The Jack Russell Terrier: Canine companion or demon dog?

July 23, 2010 § 3 Comments

Thats the name of the book, not my opinion 🙂

You can read the book here for free- it’s a brilliant guide to the breed. Many thanks to the authors and for publishing it online.

I realise I talk about Huxley quite a lot so I thought i’d introduce her. Here she is:

Huxley is my Jack Russell. She’s from the pound, but give her credit as the pound guys did find her in a posh area and she is very good looking.

Until she reached about 18 months of age she was a bit of handful. Not wanting to post expletives on my sweet gardening blog I will add that anyone who met Hux during her ‘formative’ years would be f’ing and blinding at my deliberate playing down of the horror with the use of ‘handful’.

Huxley scared/annoyed so many of my friends/business associates during this period she got banned from several houses. OK nearly all the houses.

But! age (and training, daily, forever) has brought a new perspective to Huxley, and now she is really quite impressively behaved.

The latest dog training strategy combined the near god-like powers of Supernanny and Cesar Milan.

A naughty spot. Absolute mind control. Progress chart.

And I am pleased to report the score is about 500-1 to me.

The ‘1’ for Hux happened last week. I got distracted in the local park nattering to Margaret and Hux growled at Margaret’s labrador, the lab calmly jumped ontop of Hux, pinned her to the ground and sat there for about 2 minutes. Huxley just sighed, realising the futility of struggling. Us responsible dog owners laughed and watched. I was tempted to leave hux there all day.


Harvesting seed can add a pretty dimension to the vegetable bed

July 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

I cannot resist leaving a few alliums go to seed each year, the flower heads are so pretty and they attract plenty of insects.

Alliums like leek, chive, garlic and spring and bunching onions will flower mid to end summer in the UK. Leek and garlic flowers are regularly 80cm to 1m in height and add dimension and interest to the herb, flower and vegetable bed.

And if you think they are pretty just take a look at these!

Allium schubertii, an eastern Mediterranean tumbleweed, reaches 45cm in height:

The Ishikura Bunching onion:

And I cannot recall which cultivar this is (sorry!), its a flowering allium (as in a ‘not planted for eating’ variety):

Natural pesticides – find many of these in your kitchen cupboards!

July 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the home garden and allotment a variety of non-toxic, non-systemic natural pesticides can be made from ingredients/chemicals which can be found in the average home.

Natural pesticides have manifold benefits and are tried and tested methods. There is a very minor application hazard and no concern of harmful residues on edible crops. Largely they will not affect natural predators.

Alliums are toxic to soft bodied insects. A spray can be made from garlic and onions (blend and strain) which will paralyze flying insects and damage their soft bodies. This spray also works as a fungicide.

Fresh or powdered chilli peppers in a spray form are great for killing soft bodied insects. They are most effective when mixed with alliums. As a guide use 1 whole bulb of garlic and 2 fresh or 10 dried chilli peppers blended with a cup or two of water, diluted into a gallon of spray. Pepper mixtures work very well on capsicum plants.

Ground cloves are an insect repellent and can kill flying insects. Whizz some cloves in a blender (unless you have it already powdered, though it may not be as potent) or crush with a pestle and mortar and use several tablespoons per gallon of water.

Neem oil is a sophisticated natural oil-based pesticide which suffocates pests and disrupts their habits (like feeding and reproduction). Adding a drop of oil (neem, soybean or cottonseed ideally, but any vegetable oil will work) along with insecticidal or natural soap (or dishwasher soap if you can’t find natural soap, but it’s not quite as good) to any of the above will create an emulsion which suspends the active compounds in the water, allowing them to ‘stick’ to leaves and pests much more effectively than whensimply diluted in water. It is important to add the soap to the water before adding the oil.

Soft bodied insects are killed instantly by 70% or 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This can be applied with a cotton bud directly to each pest or can be sprayed directly onto theplant. Spraying with isopropyl alcohol is a drastic option and not suitable for seedlings-alternative methods should be considered first.

It is crucial that any spray covers all of the pests and this means spraying every square centimetre of your plants and sometimes the soil around plants. When using homemade sprays a very fine fog is the ultimate delivery and for this reason a hand held pump-action fogger is a useful tool. It saves much time, ensures good coverage and facilitates your reach to the underside of leaves. Aim to spray as early in the day as possible. Oil based sprays will have a greater potential to scorch leaves if applied in bright sunlight.

Physical barriers can be placed around plants to deter pests. Copper discs and copper wire are particularly effective for slugs and snails. Mulch mats are also effective (and cheaper). Netting and fleece will keep out just about everything.

The structure of diatomaceous earth damages and dehydrates the bodies of many insects and many soil pests. Diatomaceous earth is a very fine powder which can be spread on the soil or sprayed on the plant in a solution of insecticidal soap and water. It remains active in the soil for many years.

Other barriers which can be placed around the base of plants include a variety of mulches, crushed eggshell or damp wood ashes. Corn meal isused as topdressing to reduce cutworm populations and is used to make a fungicidal tea.

Innovative container planting …i.e utilising junk when you’ve run out of pots

July 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Plenty of options in my backyard, where junk seemingly propogates itself.

Some potatoes being grown in a laundry basket:

This worked well as the holes in the sides kept soil aerated. It was really easy to earth up the plants as they grew, and it was also easy to check when the potatoes were ready for harvest.

We planted three Pentland Javelin tubers and harvested about 3.5kg.

For anyone wanting to grow potatoes in a container two key tip are:

  • Do not let soil dry out as this may inhibit tuber formation;
  • Begin chitted spuds in 6-10″ of soil and then ‘earth up’ regularly- bi-weekly if you can get round to it- which will encourage lots of side shooting tubers, thereby maximising yields!

Companion planting for beautiful weed free borders

July 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Companion planting means planting compatible species in close proximity. This can give even better yields overall due to the many symbiotic relationships in the plant kingdom.

Interplanting means putting plants in the spaces between your main crops.  Interplanting may play a companion role but the method is more focused on maximising yields via best use of space.

A major benefit of interplanting is that your main crops get the spacing they need. Other benefits of intercropping and companion planting include: suppression of weeds/provision of shelter for biological controls, nitrogen fixation from a green manure and the potential to control shade and wind protection.

Here are examples of interplanted beds.

Cauliflowers at the back, cabbages and calabrese at the front, interplanted with bulbing fennel, dill.

Note the drying flower heads of the lovely endive ‘Bianca Riccia da Taglio‘ (centre right in pic above, close up below). These were planted out as plug plants in March 2010 and were harvested bar one (the biggest one), which was left for seed. The flowers were very pretty- a bright mauve purple- and attracted pollinators/beneficial insects.

Similarly the last few fennel bulbs were left to seed, the big umbelliferous flowers attracting lots of beneficials.


Nasturtiums loop the front of the bed (below) to catch aphids.

In this bed nasturtiums (this cultivar is the variegated African Queen) divide the bush tomatoes (Royal Chico and Patio Orange) from soft herbs like alliums and basils.

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