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2018, A gardening year with two sides


Sun lovers amongst us will no doubt be crooning over how fantastic the long, hot, sunny days were this year.

On the other hand, I will probably never forget this year, but not because of its enjoyability!

Last year was the year of the plague of slugs, this year has seen an unparalleled drought coupled with a massive invasion of burrowing and gnawing rodents that truly decimated my entire garden.

Moreover, since mid April, all I have been able to do is water, water, water! This will sound pretty unbelievable when I tell you that since mid April, here in my bit of paradise, we have had less than a dozen days of any kind of rain at all.

I am pretty fortunate in having a large lake next to my house from which I am able to draw water to keep the garden going.

Unfortunately, I am not the owner of this piece of land and the pump being used to draw the water up into my garden is owned and also used by the landlord and for whatever reason he always manages to find some way to sabotage my gardening efforts.

My first crop of salad plants and early flowers, such as Aquilegia, daffodils, tulips and my ever faithful forget me nots were great, but then came the great drying up and on my greedy, sandy soil I was left with real issues keeping everything moist and life-supporting.

Then the little holes in the garden began appearing. At first I thought it was moles and knowing that these fellows are generally harmless, I didn’t pay all that much attention to them. Later, when I gradually noticed that my potatoes were not developing properly, and other crops, too, I decided to investigate further and discovered that these animals – I assume they are voles – had been busy developing a little underground settlement all over my garden and were absolutely loving and enjoying my entire crop.

At first viewing – upon digging into the soil just below the surface – my potatoes looked to be doing fine. There were healthy tubers visible and the upper plant looked fine, but then over time, the progress that I was expecting just didn’t seem to be happening.

Later examination of the situation revealed that these animals had been gnawing away at not just the entire root system of the potatoes, but also the tubers themselves. About thirty to forty percent of all the tubers were being slowly eaten by these little animals.

Of course, it has been a hard year for them too. I have read somewhere that normally, their preferred diet is the succulent roots of the grass plant, but this year all of our lawns suffered dreadfully from the lack of rain. Consequently, my nicely prepared fresh new growth was a veritable smorgasbord for the little devils.

By the time I finally realised the severity of the problem at hand, the damage had already been done. A whole potato crop decimated, my beans all dying after their roots were decapitated at the surface, the same thing happened to my peas. Interestingly enough, my onions were the only crop to have any kind of success this year. Maybe the strong taste put them off, but at least I enjoyed an early crop of Alliums, if nothing else.

Later in the season, it was devastating and bordering on ridiculous to observe how overnight, my carrots were being devoured from below. One minute the lovely fresh growth was standing proud, the next, they were being eaten away from beneath the soil. First the root was munched away, and then the top growth was pulled down into the hole left by the missing root and then there was nothing. An utter disaster.

So, has there been any success this year? Well, yes and no! For the first time, the hot, dry weather enabled me to have bumper crops of Water melon, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and chillies. Unfortunately, these are what I call temporary friends, because they can not so easily be stored for later use – at least not in their original state. My staples, my spuds, peas, beans, beetroot etc. were all totally wiped out. I must say, it has been mostly a quite depressing gardening year.

In fact, so much so that it has crossed my mind to give the garden up and just mess about with nursing a collection of my favourite plants: Gaura lindheimerei! Here is one species of plant that seems to thrive in this current climate!

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I do sympathise with your predicaments and am amazed that you still have a great sense of humour.

Growing vegetables seems a hazardous occupation . It's something my husband doesn't do, though I complain. Perhaps he's right!

I seemed to be rescuing animals this year: birds, voles (sorry), field mice, even wasps! Read the other day that there are fewer wasps around so I have been risking life and limb (!!) by shooing them out of the house instead of reaching for the fly swot. Seems they do some pollination and honey bees are scarce in our garden.

Gaura lindheimerei: new to me but who wouldn't be attracted to a plant with a romantic name like "Whirling butterflies"!

11 Oct, 2018


It's depressing when all your hard work is thwarted by nature, as if you hadn't enough to contend with, with the drought and heat, trying to keep things alive, only to find that the little beasts are also against you.
We too have voles, the grass (daren't call it a lawn) is full of holes and a visiting dog we had here was fascinated and followed the burrows (presumably) with his nose to the ground. There are hundreds of them, stand still at dusk and a little head pops up somewhere!
Being on clay the grass/weeds have survived fairly well so they have enough to eat - but where are the owls when you need them?

11 Oct, 2018


You poor soul, how very disappointing and frustrating. A possible solution might be to get a good cat - females are the best hunters. Not a nice thought but its clearly a case of them or you... The last one we had even caught moles - but now she has gone to glory there's a large molehill appeared in the lawn...
You will probably be a hero to your voles though, for seeing them through a difficult season...

12 Oct, 2018


Sorry to hear about your garden problems but it's nice that you had some success with water melons etc.
I hope your garden does better next year.
Summer is not my favourite season I must say. It's always too hot or too wet.

12 Oct, 2018

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