Summer newsletter 2014

Impossible that we are halfway through June already and tomorrow is the longest day of the year. It has been a  great spring/summer weather wise so far this year in this part of the UK. We are very European themed with the team this year with the female representatives coming from Poland, France, Italy and Hungary. The boys more boringly are from Lancashire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire!

Rosemary beetle (Chrysolina Americana) has been spreading slowly from mainland Europe since the 1990’s. Our own contingent has appeared for the first time this year. At the moment they are only to be found on our largest stock plant rosemary’s – and have been easy enough to see and dispatch. They are shiny metallic beetles and are also found on lavender, sage and thyme. Both adults and larvae feed on the foliage from late summer through to spring. Adults lay eggs in late summer which hatch after ten days. When fully fed the larvae pupate in the soil, emerging in spring. Affected plants look like stumps with grey discoloration where the damaged tissues have dried up. As these beetles and larvae are easy to see, the first form of defense is to pick them off or shake the plant onto some paper. Pesticides can be used, but as this is a culinary plant it needs to be one suitable for edible crops. If it isn’t an organic spray, the harvest interval needs to be adhered to.

There have been a lot of slugs about this year because the winter was so mild. There are particular herbs they love – the tansy and alecost particularly have suffered. All the new plants we had were eaten completely in what seemed like a couple of days. We have since applied nematodes - a biological control - to that particular tunnel, which because of the netting is always damper than the others. There are hundreds of different types of nematode, but phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita has evolved into a slug parasite. (I would say at this point there are already thousands of them living in your gardens, they are part of our natural environment and not harmful to people, animals or the environment). It infects the slug with bacteria which stops it eating within a few days and causes it to die within about a week. The nematode then feasts on the decomposing body and reproduce. Apologies here to anyone eating whilst reading this L. These nematodes are very specific, only affecting slugs and not snails. I know Jo who sends out all our internet orders has tried them on her vegetable patch and has been very impressed with the results.

Borage (borago officinalis) seems to have been very popular this year. Historical descriptions indicate this is the herb to promote courage and also to make men and women merry and comfort the heart. The Celtic name Borrach meant courage and the Welsh name LLawelyns means herb of gladness. For courage flowers were floated in the cups of wine given to the Crusaders at departure. Certainly borage is high in calcium, potassium and mineral salts and research suggests that potassium works on strengthening the adrenal glands, the organs that help us cope with stress. It is worth growing for the beautiful blue flowers alone – there is a white variety too – which are loved by bees. Borage is a hardy annual, but usually self seeds well in the garden. The leaves and flowers are both edible, though the leaves are a quite hairy, the older they are the hairier they are. A borage flower frozen into an ice cube and dropped into summer drinks looks quite impressive.

We seem to have a lot of babies around the farm this year. There is a blackbird with her second clutch in the barn that houses the washing machine and tumble drier, another nest inside the small shed where all our plastic for recycling lives, a pigeon with a nest in the hedge and a duck with ten ducklings wandering around the nursery peering into the tunnels in a greedy looking way. We feel very privileged J