Just when I thought it was safe the Sawfly have returned with a vengeance and now they have eaten poor Alan Titchmarsh. No, of course I don’t mean the beloved best ever presenter of Gardener’s World, but Rosa Alan Titchmarsh a lovely pink English Rose.
8th July: Things I have been doing today.
🐛 Investigating the murder of Alan Titchmarsh. As regular readers of this blog will know my roses were invaded by Sawfly caterpillars earlier in the year. These pests are brought into the world by the female Sawfly doing exactly what it says on the Sawfly tin, and sawing into the stem of roses and laying a series of eggs into the cuts (see photo below). A short time later the young caterpillars hatch and proceed to rapidly chew through your roses from top to bottom denuding each stem of all their leaves (see photo below). At the bottom of the rose they lightly step off into the soil, thank you for dinner and promptly bury themselves in the soil and pop up next year ready to start again. The only way to extract revenge for the murderous attack on poor Alan, and stop this cycle of devastation (my wife says I am prone to exaggeration, but she is the worst person in the whole world); is to pick off each caterpillar and see if they can swim in a bucket of water. The photo below shows my granddaughter Florence who would only hold the bucket but did not want to become an accessory; she is thinking of becoming a lawyer!
🌻 Eugenics and Marigolds. When it comes to selective breeding of plants I am a regular Dr Frankenstein. I would, if I could, grow a “Triffid” and market it as salad with an extra bite. Or ideally I would be Seymour Krelborn the florist with Audrey II (look it up, high literature, films and gardening, what’s not to like). Now I am not proposing that you selectively breed your plants by feeding them human beings – though now I come to think of it there are a few people I would feed to Audrey II.
Anyway, I digress, back to plants. This time of year everything is in full flower, and if you would like to expand and better your garden for free, then now is the time to be keeping an eye out for good looking flowers to take seed from. The simplest and easiest way is to cast your eye over all your various flowers and then note those that have the best flowers, have been the most disease resistant and are tall and pretty. (It’s a bit like Miss World, though I don’t remember contestants being asked about disease resistance – I think I better stop this analogy as it is getting dangerous). Under each of the flowers you have designated wrap a piece of coloured water proof tape. The idea is these marked flowers are the ones you will collect your seed from. The coloured tape will hopefully remind you of this and stop you deadheading them; though my compost bins seem to have a lot of red tape in them each year! (The photo below shows some Marigolds bound up in red tape, the sooner we get Brexit the sooner we will be freed from all this). We will return to seed gathering later in the year.
🍉 When to harvest Melon and Butternut Squash. By now your melons etc should be ripening (I refuse to indulge in innuendoes). But There is still plenty of time for new fruits to come on and we really won’t be harvesting till next month and even later. I mention this now for those of you who are growing Squash and melons for the first time and may be tempted to harvest too soon. Yes, I mean you Daphne! You must wait and let each fruit fully ripen and each one will ripen at a different pace.
You will know when a Melon is ready as it will gradually change colour from green taking on a more yellowish hue and the skin will become smoother. But the clincher in ripeness is when the stem attached to the fruit begins to come loose and in most cases will seperate (see photo below). I will cover this phase when we harvest both melons and Squash at a later date. In the meantime if you pull a Melon too hard and it comes off of its vine – Daphne (this is turning into Carry on gardening), don’t despair, just leave it outside in a warm but not full sun area for 3 or 4 days, then pop it into the fridge for 2 days and it should be OK for eating.
Butternut Squash are different wait until the vine dies back, in Spain this is usually in the Autumn. By then the plants should be an even beige colour (the darker the better) with no green veins. Then you can harvest and store them. We will come back to this.