Disease, pestilence and the start of the first great chicken war

I agree that the title of this post does have an apocalyptic feel about it, and that is because this is how I feel. I am battling to make sure that various garden pests don’t overwinter on some large plants, bushes and trees in the garden, whilst at the same time Cruella (my wife) has opened a “second front” in the chicken wars which means I am now fighting on two fronts. Let’s start with the garden pests before getting on to the chicken pests.

5th November 2022. Things I have been doing lately:

Dealing with garden pests. As the cold weather comes along so sap begins to drop in all your plants. This in turn means that most sap sucking pests will either die off or worse try and overwinter on your plants. I have two particular insect problems I am dealing with at the moment.

I was walking past my weeping Ficus tree the other day when I noticed lots of dried up leaves lying under the tree. If there are no watering problems (which there aren’t) then it is obviously an insect infestation. After looking very carefully at the tree I could see nothing. But this is where gardening guile comes in, if you can see nothing then stand back and run your hand roughly and rapidly through the leaves, then watch very carefully. In my case clouds of whitefly emerged all of which are particularly difficult to see on variegated plants. The solution is to spray daily for three days with an appropriate insecticide.

The first photo below shows my ficus looking very sorry for itself. The second shows the fallen leaves which are the clue to the problem. I am very proud of the next photo which shows me manfully diagnosing the problem. And finally the solution. Click on each photo for a larger view.

My other main insect problem was on my large Indian Laurel tree which is another ficus. This time the problem is with an infestation of Wooly aphids. Unlike white fly, Wooly aphids are easy to spot as they form cotton wool type clusters on branches and leaves which are there to protect them and their eggs. Most garden chemicals are ineffective because of their wooly protection. The simplest thing is to wash them off with a high pressure hose. You will have to do this every day for a few weeks until you decimate enough of the colony.

The first photos below show you the nature of a woolly aphid problem. The final photo shows me administering watery retribution. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Dealing with rogue bamboo. Regular readers of this blog will remember that some years ago I foolishly planted bamboo close to one of my water features. I diligently caged it within a square of large tiles and took many other precautions to stop it escaping and proliferating. Unfortunately about six months ago I noticed that it had begun to make a run for freedom. I instantly executed it with a strong weed killer and have instituted a vigorous daily watch of the dead plant for any signs of life. At one point it did come back with some little signs of green, but again I destroyed these.

Once you are sure that bamboo is dead, then as an extra precaution set it on fire. The fire will burn down through wire like roots and destroy any chance of a comeback. But the real solution is do not plant bamboo unless it is in a pot or a specially dug protected trench. The first photo below shows me preparing to take out the bamboo roots and the tile box that was supposed to contain it. Secondly you can see my fires of righteousness delivering vengeance. Lastly, the newly retrieved spot as the bamboo is no more. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Cutting back Cruella damaged plants. Most of you will know that Cruella (my wife) is not allowed anywhere near the garden. For whilst she has green fingers they are the wrong type, every plant she touches dies, as can be seen in the photo below.

It is the nails that do the damage

The problem this time was that she touched a lovely Solanum and a Hoya both of which had been growing gloriously all summer and climbing decoratively up the side of our outside kitchen.

From the first photo below you can see the blackened stem where Cruella has touched it. The second photo shows the damaged plant in its entirety, whilst the third shows my remedial work which will hopefully save the plant. If you have a climbing plant that has been damaged then be brave and cut some of the stems right to the ground leaving the undamaged stems to hopefully recover. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Cruella (my wife) damaged the Hoya in a different way. I explained to her that Hoya (especially in pots) need very little water. When I returned to find the obviously overwatered plant she said she hadn’t overwatered it, but admitted to giving it what she called her special plant food.

Again the remedy is to cut it right back and do not water till it is fully dry in the first top 3 centimetres of the soil. The problem and solutions can be seen in the following photos. When I asked Cruella what was in her plant food she showed me the label exclaiming proudly “it is all natural”. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Cruella’s secret all natural ingredient

Remove citrus suckers. At this time of the year you need to go round all your citrus trees and pull off any suckers that are growing from the trunk or just below the soil. Suckers can be easily identified, they are bright green and generally grow straight up. Suckers are non fruiting stems that will take the goodness from the tree in non productive growth. If you remove them regularly then they come away very easily. Just put your gardening gloves on and grip the sucker at its base and pull sharply down, it’s as easy as that so get out there now – never give a sucker and even break. The photos below show some suckers that I am about to remove. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The start of the first great chicken war. Regular readers of this blog will know that Cruella (my wife) is now the proud owner of 5 fancy chickens who she insists are allowed to roam freely in the garden. This has forced me into erecting a line of defences similar to the Siegfried Line to keep the destructive chickens at bay. The photo below shows some of my defences.

My first lines of defence. I am thinking of electrifying them

The fact that I have had the temerity to erect defences has only engendered a militarist mindset in Cruella and she has taken to marching on manoeuvres every day with “her girls”. Most mornings at about 10.30 she assembles her chickens for inspection and then marches them round the garden in a line singing what she has entitled her regimental song. She tells me it is based on the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. But as she is singing in Chickenese it just sounds like this: puck pa puck pa puck pa puck.

Anyway whilst I was erecting my latest line of defences around the base of a vine. I suddenly became aware of the fact that Cruella was advancing with her chickens and attacking my defences on two fronts. At each point the chickens succeeded on jumping over my defences and clawing where my newly planted bulbs where. Even though I had recruited Tango the lonely blind Labrador as a guard dog, there was an obvious flaw in my plan, namely he can’t see.

The first photo below show my work site where I was preparing the defences and you can just see the chickens assembling in the background for the charge.

The start of the skirmish

The first photo below show a scouting party that was sent out to reconnoiter my defences. The following photos show the first stages of the attack when Cruella and her chickens emerged from behind foliage singing their song and attempting to rush me. Click on each photo for a larger view.

At first I rushed to defend the vine, but it turned out it was only a diversionary attack the real attack was taking place on the flower borders which I had left Tango the lonely blind Labrador to defend; but he was overwhelmed by superior numbers and hampered by the fact he couldn’t see them and was facing the wrong way. The photo below shows the battle of the borders beginning.

I don’t blame Tango he was outnumbered

When I confronted Cruella she claimed it was all a misunderstanding, whilst the chickens said they were just following orders. By way of compensation she agreed to help me plant all the bulbs on the lawn, see photos below. But I still don’t trust her, she started off ok and worked diligently, but gradually her chickens kept creeping nearer. The funny thing is she kept feigning interest in the garden and asking me questions but I knew she was just trying to find where I kept my bulb plan. But don’t worry it’s safely locked up.

This looks suspicious

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

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