This week in the garden

HBG 29Sep17 - HBG 04Oct17 - HBG 30Oct17 -
HBG 29Sep17 - HBG 04Oct17 - HBG 30Oct17 -

This week after many hours of digging, dozens of wheelbarrows of horse manure, much dragging about of hoses, watering and planting, my garden has rewarded me with a fine crop of ... rat-tailed maggots.

I had read some great organic gardening advice: make manure tea in an old barrel, I read. Put in some fresh manure and comfrey leaves then top it up with water. Ok, I thought, that sounds really rank so it must be good.

Leave it to brew for a few weeks, the helpful advice advised, and then dilute the resulting yummy goodness and feed it to your plants. They will love you for it.

What the helpful advice didn't share was the remarkable stench the yummy goodness would give off while it percolated.

Nor did it warn that when I went to take my first scoop of the sludgy brown brew I would be greeted by dozens of wriggling, writhing, slimy and nightmarish beasties. With tails.

Rat-tailed maggots. Take two things people are not fond of, and make a new and worse thing. Nice one, nature.

The creepy creatures are the larval form of hover flies, which turn out to be good guys, as some of the species are predators and others are pollinators. I haven't figured out which sort my maggots turn into because, quite frankly, I don't want to look at them that closely.

As it is I have to swoosh them out of the way to scoop out any manure tea for my plants and there's a strong temptation to just leave it and let them have the lot. I suspect it would take more than some percolated poo-water to make my plants love me anyway.

The list of plants that thrive in my care is short and sad.

I once lavished time and affection on a creeping plant that lived in the flower garden of a house we rented. I watered and weeded and sprinkled slug bait.

It repaid me with pretty white flowers and it was really thriving, when I proudly showed it to a visiting friend.

"That's convolvulus", she informed me.

"Con - what?"

"It's a weed."

I fought that convolvulus for months. But I'd looked after it so well it was robust and full of vigour. It was still there when we moved out. In fact, it was at the neighbours' too, by then . . .

Another plant that really grew well for me was small sprout that sprung up in my vege garden one year. I didn't know what it was but it was happy so I left it there, flourishing away.

A slightly disreputable acquaintance was dropping off some lawn clippings for my compost heap. He looked at my plant and said "why are you growing a dope plant?"

"A what?"

"Marijuana. Why are you growing marijuana right where everyone can see it?"

Am I?

I was!

Suddenly I was a hardened criminal. My parking offences paled into insignificance. This was the big time.

I had heard marijuana made people paranoid. I can vouch for that. In the time it took me to dig out that - weed - I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I swear I could hear police sirens and feel the cold steel of handcuffs on my wrists.

I dug fast and I flung the plant into the paddock where the sheep demolished it with gusto. Then they sat around giggling for a bit.

Now I label everything that gets planted, and anything without a label gets looked at with the utmost suspicion.

Under scrutiny at the moment are the myriad of pumpkins lurching forth from the soil in my compost heap ...They look trustworthy but I'm not taking my eye off them.

And I'm pretty sure my cucumber bed has just sprouted a small rose bush. I suspect it's by way of apology for the mallow seedlings it delivered last week.

I have had one win though.

A relative requested a trailer-load of horse manure which I was only to happy to get rid of - I mean, supply - and along with the fertiliser I sent him home laden with lettuce and cabbage seedlings I had run out of room for.

A few weeks later and much to my chagrin his vege garden - with my plants in it - looks many many times better than mine. So much so that I was sent home with a large bag of fresh lettuce. Effectively sending my own lettuce back home with me.

This gave me an idea. I'm going to embrace the foster-vegetable. I'll send all my vege plants home with clever green-fingered friends and family, then I'll wait a few weeks and invite myself to dinner.

Anyone want a mass planting of pumpkins? (I think they are pumpkins . . .)

- Hawkes Bay Today

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