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.)
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.
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.
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.