Challenges of a home garden

LAURA FAIRE
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014

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Tomorrow I will have to go cap in hand to my local organic gardens and see if they have a surplus basil crop. I didn't plant nearly enough.

Also, a biting, stinging insect swarm protects what I did plant. Considering my much-proclaimed love of bugs in the garden, it is pure irony that two different species are keeping me from my salad patch. A nasty wasp has built a nest in the bank by the potato patch and under the washing line (not very convenient).

In every garden, there is a matter that is taxing and requires research. Some wasp species (scoliid and median) require notification to the Department of Conservation. Most wasps (certainly the common, German and paper ones) are considered pests due to the fact they prey on native insect populations. There are beneficial wasps, which are mainly used to control insect populations in greenhouses, but these are not what I have. To identify my wasp I found the Waikato Regional Council site most useful, as it had the widest info. See waikatoregion.govt.nz.

To get rid of a nest it is suggested to go in after dark and use a chemical - fly spray is said to work. (I'll let you know if it doesn't.)

We have a burrow-style wasp nest. But if we had one of those simple little comb nests, I could (or the husband could) clip the nest off into a plastic bag and freeze it , which will kill the wasps. This is one of those scenarios when I am happy to have a husband who is pretty blokey. Tonight I shall send him into the fray with a can of bug spray and bravely stand back, directing the torch.

Our other flying-bug problem involves a stupendous amount of giant mosquitoes. These mozzies prevent us from having the windows open in the evening, and require head-to-toe bug balm or nuclear-grade repellent when making the short trip to the compost heap or worm farm. I have never seen anything like it. We have no standing water, and keep the leaves well raked. The reason for this infestation is beyond me. I risk death by itchy bite attempting to recover enough figs for a jam. But until a suitable expert is found, the backyard is practically off limits.

This week, however, we move house (not because of the bugs). I look forward to hanging the washing, filling the paddling pool, sleeping with the windows open and enjoying a few drinks or dinners alfresco before winter eventually arrives.

Autumn is a great time to have people over, outside dining is still an option, evenings still seem long and all the expectations of Christmas and summer are behind us. There is little shame in a barbecue that is a bit filthy after a long run of summer, of a garden that is ratty and mostly spent. Throw the basil in the blender before it has all gone to flower - a few flower heads won't hurt - and call up some friends before the weather turns. Just remember to keep the bug spray handy.

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