There are days when I wonder why I spend time growing my own fruit and veg. The sort of day when I think, ‘you know Wellywoman you could just buy this from the supermarket or pick it up at the farmers’ market at the weekend’. That happened on Wednesday when, after a night of strong winds and torrential rain, I went up to the plot to check everything was OK. The cloche I’d constructed over some lettuce seedlings to protect them from the cold, frosty nights we’ve been having had collapsed under the weight of the rain. Fortunately most of plants had survived. The ones that hadn’t had been got by slugs.
Our slimy mollusc foe isn’t the only pest that has already started the onslaught on the vegetation growing on my plot. My broad beans which were lovingly nurtured at home before being planted out have been chomped and my peas, which were likewise started off at home, have been nothing short of mauled. I had just assumed it was either birds or mice attacking the peas and beans. These are generally the prime culprits and a quick check of my RHS Encyclopaedia seemed to confirm my suspicions. There was little I could do about mice but I constructed a barrier out of chicken wire in the hope that this would keep off the birds. Regular inspections though showed both peas and beans were still being attacked.
After some research online Wellyman, convinced it couldn’t be mice unless they had acquired the ability and equipment to dangle Tom Cruise like in Mission Impossible, came across the true culprit, pea and bean weevil. A pest that doesn’t even get a mention in my RHS Encyclopaedia, it chews distinctive u-shaped notches into the edges of leaves. Brown and grey in colour and about 5mm long they overwinter in plant debris and vegetation before moving on to plants to feed in spring. Growing green manures overwinter doesn’t seem such a great idea now but my plot is surrounded by grass paths so even without the phaecelia the weevils would have had somewhere to hide.
The adults are normally not active until May but in milder springs can appear earlier. It gets worse, the adults come out at night so no chance of catching them and there is no other organic control I have come across, other than growing plants until they are a good size before planting out, which is what I ‘d thought I’d done!! My problems were probably exacerbated by the cold spell just after I’d planted them out, whilst the peas and beans sulked the weevil tucked in for dinner.
It’s only April and my great plans for successional sowing are down the pan already. Some of the peas appear to be growing ok but others aren’t going to recover, so now I’m left with patchy rows. This is my first year growing peas and broad beans and I’m beginning to wonder if it was such a wise move. Others on the allotment have been affected too, but some of the older plot holders soak their seed in Jeyes Fluid so that the mice don’t eat the seed and I’m wondering whether this is also why their seedlings haven’t been nibbled nearly so much as mine. I don’t plan on resorting to Jeyes Fluid, a quick look online and it seems fairly toxic stuff, being suggested as a way to get rid of moles to being diluted and used as a weed killer. Doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I want near something I’d eat.
I have got other batches of peas growing in the cold frames which were meant to be my second crop, so my plan is just to start again. I might try and keep the new plants at home a little bit longer this time, hopefully by the time they’re sturdy plants it will have warmed up. If not, I’ve suggested to Wellyman we start look at properties in southern France. I don’t mind changing my moniker to Sandalwoman if it means my plants actually grow.
Is anyone else experiencing early season growing pains? Please share your woes to make me feel better.