This autumn, WH and I visited the local horticultural society's annual show and got very excited about the prospect of entering some of our own goodies next year, on the basis that the novice level had very few entrants and we felt sure we could give at least a few of the categories a fair showing. We duly joined-up and last week attended our first event, a very interesting talk by Val Bourne on the principles she outlined in her first book, The Natural Gardener.
The main things I've taken away from the talk are:
- that you shouldn't overfeed your crops, as this leads to too much soft green growth which is Mecca for aphids and other pests;
- that pests and predators need each other - if you use chemicals to get rid of all of your aphids, you will also get rid of your ladybirds, meaning that when the next generation of aphids arrive you'll have to spray again. Equally if you kill all of the aphids another way, the ladybirds and other predators won't have any food and will leave your garden, so condemning you to an endless cycle of otherwise pleasant summers evenings spent squashing bugs;
- that WH spent much of last summer unknowingly brushing ladybird eggs off our tomatoes, when if he'd let them hatch they'd have eaten all of our aphids (for those of you who are wary of making the same mistake, ladybirds lay little piles of small, yellow eggs, around thirty at a time, in clumps where they'll be likely to have aphids to feed on when they hatch);
- that the parasitic wasp is the grossest and yet the most magnificent predator ever and that ants farming aphids for the honeydew they excrete isn't as funny as it sounds;
- that it is a strange feeling to be the youngest person in the room by at least a single decade when you're pushing thirty.