A nasty cutworm. (This picture is not my own, but this is the guy I found)
Our primary tactic against pests, where possible, will be physical barriers and we're trying some companion planting, which should, in theory reduce pests. Companion planting works by interplanting your crops with a particular plant know to repel a certain pest, for example, carrot root fly apparently doesn't like the smell of onions and gets confused. So planting onions or other smelly alliums with your carrots is known to reduce the incidents of carrot fly larvae eating your roots before you do, as the fly can't find the carrots to lay its eggs on because of those smelly onions! So our first line of defence went up as we erected a carrot fly barrier, approx. 1 meter high around the carrot bed. Carrot fly doesn't fly higher than approx 2.5 feet, he's a little lazy, so 1 meter should be more than high enough to send the little guys crashing into a barrier of horticultural fleece, and hence unable to get at our carrots. We sowed 3 varieties of carrots on sunday, a row each of autumn king, yellowstone, and chantennay, along with a row of parsnips, and we'll sow a second lot in about 3 or 4 weeks time to keep us going. As for our second line of defence against the carrot fly, we sowed rows of spring onions between the carrots and edged the whole bed with some chive seeds, both garlic and regular.
Cillian and Eoin got ahead of themeselves and got not one but 2 beds dug, one for our peas and beans and one for the salads and sweetcorn. We sowed 2 rows of dwarf type french beans, and one row each of kelvedon wonder peas and onward peas. Again there will be a second sowing in around 3 or 4 weeks. One of the main pests we will encounter with peas and beans is aphids and blackfly, so, companion planting table in hand we found that apparently aphids and blackfly don't like the smell of marigolds. So our pre-emptive strike was to sow 3 types of french marigold all around the pea and bean bed, which also has the advantage of making the place look pretty with some well needed colour when they germinate and flower. We hope to sow salads and sweetcorn next week. We also got the leek bed raked and 3 rows of leek seeds were sown. We found through our companion planting table, that onion fly doesn't like parsley, so we also sowed some parsley seed throughout the onion beds. The onions are happily showing tiny green tops and so we're starting to see small signs of things to come.
I managed to acquire a rosemary plant and a thyme plant in Dunnes stores at 2 for a fiver! due in part to a mistake by the checkout girl, I said nothing! These were duly planted out on Monday near our future brassica beds as yet again, according to our companion planting table, cabbage root fly doesn't like thyme or rosemary, or any type of smelly herb for that matter so hopefully these two guardians will see them off.
The allotment was full over the weekend, with all of our new neighbours out at some stage and community spirit was in full swing. Our neighbour, Val, a few plots up, generously offered us a handful of red onion sets and a couple of seed potatoes to try as he had them left over. His plot looks impeccably neat, with nice small neat, perfectly flat beds all strung up to protect from birds, and paths perfectly level courtesy of having his daughters tread up and down all day a couple of weeks ago, I'm sure the girls will regain their enthusiasm again soon. This got us thinking how messy ours looks with all the sods we've dug out strewn all over our 'sort of' paths blindly hoping that we'll eventually walk on them so much they will magically flatten into perfect paths as opposed to the small mountain range we have now. Cillian managed to dig the remainder of the fruit bed which runs the 20m length of our allotment and I took the opportunity to sow some pumpkin seeds. They are called 'invincible' and have grey/purple skin with bright orange flesh and will look fantastic at halloween if successful. I also sowed a few rows of chard called 'bright lights' (I think!) which grows brightly coloured stems of red, pink, and yellow and should add a splash of colour at the front of our plot.
We sowed so much over the weekend it really drove home that next on our shopping list is plant labels, or we'll soon be playing guess the vegetable. At the moment we have rows marked out with sticks and have taken a note in the allotment notebook where we've sown everything but before long we could end up 'weeding' our leeks and feeding our weeds!