Friday, June 24, 2011

How I stopped worrying and learned to love insecticide

Never give a sucker an even break.

It seems a long time since February, and much water has passed under the bridge since then.

But readers of a horticultural disposition may well recall that it was during that gloomiest of months that the mighty LED grow lights were installed at Dixon Manor in the early days of our attempt to grow the World’s Strongest Chilli (official), the Naga Jolokia.

The powerful blue and red lights which we suspended above the seedlings back in the winter have since perplexed the neighbours, dazzled the cat and caused the disruption of several flights into Bristol Airport.

We even had some unkempt-looking bloke with a rucksack and tent knocking on the door last Monday asking if he’d reached Glastonbury. But that turned out to be Mister Holliday, who was never known for his sense of direction.

The lights do seem to have helped things grow.

Although oddly enough the Naga Jolokias haven’t really got going yet (they miss their homes in the Himalayas), while  the cheap-as-chips chilli seeds that Mrs D brought home from Morrisons have gone completely bonkers and have already produced a few new pods.

What they’ve also produced, though, is aphids. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

It’s very easy not to like aphids. They’re brown, or green, or white, and they have a taste for young leaves. They creep out of their hidey-holes some time in April, attach themselves to your tender seedlings and breed like...

Well, like aphids.

It’s all very well living and letting live, but when a plague of uninvited sap-sucking midget pests sets up shop in your conservatory and proceeds to cover the leaves of your best specimens in sticky deposits, black mould and shed skin cases, then you’ve got a perfect right to feel aggrieved.

Now here’s the problem. As far as Mrs D is concerned, we are pretty much officially organic.

Slugs and snails may rampage unchecked through flower and fruit; pea moths may flutter at will through the legume beds; carrot flies may train their uncannily accurate homing beacons on what was going to be one third of next Sunday’s meat and two veg.

But if a hungry invertebrate comes sniffing round our crops, then all we’re really supposed to do is stop them getting in, or leave them to be devoured by their natural enemies, or squash them.

Well, they’ve already got into the conservatory, so it’s a bit late to stop them. And the cat has declared itself neutral as far as being a natural enemy of aphids is concerned. So squashing it is.

But when you’ve squashed 3,472 of the little blighters and you still don’t seem to be anywhere near halfway through, something’s got to give.

Thus it was that your once-organic blogger snuck out to the garden centre, bought some of the least noxious looking insecticide, brought it home and gave the aphids a damn good squirting. So long, suckers.

But it's our secret, ok? So whatever you do, don’t go telling Mrs D.

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