Having posted about a proper regional rarity yesterday I should say the Potwell Inn is positively promiscuous in welcoming allcomers to feed on our allotment. Immediately next to this moth, the Iris Sawfly caterpillars were getting on with eating our pond iris leaves. I’m pretty sure there are predators that can grab a meal from them. Even slugs and snails are allowed on unless they make too much of a nuisance of themselves when Madame snips them in half with the gardening scissors – returning them to the pathways and beds for the birds. I’m wholly unqualified to identify all the many species that come to us but I can feel a list coming on with the help of the Bath Naturewatch group who usually get an insect ID back in minutes. It’s amazing what you can spot during a bit of close-up hand weeding. We’re not the Chelsea Flower Show here – it’s free admission to anyone apart from the two legged grazers who shamelessly nick our produce without noticing the trailcam. Our biggest visitors are the badgers and foxes and the smallest ….. well, we’ve never seen them.
The Blackbirds are almost on the permanent staff because they keep all the path edges clear of molluscs and their eggs, and who would begrudge the Robins a worm or three? Our philosophy is to discourage pests with nets of anything from 1mm mesh against carrot fly, up to larger netting to keep the pigeons and the white butterflies off the brassicas. It’s a live and let live philosophy that sees pests, diseases and weeds as an important part of the big picture because they often signal a problem that needs attending to.
Gardening this way is like a long seasonal conversation between equals. We greet one another, say thanks when thanks are required and please when we’re harvesting or we’re not sure we’re on the right track; and so the fruits of our labours aren’t just fruit and vegetables, but insights into the way the earth works – and if that sounds like hippy dippy nonsense – well don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!
This is the beginning of the season of plenty but it’s also very hard work. We overheard another allotmenteer a couple of days ago, lamenting the fact that her crops had all but disappeared under the weeds, and from predation. They’d obviously received a notice from the Council and she complained bitterly “It was fine when we left it” . That would be at the end of last year’s school holidays in September. But with fresh Basil on demand, strawberries and Asparagus almost over and potatoes just weeks away it feels good to be alive – even though our backs ache. A year’s supply of ruby coloured elderflower cordial is standing on the kitchen table, labeled and sealed.