Derek – Thursday 22nd August 2019

Most of our flowers have finished their season but there are still plenty of bees. I suspect they are going for levels of nectar they would have disdained a month ago, working harder for less reward. There’s a bumble bee on a clump of purple toadflax. It’s hairy with a sort of brown scarf round its thorax. There are 24 species of bumble bees in the UK, and in general they are big and hairy like this one, which is Bombus pascuorum, one of the common ones found on meadows and gardens. It has the simpler name of common carder bee.

A little later, I see greenbottles (Lucilia caesar) on the posts around the wild flower bed. The adults feed on nectar, but often lay their eggs in carrion. This is utilized in murder cases. If a corpse has been dead for, say, months, forensic scientists are able to estimate, from the extent of maggot growth in the body, the date of death.

I plant five small tomato plants into a large container that I see near the greenhouse, half full of compost. When they are planted, I move the container a few feet, which reveals about 50 woodlice, scurrying in seeming panic from the light. I go off to get some sticks for the tomatoes. When I return, a few minutes later, the woodlice have gone.

An acanthus has its leaves torn and holed by snails. The leaves are more like a Swiss cheese plant’s leaves than that of acanthus. Snails and slugs (close relatives) go for certain plants, like hostas and French marigolds. In our garden, they make a meal of acanthus and hollyhocks. The latter still flower on, though definitely coming to an end now.

I do some dead heading of lynchnis and dahlia. It’s tricky telling the difference between the seed heads and new flower buds. In general the seedheads are pointed, and often have the debris of the flower sticking to them. New flower buds are round. Dead heading encourages new flower growth. You should remove the flower stem, not just the seed head, to encourage new stems with flower buds to grow.

Our apple tree, donated by the Irish Club at Durning Hall two years ago, has only withered fruit this year. I wonder about the cause. It is a dwarf apple tree, grown in a container, so dryness is a possibility, or lack of feed. But I am not convinced this is the cause, and research apple diseases. The most likely is rosy apple aphid. The RHS says:

‘Affected fruits often remain small with a pinched appearance around the eye end. In late summer, some branches may have normal fruits while others have only damaged fruits, reflecting the distribution of aphids on the tree earlier in the growing season.’

Next year, we could be lucky, but may have to consider a natural pesticide such as pyrethrum. And watch for any aphids on the tree in spring.

There are a number of golden marigold plants about the garden. They are commonplace, but cheerful in this late season when the garden is lacking colour.

I have planted out quite a few tomato plants, one instance I related above. All were plants we were unable to sell on our plant stall. Some of these are now bearing fruit. We discuss whether we should grow more vegetables next year, as people coming often ask us if we have any. We have one small raised bed, but there’s not much in it beyond runner beans. There’s a pot of chard at its base, but we have barely scratched the extent of vegetables.

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