One of the many things that keeps me addicted to creating plants in this climate is the harsh punishment inflicted by failure. A whole year must be endured before you can re-attempt success.
To most people the arches in 2016 were wonderful. A sight to be behold. ‘Inspiring’ was a word often used by members of the public. Personally it was a planting battle, that I feel I fought hard but lost anyway.
The growth was not evenly spaced, I couldn’t keep up with the damage inflicted by pests. This year I feel wiser, more experienced and determined.
I have a plan. The arches could potentially give us 40 metres of food, flowers and utter fabulousness if we can defeat the enemies that attack during the night and in the early hours before staff arrive.
These attackers are practised, skilled and devious. Pea seeds sown direct are scoffed by rodents, tell-tale rummaging signs left on the beds. Young seedlings can disappear overnight leaving just a slimey trace of the slug that’s feasted. Let’s not forget the scale of the problem, this still makes me shudder.
Rabbits can still get in the site from time to time, and the morning usually starts with a fat pigeon using the arches as a perch while he s checks out the remaining pea plants. A new family of stupid but ridiculously pretty pheasants have taken up residence near the compost area, rumour has it they love peas too.
The combined area is too large to net and would look unsightly.
Three different vegetables will be grown here, climbing peas, climbing beans and small squashes.
Pea varieties earmarked are ‘Colossal’ and ‘Alderman’, these should reach 8 feet. These are already growing inside the polytunnel in root trainers. A cat’s cradle of black cotton around the freshly planted plants to about two foot should deter any winged attackers. Apparently they hate thread and wire. So far so good.
Beans will be ‘Marvel of Venice’, ‘Blauhilde’, ‘Selma Zebra’, ‘Cobra’ and ‘Lazy Housewife’. That’s a good mix of different colour beans, ideal for the pot or the pickling jar. These won’t be planted out until they are about 18 inches high.
I spent some of the winter researching small squashes (as you do). There is a bewildering array of varieties and lots of online interest. For these arches the fruits need to be small, there will be enough weight combined with everything else growing. Quirky patterns would be a bonus, but really high up the list is flavour. These seem to fit the bill and have great names.
Then it seems that if you don’t net, then old fashioned methods are the way forward. Delaying planting until the plants are as tall as possible is recommended, the first young leaves are the most vulnerable. To achieve this I will grow each plant in its own pot with a hazel offcut allowing the plant to climb freely up it. These plants and rods will be planted intact leaning the offcut against the arches. It’s labour intensive but the effort should be worth it. Fingers, toes and dibbers crossed.
As a backup plan I have invested in night vision googles, a machete, a crossbow and a winters worth of therapy.