterlooville has flown in and devoured the fruit.

It’s the same with the strawberries – 42 plants attacked by my lovely blackbirds who pulled off the fruits while they were small.

I’ve had similar problems with carrots underneath micromesh netting supported by plastic water piping with the netting secured by push pins into the wooden edges of the raised bed. Wonderful carrots, no carrot fly at all. But last night I weeded the bed and found the weeds were so high they were pushing the net off the bed. Never mind, half the bed has been weeded and given a good soaking. Hopefully, because the weeding was done in the evening, the carrot fly didn’t fly onto the carrots.

Everyone is concerned about blackfly, firstly on the broad beans and then on the runner beans. It has been a bad year for them.

So, what to do? Derris has been withdrawn. This was one of the safest products to use on edible crops, but there is an alternative. I have been told I may be breaking the law if I recommend 4oz of soap flakes with 2oz of washing soda, mixed with hot water and made up to two gallons of spray and applied to the blackfly in the late evening. If this mixture is used to wash a path, it’s OK. Isn’t this a strange country?

At home the garden is looking wonderful because Pam is out there every day and I am doing a bit more to help her. We now take a bucket with us whenever we go outside because as we walk around we find weeds or a plant which need dead-heading.

This all goes into a huge compost bin. I emptied it last year but it’s now half-full and by the end of the summer it will be overflowing again. Remember: one part urine to seven parts water sprinkled on your heap encourages hundreds of tiny red worms to break it down into wonderful compost. Don’t put weeds which have seeds in the bin, it’s asking for even more.

As an apprentice, my head gardener, Ernie Flowers, who was in charge of Southsea rock gardens always said: ‘Make sure the grass edges look smart and visitors will forgive you a few weeds.’ A well-maintained lawn with smart edges is like having a beautiful carpet. So, after cutting the lawn, do the edges too.

Last winter, all the grass edges were redefined with a sharp half moon edging iron and my word, that job transformed the garden.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Gladioli corms are available at half-price at several garden centres. Plant now, in groups of five, and they will bloom in October giving lots of colourful autumn impact.

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