Kill all aphids. A garden project.

London has recently enjoyed a spate of gloriously warm weather, rapidly bringing the garden to life. The grass is growing, birds are whistling, and next door have started yelling out in the garden as well as in the house. New seedlings have begun to push their heads through the earth like the xenomorphic Alien through John Hurt’s chest. It’s a terribly proud moment after the work and attention I’ve put in, but a plant tended and cared for will repay you bountifully. However, there is a blight with the sole purpose of eradicating (plant)life as we know it. Unscrupulous deviants with a penchant for anarchy. Bloody aphids.

FACT! Aphids reproduce asexually in the spring. Nearly all aphids you see will be female.

Aphids are little garden vampires that go around sucking the life out of young plants. They are a huge annoyance for gardeners. I have done a little research into aphids in an effort to understand their homicidal tendencies and have found hundreds of web pages with differing ideas of how to get rid of them – organically, of course. There are so many theories on the best way to eradicate an aphid infestation – squishing with your fingers, soapy water, boiled rhubarb leaf juice – but, as with everything in life, this seems too hard and I can’t be bothered to do it. I reckon the best and most hassle-free way, therefore, is to try and create an environment that encourages the aphids’ natural predators into the garden. And there is one predator more powerful, more terrifying, more slaughterous than all the rest. Yes, of course, the ladybird.

FACT! Ladybirds were sometimes (inexplicably) known as lady’s cocks. 

The mighty ladybird, the garden Buffy, destined to save the entire garden from the grip of demons, vampires and aphids. Ladybird larvae like to eat aphids, hence, ladybirds are a fine addition to your cultivated oasis. Hoverfly too (they can be Willow or Xander or someone).

“But Brooke, I beseech thee, how do you entice them in?” I hear you bleat.

Well, you can actually buy them but, apparently, bought ones will just fly away. Fair enough really. I wouldn’t want to keep them if it’s a violation of their free will and civil liberties. Therefore you need to attract them with plants. This is where I’m struggling a bit. So many sources say so many different things, different varieties of flower that ladybirds like. I’ve gone for a carpet-planting strategy, sowing a few different flowers and hoping some are right. Of course, aphids will attract the ladybirds too.

“Oh, but I’m afraid they will rise up and desert me the moment I have my back turned”.

Are you asking how you would keep them in the garden?  By constructing a ladybird hotel, obviously.

FACT! Steven Seagal has his own energy drink. He is also a reserve sheriff in Louisiana. (This appears to be common knowledge but I just found out. Very exciting.)

Ladybird house

You will need:

A drill, a hammer, a saw, some wire, some branches or sticks, a few garden canes (hollow), an off cut of ply (or similar), some nails and screws.

1. Make a triangular frame from the branches by screwing them together and tethering them with wire if needs be. I used an old cricket stump here.

2. Cut the ply (or whatever you’re using) roughly the same shape as your frame and nail to the back.

3. cut the canes into lengths comparable to the depth of your frame. This is where your lady’s cocks will live.

4. Pack the frame with the lengths of cane and also offcuts of your branches with a few holes drilled into them. Pack them very tight so they don’t fall out.

5. Use a screw and piece of wire to create a hanging loop. Hang your new, scrap-built ladybird house on a wall or fence that gets plenty of morning sunshine. They like that apparently. I’ve hung it over a veg patch that is going to be bordered by flowers.

6. Stand back and admire your ladybird house. Nurture and cling to the feeling that you’ve done something crafty and practical which is probably akin to, and as important as, Wren’s accomplishments with Saint Paul’s or Barry’s achievements on Westminster Palace. Whatever your level of pride, it’s definitely worth a cup of tea.

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Operation ‘Brockley Market Garden’

The vision

Actuality

Right, that time of year is upon us. Time to polish of the old trowel and get digging. Time to create life! When Laurel and I moved into our house the garden was a forest of weeds, rubble and general detritus. It took me ages to sort out. Every time I dug the garden over and removed the weeds they would grow back and I’d have to do it all over again. It was infuriating and endlessly boring but, finally, with the garden as ready as it would ever be, I bit the bullet and ordered turf, topsoil and fertilizer off the internet and waited for delivery.

Unfortunately I forgot which day it was all arriving and accidentally went out the night before on an epic, friend’s birthday mash-up.  My lawn arrived at 8am in a gigantic lorry and I was awakened by a gruff, rotund weeble violating my doorbell. He made a couple of indistinguishable noises and gestured to two huge pallets of turf and soil which he had parked in the middle of the road. My groggy mind was still trying to grasp what was happening when he thrust a sheet of paper into my hands, barked twice and drove off into the distance. I can’t remember exactly what happened next but I think I wept.

Lavender

That was two years ago and now, after all that hardship, disaster has struck. I have managed to seriously damage my lawn. I let it grow so long that it started to die and then left it that way over winter. Needless to say it requires a good deal of care now if I’m to pull off a miraculous resurrection. I am not, though, the main protagonist in the calculated murder of my lawn – I am merely an accomplice. The guilty party, M’lud, is Mr Flymo Mow n Vac. 

Rosemary

The term ‘Lawnmower’ indicates that you have a tool with the ability to cut, scythe, shear or trim an area of grass. Not so with a Mow n Vac. It has the ability to do nothing. Does Mow n Vac mean it will be as easy as hoovering the lawn? Again, no. It neither rolls nor hovers so is impossible to push and if you leave it in one spot too long it bores a spiral into the ground. It would be more productive had I crawled around and nibbled at the grass with my teeth. It cost around £50. I would have been better off spending the money on roller blades or a vaulting pole or something else with which I lack the ability to use.

With all this in mind, I have launched ‘Operation Brockley Market Garden’, a nod to the keen and inspiring growers at my local food market and a cheap pun on a military mission in 1944. It focusses on bringing life to the garden in time for summer and supplying homegrown produce for my cooking. I have been treating my lawn and nurturing  it back to life. I’ve sowed (sown?) beetroot, peas, broad beans and onions. I have even planted 3 raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and an apple tree! I’m feeling positive about the garden’s chances this year and, with a new mower, reckon I can have a lovely sunbathing spot which is perfect for barbecues and growing my own ingredients for future blog posts.

I’ll keep you posted.

(Good gardener? Any tips? Please tell me. Please.)

Chitting potatoes