The potatoes are bursting forth already, just three weeks after planting. I planted them at 300mm centres as suggested, but I think I could have put them closer to allow for failures. So far they all seem to be coming up though. I’ve had to water a few times because the weather is dry.
Today, I’m just up to water and it’s a beautiful evening. The long evenings are what make this country special. And it’s so peaceful just ten minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city. The crows on the treetops that shelter the farmhouse are still in building mode and raucous – flying overhead from time to time with bits of sticks. Like a cut finger in a water barrel the sun is dissipating its blood red colour across the horizon. This would be bliss if it wasn’t for eternal worries like carrot fly, slugs, and small whites.
Small Whites are those small off-white butterflies with two grey/black dots on each wing flitting round the cabbages. And you’ve guessed it, they’re up to no good. The larvae of these little suckers will feed on your brassicas, no, I’m not being rude – that seemingly is another word for your cabbages, your broccolis, your kales, and just to keep you on your toes, these guys will love your radishes. The larvae are about an inch long, green and sneaky and hide on the underside of the leaf. One way of dealing with them is to check the leaves, take them off, and feed them one by one to the crows, emitting loud deep-throated hearty laughs.
Another way is to cover with netting. It needs to be a fairly close mesh though. Now, this is stuff I hadn’t banked on when I started this project, I thought I’d just roll up, dig the ground, plant, wait and eat. But oh no, I now have visions of Big Mama Nature standing with her hands on her big hips saying, ain’t no free lunches baby and you should know better a man of 44 years of age for crying out loud. Mmmm… ok, so the last bit sounded like my own Mama.
Now, the carrot fly seems to be somewhat nastier. This sucker lays its eggs in the soil around the carrot producing a creamy-yellow maggot which burrows into the root of the carrot. The bad news is he can smell a carrot at a mile (who measured that? – I wondered was it the same guys that discovered that ants can count) but the good news is he gets altitude sickness thus a barrier two and a half feet high round the carrots helps stop his march. Remember, as he likes the smell of carrots, don’t thin on a windy day, evenings preferably; close up the soil; discard thinnings away from the plot; you may also need to cover with a mesh. Some people plant onions, leeks or garlic around or through the carrots, (the flies don’t like the smell). There are fly resistant varieties, note this does not mean fly-proof. Finally, these babies take to the skies in spring and late August so if you plant in May and harvest by mid-August you may avoid them.
Just a note on planting times; if you’re listening to old folks, – most of whom kept gardens in their youth, – don’t. Well, not re planting times anyway. There are loads of varieties out there now with wide ranging planting dates so check the back of the pack. Also, if you loose a crop early you might get a second one in. But change location as there may be grubs or larvae of the pest still at large. Planting in a different location would be the advisable thing for the following year’s crop also.
Finally, the Gastropod Mollusc, that’s the slug to you and me.
Slugs are fascinating creatures; besides having their genitalia located behind their head, they, like women’s shoes come in wide variety of slinky shapes; sizes; beautiful colours and exquisite patterns and textures. One of them, the Kerry Slug (Geomalacus Maculosus) hit the headlines recently by holding up the Macroom by-pass. Following in the wake of fungi and in the tracks of the Kerry Cow, the oldest cow in Ireland as featured on Morning Ireland, (I jest not – at least the recession put paid to that type of reportage) we finally have the Kerry Slug. What’ll the Kerryman think of next?
But, as nice as slugs may be, and I don’t wish to speak bad of them, and we’re all Gods creatures after all, some of them get into my dogs bowl and this bothers me. I used to spill beer round it and that repelled them but I got fed up of wasting beer and now I sit it up on an upturned plant pot. The buggers carry the larvae of a worm, don’t know what it’s called, that can infect the dogs lungs.
But the esteemed Kerry slug with its beautiful grey-brown colouration and yellow spots is not what concerns us here. No sirree, we’re more concerned with the common garden variety that wreaks havoc on a wide range of plants. But there are many solutions. Leave jam jar lids of beer, in strategic locations round the place, beer doesn’t sit well with them; sprinkle lime or soot around beds that need protecting – not sure about this as the rain would wash it away and when are the slugs out, exactly, when its raining; sprinkle slug pellets; hand pick them and feed them to the crows; dig a pond and keep a few frogs; hire a hedgehog and feed him on dog-food; sprinkle sharp gravel or broken shells around the beds. Duck eggshell is better than hen eggshell because it’s harder (never knew that eh, me neither). Which brings to mind;
When broken shells make Christmas bells…
“And who are you me pretty fair maid and who are you me honey?
Who are you me pretty fair maid and who are you me honey?”
She answered me quite modestly, “I’m me mothers’ darling”
Chorus: With me toor ay ah faddle diddle da, diri dal diddle derrio.
“And will you come to me mother’s house, when the moon is shining clearly?
Will you come to me mother’s house, when the moon is shining clearly?
I’ll open the door and I’ll let you in and divil the one did hear us.”
So I went to her house in the middle of the night when the moon was shining clearly.
Oh I went to her house in the middle of the night when the moon was shining clearly.
She opened the door and let me in and divil the one did her us.
She took me horse by the bridle and the bit and she led him to the stable.
Oh she took me horse by the bridle and the bit and she led him to the stable.
“And there’s plenty of oats for the soldier’s horse to eat them if he’s able.”
And she took me by the lily white hand and she led me to the table
She took me by the lily white hand and she led me to the table.
Saying, “There’s plenty of wine for the soldier boy, so drink it if you’re able”
Then I got up and I made the bed and I made it nice and easy.
Oh then I got up and I made the bed and I made it nice and easy.
I got up and I laid her down saying, “Lassie, are ye able?”
And there we lay till the break of the day and divil the one did hear us.
Oh and there we lay till the break of the day and divil the one did hear us.
Then I arose and put on me clothes saying, “Lassie, I must leave you.”
“And when will you return again and when will we get married?
And when will you return again and when will we get married?”
“When broken shells make Christmas bells, we might well get married.”
AS I ROVED OUT (Trad. Ballad)