Tag Archive: moles


WP_20150826_19_04_46_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Another month and little to report as far as Old School Garden is concerned! As you know we’ve spent around 10 days away in Portugal (more posts on this to follow in the next few days), and once more we seem to have found some lovely and interesting places to visit. Fortunately my neighbours and good friends Steve and Joan were able to get in to water while we were away.

There seems to have been a good harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and soft fruit while we’ve been abroad, and this is continuing ,though starting to tail off a little (apart from the prolific blackberries and promise of many apples to come). The new watering/feeding system for the greenhouse tomatoes seems to be going well, though it seems many others have had a good crop of tomatoes this year too, so we must hold fire on any final conclusions about its advantages over other systems- but having the reservoirs does make watering less of an issue while you’re away.

Almost the first thing I noticed when looking round the garden was a new rash of mole hills and tunnels, so the mole man’s achievement of catching two, has paled as we seem to ave around four or five new and probably young moles at work! I swear they were waiting in the borders for us to go away before they came out into the grass! As we are about to go away again (to Scotland and Northumberland, isn’t retirement tiring?) I’ll hold off on any further action until we return-  as I have a couple of traps I might have a go myself.

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

You know I’ve been puzzled about my raspberries – you might remember that for a few years now the second half of the autumn fruiting variety has not produced any flowers or fruit? Well, I noticed one summer type- fruit on one of the canes the other day and that got me thinking. Maybe these canes are summer varieties and therefore I’ve been pruning them wrongly! I shall leave the canes that have grown this year and treat them like summer varieties and we’ll see if they produce anything next year.

The garden is looking very full and flouncy and its a pleasure just wandering around it or sitting on the terrace, though recent weather seems to have announced autumn rather than the expected dry warmth of late summer! Thankfully most of my house decorating is now done, so I can turn my hands to the garden more seriously upon our return from the north. I’m keen to press on with my pond project and I’m gathering lots of ideas for this as I look round gardens and parks on our travels. Also, as my old potting shed is now reaching the end of its life, I’m thinking about creating a new one using the floorboards taken up during our refurbishment works. This will probably be a spring project.

WP_20150826_19_05_21_ProWell, old friend, once more to the joys of packing cases for another trip, hopefully to include some beautiful landscapes and interesting places (we’re also taking our bikes!), as well as seeing our old circle of college pals for our annual ‘road trip’…

Good gardening!

Old School Gardener

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mole hills‘The worst ENEMYES to gardens are Moles, Catts, Earewiggs, Snailes and Mice, and they must be carefully destroyed, or all your labor all the year long is lost.’

The garden book of Sir Thomas Hanmer 1653

To what extent can we ‘control’ these pests in ecologically sound ways, or is destroying them the only effective method? Old School Garden is suffering from major mole damage at present and I’m stopping short of acting other than to clear up the (increasingly annoying) mole hills in the grass and putting down some powder that’s supposed to encourage them to move elsewhere (the neighbour’s garden?!). I have been tempted to get the garden fork and plunge this along the runs, but I’ve resisted the temptation- so far. What methods of ‘pest control’ do you use?

Old School Gardener

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

 

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Sorry for the delay in this month’s letter. Having been away for a couple of weeks, I find myself playing ‘catch up’ in the garden and in many other respects too! The past month in the garden has been a relatively quiet one. The continued dry, hot weather has had a marked impact on the state of the plants, and not having been here for a fortnight has also left its mark, though I’m blessed with some very kind, helpful neighbours who have at least kept most of the vulnerable things watered – more on that later.

It was a joy seeing you and Lise at the beginning of the month, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and what you saw in the garden. That new crop protection netting I was telling you about arrived just before I went on holiday and this meant I was able to get it set up over a wooden and twine  frame to cover my recently – planted Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese. You remember this has a smaller mesh than the previous one I’d been using and is supposed to prevent Cabbage White butterflies getting at the brassicas? Well, it came just in time (or so I thought), as the beginning of August saw an explosion in these pretty but annoying pests that lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves leaving a legacy of a host of hungry caterpillars that destroy your best Brassica efforts!

As we departed on holiday (I’ll be doing a few posts about the various gardens we visited whilst in Devon and Cornwall), the Agapanthus was coming into flower and I had hopes that my Tithonia (‘Mexican Hat flower’) and Cleome (‘Violet Queen’) were finally putting on flower buds. The late Spring seems to have delayed their development somewhat.

What it is to have good neighbours!  Our next door neighbours Rob and Wendy were happy to water the containers and greenhouse etc. whilst we were away, though they were themselves due to go on holiday a couple of days before our return, so I was a little concerned that things might just wilt before I could get to them. I had no need to worry, for on my return – in fact the very evening I went round and started watering things – I stumbled across our next to next door neighbour, Norman, who had just finished watering the containers in the Courtyard! He had apparently been tasked by Wendy to carry on with the watering in their absence! I thanked him for this kindness and remarked on my pleasant surprise at the healthy look of most of the plants.

On closer inspection, and looking beyond the containers, greenhouse, cold frame etc., I discovered that the pests had been at play while we had been away! Moles had decided the time was right to dig up various spots in the lawn (their activity might have been prompted by one day of heavy rain) and when I inspected the brassicas I found not very much left of the Cauliflowers, Calabrese and Broccoll previously mentioned! In fact the caterpillars had been busy and stripped every last leaf! The Red Cabbages looked reasonably OK, though even here there was clear evidence of caterpillars starting to munch their way through the tightly drawn heads. So a quick harvest of those was in order (and the 4 heads i salvaged are being cut up and cooked for storage as I write). So, i can only guess that the little varmints (in egg form) had somehow been deposited on the plants before my new ‘butterfly proof’ netting was in place! Oh well, it’ll be different next year… I might just try one last sowing of Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese, to get us some home-grown greenery in the winter months. We’ve also been harvesting courgettes (some interesting ‘patty pan’ ones  included), and the tomatoes and cucumbers as well as autumn raspberries and blackberries are looking great. The apple and plum harvest to come is also looking very promising and I’ve even found a first pear on one of the ‘super column’ fruit trees I planted a year or two ago. This year looks like a good one for fruit, as everyone is saying.

The flower garden is hanging in there. The Tithonia and Cleome have fulfilled their promise and are adding some bright colour (along with cosmos, Achillea, Phlox, Helianthus, etc.) to the late summer borders, once again complemented by the burnished stems and seed heads of the various grasses that intermingle in the main borders. I’m especially pleased with the mix of Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana that underscores the view to St. Peter’s church. The Nicotiana’s perfume of vanilla is wonderful too.

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Having had the late ‘bank holiday’ my mind definitely turns to autumn and so the coming month will be very much about managing a mix of harvesting (especially fruit), dead – heading and coaxing the last flowers as well as gradually clearing up those plants that have finsihed flowering and whose foliage won’t add anything to the winter garden in terms of structure or wildlife value.

Further afield I popped into Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum (where you know I’m a garden volunteer). The gardens here seem to be surviving the hot dry weather pretty well. However, the sweet peas and container plants are obviously struggling with lack of water (though I was told that the Museum had had some pretty heavy showers at the weekend). I spent a couple of hours watering, dead heading and weeding and also helped contribute to a new film being produced for the museum website . This is going to ‘cameo’ some of the many volunteers here in order to provide some information for anyone thinking of joining the volunteer team. I had to say a few words about my time as a volunteer, how I’d helped to redesign and renovate some of the gardens and my time as a Heritage Gardening trainee last year. This all seemed to go well, but a few hours afterwards I received an email from one of the film crew saying that because the sun had glinted on my glasses, that this had somehow affected the focus of the whole sequence – hence the need for a rerun next week- at least I’ll have had practice at my lines!

Its back to school here next week, and so Deborah is gearing herself for the return to our local primary school. I will no doubt also be having some discussions with the Outdoor Learning Coordinator about the year ahead in the School Garden, Hopefully we can build on the progress we’ve made this year and ensure the children all get a chance to work, learn and enjoy the garden through the different seasons.

That’s about all the news from here at present. Hopefully you and Lise are enjoying  the late summer sun, as we are. It somehow seems easier to sit and view (and snooze) in the garden at this time of year, occasionally harvesting some produce, pulling up the odd weed or cutting the lawn, rather than the more frantic, continuous activity needed to cope with the surge in growth that is spring and early summer – an altogether more relaxing time!

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 22nd July 2013

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 21st June 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 20th May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

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