Ian's Gardening Tales From The Weald - May 2018

Ian's Gardening Tales From The Weald - May 2018

From a deluge of wet to icy cold to boiling hot and out the other side!

Well what a hotchpotch of a spring we've had so far. As I write this in the last week of April, there has been no easing in after a warm winter but a prolonged wet winter followed by an icy blast then a week of July-like weather in mid-April.

We seem to be settling back into something more spring like now and finally, our gardens are beginning to settle into a more coherent pattern of growth.

The cowslips are the first flowers of the meadows and in the orchards the pears have flowered and the plums too. As the apple blossom unfurls, the pollinator associated with tree fruit, the tawny mining bee emerges from her underground nest to gather nectar and pollen for her larvae.

These diminutive insects can be found in garden lawns, field margins and mown banks. They are noticeable by a small, volcano - like mound of fine soil above their nests. I regularly mow a bank where they live and they don't seem to mind. I like to think that they are aware without me mowing the bank the nests would be suffocated by thick grass!

Through the years, I have learnt about beneficial insects and their roles in the garden environment. As part of our RHS training we were taught to examine the variety of insect species that pollinate a wide variety of flowers.

In our gardens, we practice 'Integrated Pest Management' that governs that we utilise all cultural and organic methods of pest control before reaching out to the pesticide cabinet.

My favoured form of pest control is providing a wide variety of beneficial host plants required by garden pest predators and 'bio control', where we introduce naturally occurring predators to plant pest species. Good examples are ladybird larvae to aphid and lacewing to aphid. Predatory species to plant pests can be bought in from commercial breeders and suppliers and introduced.

Instead of insecticides, we use a non-detergent soapy spray for pests such as blackfly and green aphid. I have encouraged my mother to do this with success drawing her away from the chemical store in the process!

Companion planting involves the introduction of plants that draw pests away from its target crop or draw predatory species in to check their development.

The news in April of the total ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was welcome and hopefully will lead to a more sensitive way of crop production taking into account the wider health of the environment.

To conclude, the misinformed utilisation of pesticides can harm and diminish beneficial insect species that have pollination or predatory capabilities. We need to be more aware of the intricate webs of nature and work alongside them sympathetically and wisely causing the least harm possible.

Wishing you a prosperous and happy growing season and I'll return to you in the latter part of the summer!

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