Today begins with a massive low, I go outside early to have a closer look at the box hedge and I see the infestation is much worse than I realised. One whole side of the veg garden hedge is under attack and I could see signs of damage at various points around that half of the veg garden. The other side is much less affected. Then I look at the new zig zag box hedge planted in 2017 and I can see damage throughout. My plan is to spend the early morning removing caterpillars, and do this everyday if necessary, and then move on to other jobs. Patrick then informs me (he and James have been Google-ing) that I should wear gloves and maybe even a mask because the caterpillars are toxic, that is why birds don't eat them! Great...can things get much better? I start at one end of the central border where the box is planted together in a block. Half an hour later I am still there, picking out caterpillars, I begin to think the hedge is doomed and I'll have to dig it up and replant it in the Autumn. Finally, I start to move on, I am now clipping out bits of hedge and caterpillar, this is quicker and sections of the hedge seem to be OK - especially next to the Salvias...interesting. When my bucket is full I take everything to a barrel of water to drown the horrible things! More than 3 hours later, I've finished the central borders and I have made a start on the bigger hedge. I decided to start with the baby hedge because it could get annihilated quicker, being so much smaller. I phone Diane at uni to see how she is getting on with her essay, I tell her about my depressing morning and I end up in tears, the hedge is so beautiful and the caterpillars are so relentless, it makes you realise that a simple voracious pest could wipe out the food supply for the human race!
I decide it is time to move away from the box hedge before I completely lose the plot. I move on to planting, and it is amazing how quickly my spirit improves. After all, as I'm fond of saying, 'It could be a lot worse' and I must keep the problem in perspective! I decide to plant out my tray of Spinach - Misourri. I am very cautious of spinach, it bolts very easily and often gives disappointing results, but these young plants look great and they really cheer me up. I collect compost to put on the bed first and plant them out, I also plant out the celery, celeriac and one tray of beetroot. Whilst I'm doing this, Patrick and James are finishing the cold frames and they look fantastic, they will be a massive asset to the garden and will immediately relieve the 'log jam' in the polytunnel.
At the end of the day I attempt to use our rainwater pumping system. The last time I tried, I did not switch the tap on first and this made the pump 'cut-out'. This time it worked as long as my house didn't kink- which it kept doing - I have a history of arguing with hose pipes.
I managed to water all of the fruit cage with our own water! What an achievement.. this really did help to put the horrible box tree moths out of my head. I then weeded the strawberries in the water tanks. These tanks are filled with our own compost and never did you see such a fine variety of weeds germinating...it almost puts you off using your own compost! In the evening, James continues Google-ing how to deal with caterpillars and comes up with various sprays that we could make ourselves using various things, including garlic and chilli. I am very grateful for his interest, and although I'm aware of garlic being a good organic pest deterrent, it had not occurred to me to use it on the box hedge - It is certainly worth a try!