The City Gardener

May 28 2016

FROM spring to summer, the transition has been a swift one this year. With sleet and snow at the end of March to some of the warmest days in relation to the entire of last year.

FROM spring to summer, the transition has been a swift one this year. With sleet and snow at the end of March to some of the warmest days in relation to the entire of last year.
The first few weeks of May have been beautifully clement with a welcome dose of sunshine albeit with it’s fair share of heavy rain. This has created a warm and humid environment that has been perfect for plants to get growing.
You only have to look at the hedgerows to see the change and can almost watch some things growing, like the cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) that go from a few leaves to 4 feet tall in what seems like only a few days. The railway path is now a verdant passage into the city, so full of the joy that this time of year brings it would take the coldest of hearts to not be lifted. From my house I look across the Frome valley to Purdown and can only dream of how beautiful the area between must have been before the M32.
The river there is a haven for a huge variety of wildlife and I like to feel it is a hidden gem reserved for those that live locally. The reality is that I think very few people know it's there and how nice it is. To walk up the river from Eastville Park is a delight at almost any time of the year and there is a marked footpath that leads from the city centre all the way to Chipping Sodbury.
This weather however brings with it a favourite of every gardener, more so at this time of year when all of the seedlings are so fleshy and young. This is of course the slugs. Like most people I’ve tried numerous defences from pellets to chopped sheep wool. So far apart from the pellets which only the organic ones are used very sparingly, one thing seems to be winning. Beer. It seems sacrilege to offer the pests a decent beer but from the experiments (very scientifically) that I’ve conducted they do seem to prefer a good ale.
I thought that once I had given them a taste for it they would be content with an own brand lager, at 26p per can this was going to prove an economic investment. Unfortunately they liked it as much as I did and the cans remain unopened on a shelf. A cheap bitter from one of the supermarkets in Fishponds has proved a success but better still is homebrew. It’s the yeast that attracts them so apparently you can use baking yeast, water and sugar but as my homebrewed beer tends to be a little yeasty anyway, it’s by far the cheapest solution.
You can buy a pack of six glasses from Ikea for 89p, bury them to within a half inch of the rim, top up with beer and cover with something to keep the rain off.
I used three or four sticks around the side with a small piece of glass on top, heavy enough that the wind won’t dislodge it. We’re currently playing a game of ‘Beer or Hosta’ whereby the traps are placed strategically near some of my most vulnerable plants. Currently the beer is winning, at least the hostas are still standing anyway.
If you find time away from battling with rampant fauna here are some other things to get on with.
• Lift and divide snowdrops, bluebells and other spring bulbs now that the leaves are yellowing and dying back
• Plant out summer bedding plants
• Make some beer traps
• As soon as sweet peas flower start picking them to encourage more
• Pinch out side shoots from tomato plants
• If not done already plant out tender vegetables such as courgette and squashes
• There’s still time to stick some beans in the ground
• Keep mowing any lawns but raise the blades if there is prolonged dry weather to prevent stress
• Erect some protection around carrots to protect against carrot fly
• Install a water butt because you’re going to need a lot of water over the coming months