Tuesday, 16 September 2008


Well, I've successfully wasted two hours writing my new blog, when I should have been doing something else. It's now 11 o'clock, and only one hour to go till lunch, so I may as well continue, since I want to finish writing about yesterday before I go down the allotment today.

I made my way to the Cat allotment, but not before two more Italians had passed me on their way home, and had commented on the state of my "broccoli" (brussels sprouts and purple sprouting). "Have you sprayed them?" asked one (I think he is called John, for Giovanni). "Um, no," I said - I had in fact tried spraying them much too late with diluted Fairy Liquid, but it didn't touch the beasties, which just crawled away from the wet parts as quickly as their stumpy little legs would let them, then settled down happily to munch away on the parts I hadn't sprayed. I didn't want to admit that I couldn't afford to buy the soft soap I needed to spray them with, so I said I had picked all the caterpillars off. I had, and had done a good job, but already I had spotted about 8 which had escaped my purge.

"Oh, don't worry," said the other Italian, after exchanging a few words in his own language with his companion. "I'll spray them for you tomorrow morning."

I thanked him, somewhat moved by this gesture, and turned away to get my spade. I like to think of myself as an organic gardener, but this is the second year in a row that another allotmenteer has offered to spray my brassicas for me, with goodness knows what chemical. Last year it was Andy, the policeman, who lent me his sprayer - that time, it was whitefly, which were at least kept down for the rest of the year. This time, although there are clouds of whitefly, it is the caterpillars that are plaguing everybody's greens. They seem to love the wet, cool weather we've had for the whole of July and August, and have arrived in plague proportions. The leaves of my plants are in ribbons, despite having covered the plants with netting. I have watched the butterflies go through the mesh - their wings actually bend like cloth - you wouldn't think it - but their urge to survive is much stronger than a piddling bit of plastic mesh, only £3.50 from Wilkinson. I should have gone for the much more expensive netting available in the allotment shop.

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