Plants vs Snails – the endless war

Snails.
Yes, SNAILS. Where the hell do they all keep coming from?

This week has been hot and sunny. This weekend is going to have to be one of planting out and potting up.

I came home the other day to discover that the plants on one of my windowsills had all wilted, but they’ve all seemingly recovered again after a quick soak. Phew! These plants are going to have to be planted out, or they’ll become too lanky or stressed to do anything.

In my last post I noted that I’d planted out my new Lupin ‘The Governor’ plant. Prior to this, there were no snails to be seen. However, knowing what they’ve been like previously, I decided to circle the new lush green plant with some special ‘fizzy sweets’. It worked a treat. The next morning I checked the plant and it was relatively unscathed, but surrounded with abandoned shells.

That evening, I checked again, to find 15 snails within 1 foot of the plant. I swiftly aided them on their way, but it begs me to ask where the hell do all these snails come from?

Despite this, and through the desperation they’ve show to escape my windowsill, I have planted out some of the Sweet Pea ‘Candy Cane’, and the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants. This fills one of the cane structures nicely, and again i have circled each plant with those special treats for the snails. I’m hoping that the plants will soon become established, forcing the snails to leave them alone in favour of more tender juicy plants (ie weeds, or something in my neighbour’s garden).

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
One of the Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plants.

I came home a littler earlier today, to find that some of my Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plants that I had sowed back in June 2011, and had flowered in 2012, are flowering again. These are welcome in my garden. Not just because of their flower-coated spires that reach upwards, but because they are quite happy in the shade – something my garden gets a lot of.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ – its stems reach up, with flowery bits every so often

Not far from the foxgloves, is my Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ plant with its soft blue flowers. I’ve checked back to see when the Foxgloves and Nepeta flowered last year – given that we’ve had some pretty rough weather in the first 4 months of the year, and it seems that they’re only about 10 days behind 2012.

This weekend should see the planting out of the rest of the Sweet Peas, the potting up of the Courgettes and Tomatoes, and perhaps the planting out of the Nasturtiums too. Fingers crossed for sunshine, please!

Daylilies and brazen snails

The Daylilies are blooming marvellous at the moment, but the snails continue their brazen crimewave.

The Daylily ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ have opened in sync with the arrival of blazing sunshine.

Daylily Hemerocallis Bonanza
The Dayliliy ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ are having their best year…

Creating a hedge-like row of gold and yellow flowers, the lilies, which open and close with the sunlight, and wither after 2 days, are currently brightening up the garden. This is the best year for these – only managing about 3 flowers last year, this year there must be 10 times that.
The ample heavy rain and then warm conditions, combined with my digging and composting around their roots, will no doubt have led to this massive increase in blooms.

Snails continue their assault

Meanwhile, the snails are completely brazen this year – with me often discovering them unashamedly clinging to the tops of the 6 foot tall bamboo wigwam canes and in plain sight!

French Bean 'Blue Lake', post-Snail assault
… but so are the snails, which have eaten the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants.

The snails have been their worst this year – they have almost killed off the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants – eating them through the stems low-down, they’ve almost eaten all of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ (by climbing the wigwams and using nearby plants to get above the snail pellets and then down on to the beans), and they’ve been tackling the Pepper ‘Sweet Frigitello’ too.

No amount of evening ‘meet and greet’ or pellets seems to be stopping their organised crimewave that’s killing all food producing plants in the garden.

Poppies and Sweet Peppers flourish in the garden

Heavy rain and sunshine has led to the garden responding with poppies, Sweet Peppers begin to grow fruits, and a fresh batch of Parsley begins to germinate.

Heavy rain and sunshine has given the garden yet another boost – bringing a splash of colour and lush green leaves.

The self-sown Common Garden Poppy ‘Papaver somniferum’ plants have come into bloom – their grey-green rubbery foliage standing in contrast against the soft green leaves of the nearby Foxgloves.

Common Garden Poppy
One of the self-sown Common Garden Poppy plants.

Meanwhile, both of the Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants that I sowed months ago, and have carefully nurtured on windowsills, are now beginning to show signs of producing fruit after I had planted them out initially in the wicker basket, but then moved them to their own pots after they showed signs of not liking the position.

Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello'
Both plants are showing signs of producing fruits.

About 4 days ago, I also sowed some Parsley ‘Laura’ seeds, which like the Pepper (Sweet) ‘Frigitello’ I was given by CBM. This variety is a flat-leaved type which I would use in salads. I already have some curled parsley.

So far, one of the seeds have germinated, although I am hopeful that more will soon follow.

Parsley 'Laura'

Elsewhere in the garden, white Campanula (persicifolia, i think!) have emerged – taking a minority amongst the many blue ones which were also earlier to flower, and the snails seem to have finally gotten the message after my regular early evening ‘meet and greet’ sessions.

Campanula 'Persicifolia' in blue and white
The self-sown Campanula ‘Persicifolia’ in blue and white

The snails and aphids celebrate in the summer rain

The summer showers welcome some hungry pests into the garden, just as the Rose and the French Beans are about to put on a show.

There’s just been a short rain shower – enough to stop me being outside in it – but as soon as it stopped I was out there to meet the unwelcome visitors that are enjoying my green finger skills.

The French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ that I planted out only a few days ago, have seen two of the plants stripped completely of buds, shoots and leaves. These snails move fast. But today I moved quicker, and with the rain on a momentary pause, I went out and immediately pulled 8 small snails off of the beans. It seems that they’re using other plants to get them up and onto the bean leaves… and then they work their way up or down, decimating the plant until it’s a just lanky stem resembling a continuous chain of arms and elbows. I don’t know if they’ll re-grow, but i’ve got seed.

The Rose
This Rose was already in the garden when I moved here.

Not far away, is the Rose (of an unknown variety). It was already in the garden and clearly hadn’t been in place for many years. Still, it has flowered without fail – sometimes reaching two seasons of flowers in a year. This year though, after pruning it hard, it is full of lush growth and green leaves, and lots of buds.

Today, it is also full of lush green aphids.

Aphids on a rose bush
The Aphids have moved in. I just hope they don’t spot the Sweet Peas nearby.

Having witnessed them obliterate last year’s sweet peas, I was gutted. There’s not enough Ladybirds around yet to feast that lot, and the Hoverflies aren’t about due to the rubbish weather… so it’s down to some manual techniques to usher them away – a piece of tissue and some careful squeezing (not to damage the rose buds), or maybe some diluted washing-up liquid. Aphids breathe through their skin – so if you clog that with an oily washing-up liquid mix, they suffocate and die. Gruesome but fortunately true.

Again, not far away are this year’s Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – they’re looking stunted at the moment, and not much different from when I planted them out weeks ago. I know that the aphids will show them no mercy, so I will need to deal with these aphids sooner rather than later.

For now though, it’s the snails that are top of my hit list.

Sunshine coaxes the Foxgloves and I am bee-seiged by ‘friends’

The garden has grown a lot thanks to rain and lots of sunshine – with Foxgloves and others coming into bloom… plus a surge of bees cause a problem!!

After weeks of dreary rain, and then days of hot sunshine, the garden has rapidly grown.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
The first Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ flowers

Today has seen the first flowers emerging from the lush green growth that has flourished in the recent weather conditions. The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ that I sowed last year and have spent months nurturing, have finally opened the first of its flowers, having spent the last couple of weeks reaching skywards with long prongs of tightly closed buds. The first of these opened today, but many others have their buds ready to uncurl in the next few days.  It’s very satisfying to see these finally come into flower.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ survived the winter.

These Foxgloves were joined by the return of the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with its gentle blue flowers that lure bees, and the bright white of the Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herb – another survivor of the winter, which probably disgusts mistaken passers-by who wonder why i’m growing ‘Cow Parsley’ (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Caraway 'Carum Carvi'
The Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ on flower

Anyone following me on twitter will know that after all my efforts to encourage bees to the garden, I have somewhat overdone it…. by getting bees in my loft. Whilst they pose no immediate harm, a bee-keeper will soon be venturing through the loft hatch to coax them out before they do any damage.

In the meantime, their night-time buzzing and strange noises are fascinating, and there’s a distinct warm spot on my ceiling, caused by their nest, which gives an agitated buzzing reply if you gently tap it.

I’ve also planted out some of the Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’, the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and the Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ – the latter two no doubt causing great joy amongst the snail herd.

Planting out

I’ve been planting out my seed-grown plants today – all 3 hours of them!

I’ve just come in from an afternoon of planting out.

After a few days of rain (thunder, lightning, flooding, hail etc…), I took the opportunity to put out the plants that i’d nurtured from seed and also the few that i bought at a trip to Homebase and Huntingdon Garden and Leisure.

It’s taken me almost 3 hours of planting but I have finally given most of the Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ their release into the wild. A few had begun to flower, the ones that I’d transplanted into normal trays had got lanky, but the ones that i’d transplanted into plugs were smaller and more upright. Still, i’ve picked them out and planted them everywhere (with loads left over… oops).

Antirrhinum 'Chuckles'
Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ – waiting to be planted out

After all my sowing, re-sowing (due to poor germination rate) and nurturing, including fending off a flock (?) of snails, I’ve ended up with a paltry half-a-dozen Marigold ‘Boy O’ Boy Orange (French)’. This is disappointing considering that my mother has them growing like weeds! No doubt she’ll remind me of this when she visits next.

With some very carefully tying up of my Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’, in a bid to entice them upwards, I’d noticed that one of the canes that I’d set two against now has no sign of a plant. So, with it being late in the season, I decided that I would pop two Pea ‘Celebration’ seeds in to see if they’d like to grow and give me some tasty green petit pois late in the season.

I was really pleased to see the bees out in full force today. It was almost like they thought they’d help me in the garden. They’re all over the Lavender and also going for the Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ that I bought yesterday. I reckon that bees love blue flowers.

The Buddleia that I took from cutting months ago, and which I planted out a few weeks back, looks like it’s heading towards a flower. It’s still quite short, and the Foxglove ‘Digitalis’ that I bought from Tesco, is towering over it ready to burst. According to my mother (!) the bees love that Buddleia – it’s white. The Foxglove is meant to be a creamy yellow-white – so the bees will be in for a treat.

Speaking of Foxglove, I’ve just set some Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seeds in a propagator to grow some new plants for next year. Buying the plants is expensive, but the seed is a cheap and easy way to get loads of them.

Right, that’s enough for now – time to make a cuppa and put my feet up!