Daylight delights

02:32, Oct 09 2012

Finally, with the beginning of daylight saving, the evenings are long enough to spend time in the garden after tea.

The dog is still behaving like a puppy and the she-wolf is always keen for a game of tennis ball, so they're pretty pleased about daylight saving too; dozing by the fire in the evenings does appeal, in our dogs' world, but there's more fun to be had outdoors.

Of course, there are challenges; last weekend we had to have a discussion regarding the fact that my freshly dug potato patch wasn't actually a purpose-built bone garden and in fact was not an appropriate place for dog food storage.

There were also a couple of minor points to be made about interesting smelling compost. The portable bins I wrote about in autumn have worked brilliantly. To recap, the bins are just a series of boards that slot together. I've had one in each of my three garden beds since May, each filled with a mixture of horse manure, pruning mulch and pea straw. Two weeks ago I took the boards off the bin in the potato bed before digging it over and the compost has brewed nicely, helped along by a large population of worms that were probably happy to move to higher ground over winter, as that particular bed became pretty sodden with all the wet weather.

While there is a lot of physical work to do in spring - digging gardens, pulling weeds and mowing lawns that grow back right behind the mower, it's a good idea to factor in some more restful jobs as well. I also spent part of the weekend potting up seedlings and planting more seed trays.

As well as the time of year when plants and weeds take off, spring is also the time when pests and diseases can appear. If you're closely observing your plants, you have more chance of noticing any problems early, and nipping them in the bud, so to speak. Hence another enjoyable “chore” I like to do regularly is to take a cup of coffee (this is a ploy; because my hands are busy with the coffee I don't get distracted into weeding) and slowly wander right around the garden. It's easy to rush past plants every day without stopping to observe them. As well as problem-spotting, it's satisfying to see what you've grown; this year I planted cornflowers for the first time since I was a child and I love their pretty flowers.


There are often many ways of tackling a problem, depending on your level of comfort with the solution. Slugs and snails, for example, can be an issue in spring. While I know people who've had success using coffee grounds or egg shells as a slug barrier, I haven't; perhaps because birds scatter our garden soil frequently.

Copper wire is also said to be effective. Slugs apparently don't like to cross it. Beer traps are another popular method of slug control; bury a small, shallow, open beer-filled container to its neck in soil. The theory is that slugs like beer and will crawl in then drown. I've heard of it working but when I tried it, the slugs in my garden announced they were teetotallers on a strict diet of vegetable foliage.

I've tried bug boards with varying success - use an old piece of wood just slightly propped up so slugs and snails can take refuge under it during the day. While they're sheltering there, you can pick up the board and pick off the pests. This seems to work best in damp conditions. If the board is too dry, it's not appealing to them.

Speaking of damp, while you'll see slugs anytime, they are more active at night and like damp conditions - watering vulnerable areas early in the morning rather than in the evening might be a simple solution that makes a difference.

I use a slug and snail bait that doesn't harm pets, wildlife or children and that seems quite effective. Call me paranoid, but I'm still careful where I lay it. With two nosy dogs it pays to be.

What to plant in October

A few of the plants garden guides recommend: lettuce, radish and other salad greens, carrot, peas, climbing and dwarf beans, celery, spring onions and beetroot.

Plant tomato, eggplant, pepper, chilli, courgette, cucumber and pumpkin seeds in trays.

Be sure to cover leafy tips of potatoes and your asparagus bed if we get another frost.

We're almost at the “anything grows” time of year; if it's too cool for some plants in the garden, start off the seeds indoors.

Try something different: if you've never grown herbs before, start simple.

Direct sow parsley and chive seeds, buy a seedling each of rosemary and thyme and plant them in your new herb garden, then sow a tray of basil ready for planting out when it's warmer.

You'll have herbs for every occasion in no time. 

The Marlborough Express