Here’s a copy of my gardening column from the August issue of Eastlife Magazine, which is a fabulous magazine all about ‘Living life in the East’.  The full version of the magazine can be viewed online at www.eastlife.couk

IMG_7814We don’t seem to be doing anything by halves when it comes to weather this year, do we.  Following on from the Beast from the East our recent heatwave and drought has played havoc with our gardens at a time when vegetable and fruit crops need a regular dose of water to maximize yield.

In the Secret Garden, it has been especially painful.  The 900 Japanese Holly we planted last autumn have really struggled, along with a few freshly planted shrubs and some herbaceous planting.  A demanding daily watering regime has hopefully saved the day.

Of course every cloud has a silver lining and with watering being a slow process, it has given me the chance to take stock of what is going on in the garden.  Being surrounded by farmland it has been amazing to watch the overnight explosion of aphids and bugs since the recent ban on insecticides containing neonicotinoids.  The sudden return of windscreen casualties after driving through the countryside also bears testimony to this!

The gardener’s obvious reaction to this increase in bug life is to reach for the nearest chemical, but try and resist if you can.  Within a week or two of a black fly infestation on our climbing roses, the ladybirds appeared.  Just one solitary ladybird can consume 5000 aphids during its yearlong lifespan!  And even better, they’re free.  And whilst they can wreak havoc with block paving, army ants have currently taken up residence on many of our shrubs which have come under aphid attack.

If patience isn’t your thing then mix up a solution of 4 cloves of crushed garlic plus boiling water to cover, 2 tablespoons of washing up liquid and 1 litre of boiling water.  As garlic can also harm beneficial predators, focus spraying on the aphid infested areas only.  Organic pesticides containing natural pyrethrum or fatty acids are also worth considering.   Whatever type of control you opt for, it goes without saying to avoid any products that could harm our already dwindling bee population.

The latest copy of EastLife magazine can be viewed online at www.eastlife.co.uk

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