Gosh, where has the summer gone? Spring was so chilly and dreary that I spent the first half of summer in spring mode, and now it seems we’ll have an early autumn. Already the nights are dropping to 10º Celcius (that’s 50º F to you Americans), and that’s unusual for early September around here.
This makes the hot-weather crops dubious now. The peppers have only recently started to set fruit, the figs didn’t form fruit at all, and now I’m worried that the melons won’t have time and conditions to ripen properly. There’s the old trick of ripening them with a ripe banana or apple, but the flavour never develops as fully or evenly as it does in the sun. And ripening melons nicely can be tricky even when conditions are right.
Let’s see, what else…well, the ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) have been ripening recently, but for some reason haven’t been turning black. The dwarf yellow cherry tomatoes ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate’ (love the cultigen name) have done pretty well too, but the plum tomatoes are a complete disaster. It’s partly my fault: the soil there is exhausted (and was never great to begin with). Recently I’ve been putting all my compost into other endeavours, such as refurbishing the strawberry bed last year, and in the large tubs. There’s also a problem with the neighbour’s trees sending roots into the vegetable plots. Can’t really blame them; after all, it’s natural for roots to seek out water and nutrients. But of course it means they take all that goodness away from the vegetables, and make digging even more difficult.
I think next year I’ll move the large containers and potted fruit trees into that space and grow all my veg in tubs. Those neighbours are moving out soon, so you never know…the new people might decide to remove some of the trees. It would be really nice if they got rid of that godawful buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).
On the topic of compost…oh gods below, the wasps. I never really noticed it, because there are always are few wasps around, but looking back I now realise that everything I did in the garden this year was accompanied by wasps of the yellow jacket sort (Vespula sp., most likely). The problem only became evident when I tried getting compost from one of the two bins. Turns out they’d made a nest in it. Yes, I got stung. That’s how I found out they were there. It’s never a pleasant experience.
So now there’s a Catch-22 situation. I can’t get rid of the wasps without removing the compost. I can’t remove the compost without getting rid of the wasps (at least, not without getting stung to death). I really don’t want to use insecticides because that would contaminate the compost, and since the nest is somewhere inside the compost there’s no guarantee it would work properly. If I could even get close enough to apply it.
As of now, the bin is open at both the top and bottom. Currently, what’s happening is that every so often I sneak up and take out one forkful or shovelful of compost, then run like hell. I’ve tried two traps; the standard bait of sugar water isn’t working at all. The other bait, which is pheromone based, isn’t working well either. The instructions say that it’s best in spring or early summer, which is when they’re looking to establish nests, but I thought it would be worth a shot.
Possibly the safest thing to do (other than getting a hazmat suit?) is to continue emptying the bin one shovel at a time (slow slow process) and leave the bin open for winter. Yellow jacket nests usually die out over winter anyway. On the other hand, it would be most satisfying to get rid of the buggers before that. This has really set me back; the proximity of the nest also makes it unsafe to work with the other compost bin or the muck heap. It would also set me back next year, because this autumn’s waste forms the basis of next spring’s first compost. Leaving the bin empty over winter would mean starting from scratch just when the compost is most needed.
I never minded the wasps before – they are important predators of other pests – but now I’m officially downgrading their status to that of pest themselves.