When Plants Die

There is so much to sing about this week. the apple blossom is in full bloom, on the ornamental Maluses here, and on the newly planted row of cordons. When I go, I want to be buried under an apple tree – not just so I can “live on” in the fruit (“then we shall all have eaten thee” as the Yorkshire national anthem has it) but because the blossom is, I think, my favourite flower on this planet.

My thoughts aren’t far from death right now: in spite of all the fresh new life emanating from the fields and glasshouses, the distressing fact is that the cucumbers are being killed left right and centre. It really is a crying shame: Louise, Lucille and Brian planted them beautifully by their climbing strings, after Sean had pulled the stops out to get the beds ready in time. There they stood resplendent for a week, before being steadily executed at soil level.

What to about problems? You don’t want to panic or jump to rash conclusions, but patient observation can allow things to escalate unchecked. In this case, within days half the crop was gone.  However we at least managed to establish, through early morning inspection, that is was woodlice. Yes, woodlice. So often I’ve leapt to their defence when other gardeners have unfairly scapegoated them for chewing plants: They tend to dine on dead matter and when they are seen in the vicinity  of damage, they are almost always there as mere opportunists, taking a passing nibble on strawberry flesh slugs have bored in to, for instance, usually muttering “oh well, waste not want not” to each other.

Ant this is the thanks I get. A rare (but not unprecedented) case of them attacking unblemished, live, green material.I’m particuarly upset as, as usual,  amongst the cues I’ve sneaked in some melons.  Melons are tricky blighters that I keep failing with, but I’m nothing if not determined, and this year was going to be our year, melons and me. Ah, the best laid plans…

It’s not a good look, a grown man shaking his fists at two centimetre long crustaceans, but I’ll rage and grieve this week and then, I hope, get over it. Tony Benn, not most famous for his gardening advice, orated that, “there are no final victories and no final defeats”, in doing so explaining more about growing than any celebrity gardener (save perhaps Monty Don). We have back ups: there will be a, albeit slightly later, cucumber harvest at Hawkwood this year. And, after all, outside the apples are in blossom. No final victories, but right now we are winning. Happy May Days.

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