Thursday, 28 July 2016

Mole Deterrents and Flower Success

Mole Deterrents and Flower Success 

I'm plagued by moles at present. I've had them for a few years and I've always seen them as helping me with the drainage. Even the odd mole hill in the lawn isn't a problem, but recently, despite the cats catching and killing several moles they have now entered most vegetable beds and a Raspberry bed. The final straw was when they appeared in the Poly Tunnel. Enough is enough and it's time they moved 20 yards up the field.

I bought 4 mole deterrent spikes. They simply emit an ultra sonic noise or buzz that is supposed to upset them so they move away from the noise. That's the theory.... After a few days, probably not long enough to make an informed decision, but the pack said effective from 3 days, I'm not totally convinced about their effectiveness. 

Outside the tunnel
Admittedly the spike had come out and I poked it back in for a better photo but the hill did appear exactly where I had placed the deterrent :)

I'm a bit more concerned with the damage they are doing in the poly tunnel.

They have dug up the paths along the borders but have also moved into the centre bed.

Inside the poly tunnel
The paths were all hay but all along the borders on both sides they have made tunnels just under the surface.

Since the soil around the field is compacted clay they are targeting the areas I have dug. The small beech hedge bed has also seen mole hills all along it.

Small Beech hedge
Yet again a hill appeared exactly where the deterrent was place. Small hills have appear under the hay.

On a more positive note my first attempt at a more formal flower bed around the Pergola seems to have worked. Runner beans up the sides, Sun flowers in the next outside row then Cosmos and some Marigolds on the outside row on all 3 sides. 2 Grape vines on the back 2 corners complete the plantings with a few self seeded Nasturtium throughout the bed and the odd self seeded tomato.

The grass hasn't been cut in this area yet but it is now a self contained sheltered seating area as opposed to being exposed.

Looking from the back corner the Sun flowers and Cosmos haven't finished producing all their flowers but they are coming along nicely.

One of the sides looks better than the others. The Sun flowers are from bird seed so I had no idea about the size or type of them and they have turned out to be small to medium in height.

Click on photos for larger images.

With all the failures this year due to slugs and now a caterpillar onslaught starting, not to mention the havoc of the moles, it's nice to have something turn out as I wanted. The Grape vines are only in their second year (in the ground although they were a year or 2 old in the pot before) and can't easily be seen but they are almost upto the top of the pergola. With the rate they are growing, in all directions, within a year or 2 I won't need runner beans to enclose the structure.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Six weeks growth

Six weeks growth

It never ceases to amaze me what a bit of rain, warmth and time can do to a garden. From June 1st to mid July the difference is incredible.

June 1st 2016
Click on photos to enlarge.
July 14th 2016

Thursday, 7 July 2016



There are always set backs. Some bigger than others but over the last few weeks I've encountered a biggie!

I've done a lot of reading about this and have come to the conclusion that I have herbicide in my manure. I'm not 100% sure of the facts but I think I few years ago the EU changed a few rules and normal broad leaf herbicide was changed, or banned and farmers etc had to change the herbicide they used.

Anyway, while a "safer" herbicide was chosen this change had knock on effects. Instead of the herbicide decaying or being diluted with rain it was getting on to grass, normally in grazing fields. This was not a problem in itself, the weeds died and the grass didn't. The herbicide on the grass was eaten by horses and passed through them unaffected and without affecting the horses. But it ending up in the manure as far as I can tell.

The manure is then used by gardeners. It isn't a problem for many plants but Peas, Beans, Tomatoes and Potatoes are effected. Apparently it can take bacteria 2 years to break it down.

I have spread manure everywhere. I have 2 piles of it and have taken various loads of manure. I think some is / was effected and some isn't but I have been potting up tomatoes and cape gooseberries in a mixture of manure and compost. The main reason for this is that when selling large plants in pots the manure holds moisture far, far better than just compost. My manure is free so it also offers a cheap potting mixture for selling. The bottom 50 to 75% of the pots was this mixture while then top 25 to 50% was pure compost. The plants that have been placed in these pots were doing fine, as their roots were still in the shallow compost but as time has gone on and the roots go into the manure / compost mixture extreme leaf curl is being seen.

Luckily I haven't sold many Tomato plants in this mixture and the plants I have sold aren't affected.
Cape Gooseberry leaf curl
The photos of Tomato plants don't do the problem justice but Cape Gooseberry is also affected and shows the problem better in a photo. The plants are badly stunted and the new growing tips and leaves are curled in an extreme way. The growing tips of the tomato shrivel up and die. Existing leaves are unaffected.

Cape Gooseberry leaf curl
It isn't caused by mites or flies, because I'd see them. It isn't a virus because I think that this would show as discolouration, yellowing of leaves. On one website it was suggested that tiny amounts of herbicide can travel a long distance on the wind but I have discounted this because some plants have never been outside.

A virus would contaminate neighbouring plants but I have some side by side unaffected.

When planting out in the poly tunnel the manure was dug into the ground in patches, with the manure coming from different batches. Some are OK some not.

Cape Gooseberry without leaf curl
It was suggested planting peas and beans in the same place as the problem. If the herbicide is in the soil Peas and Beans would also be effected.  The test sowings of both Peas and Beans have also been effected, indicating that the problem is soil based.

My manure supplier says that he doesn't, and never has used herbicide, and when I first asked him I tried to stress that it didn't matter and that I just needed to know so that I could avoid using this manure for Tomatoes etc for a couple of years and use it for other plants. So I'm none the wiser as to whether it is in the manure, had he said he did it would have at least confirmed what I think.

Another possibility is that it is in the shop bought compost. This has happened to other people in the past. I can't rule out the bags of compost because although the Tomatoes that are OK are in pure compost I also have purchased compost from 3 different places and have had 4 batches of compost so this could also explain why some plants are OK and some not. 

All the plants in the greenhouse are OK - pure compost used here, half in the poly tunnel are effected and plants in pots outside are almost all affected.

It has stopped me from selling about 20 large tomato plants, and about 8 Cape Gooseberry plants. The others are for us, which is less of a problem although will have the knock on effect of not having their fruit to sell or eat.

If it isn't one problem, it is another but does highlight why commercial growers are paranoid about eliminating pests, viruses and having quality control on all inputs and why they try and control their environment to such a high degree. It also helps to explain why farmers are happy to kill soil bacteria and bugs with gay abandon and rely on applying liquid fertiliser. We may see it as destroying the environment but they probably see it as controlling the environment and eliminating as many unknowns as possible that could effect their crops and income.