Thursday, 21 January 2010

the scourge of mint and parsley

I've been very hit and miss with fruits and vegetables in my garden. My designer twig is at least a year away from fruiting. My plum tree isn't actually very tasty. I've hat potatoes rot, tomatoes wilt and peas fizzle. But my herbs have been loyally chugging along, requiring little and giving a lot.

There simply is no substitute for fresh herbs, and nothing like being able to snip a bit from your own garden instead of paying for a massive bunch from the shops. I've got sage, oregano, fennel, chives and spring onions as well as two types (each) of rosemary, thyme, basil and parsley. probably use the most parsley and mint so I go out of my way to keep them happy. The twin scourges of my mint patch are the catnip and caterpillars. Last year I planted a little seedling of catnip in front of my mint bed. It grew like crazy and it's heavily crowding out my mint. I tried chopping it back and it just grew back twice as big. Much as it amuses me to see my cats occasionally roll around in it, it had to go.

This photo gives you an idea of how huge it had gotten. It hardly fit in my compost bin even after chopping it up.

The other scourge, caterpillars, is shared with the parsley. The little green buggers are impossible to see until you go to snip some parsley or mint and you see all the nibble marks (for the record, caterpillars do seem to leave curly-leaf parsley alone but I prefer the flatleaf). The last few times I went to get mint I could hardly find it among the catnip and what I could find was decimated by caterpillars. I've also decided to plant some extra parsley where the catnip used to be. It does OK in pots, but parsley has a pretty long tap root so they're always a bit stunted in pots. But with plans to grow all that caterpillar food together I decided I needed to try some sneaky tactics to keep them safe. tactic you ask? Butterfly scarecrows, idea courtesy of the Garden Express forum - butterfly scarecrows. You cut the shape of a butterfly out of a white plastic plate, punch a little hole, and tie it to a twig. The theory is that when another butterfly visits it'll see the fake butterfly and think "no point laying eggs there, it's already been claimed."

They've certainly fooled the cats. No sooner had I set them up that they did their best to eat them. Do you like how much they flutter in the breeze? Surely this will work. I hope.
In any case, that patch now looks incredibly bare. I ruthlessly cut back the mint, no point in keeping all of that shredded and nibbled foliage. And I'll be planting parsley along the front soon. So hopefully in a few weeks it'll be a thriving herb patch thick with mint and parsley!