Over the last few years, gardening friends have been warning me about a garden scourge the seems to be new(ish) to my area. The lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) is a pretty red and black beetle that defoliates just about anything in the Lily family, but seems to focus on Asiatics, Fritillaria, Soloman’s Seal, as well as any Lilium.
While the adult is beautifully bright scarlet, also making it very easy to spot, its progeny is a thing of nightmares. It’s a horrible thick blob of a thing that covers itself in its own excrement as a defence against predators and proceeds to eat emerging lily foliage to the ground. Now, I’m not at all squeamish when it comes to creepy crawlies of all types and I have a genuine curiosity about any creature that lives in my garden. As an organic gardener I am definitely not above squishing unwanted pests with my bare hands — it may not be pleasant, but its the safest (and sometimes quickest) method of pest control. But there is just something about a creature that instinctually slathers itself in its own body waste that commands a slow clap and a bow. Well done, lily beetle. Well done. I’ll be coming for you with gloves on, thank-you-very-much.
I have written several times both on this site and elsewhere about taking a chance with forced or forgotten bulbs. My advice has always been to just try. Forced bulbs are often exhausted and will not produce flowers the following year. But sometimes they do. And sometimes they do the year after that.
Part 1 of this two part article can be found over here.
How to Make and Lay the Pathway
Step 1: Define the Path
I began this project two years ago so my path was already defined. To do that I laid down twine, and tied the ends to twigs to hold it in place. Some people use a hose to accomplish this, but I prefer twine because I can leave it in place and live with it for some time before committing to the final layout and pathway width.
When I moved in, the yard I inherited was barely more than a lumpy patch of “grass.” My theory is that the yard was once a vegetable garden that was left to go fallow and was eventually seeded without being levelled. It was extremely sloped in multiple directions, and full of large lumps and even larger potholes that I often tripped in while trying to walk across. Our goal for the space was to remove all of the lumpy “grass” and level the sloped yard as best we could to improve drainage. Digging it all by hand, shifting the soil, and building raised beds along the west side (where it is lowest) in addition to getting plants in on time, sowing seed, building a compost bin, etc was, quite simply, enough for one year. As a compromise, we made a pathway halfway up and left a small patch of “grass” at the back. In the second year we decided to change things up, extending the garden in front and moving the main entrance to the right. I also marked out new paths and smaller beds on the east side of the garden. By the time that was done, I was simply too tired to tackle that patch of “grass.”
This spring, as soon as the ground was workable, Davin and I were out there nearly everyday working away at that patch, digging it up a few inches at a time. We were determined that this would be the year that we would finally get it all out — no more hand-clipping the tenacious, miss-matched patch of this and that. No more stumbling and tripping in the potholes.
And we did it! Last Friday we got it all out and laid down a layer of mulch in its place. The following (broken down into two parts) are the ins-and-outs to how we did it.
The other day I wrote about hardening off onion and leek seedlings. This week I am planting out onion and shallot “sets”. Planting sets may seem redundant since I already have seedlings on the go, but I assure you there is a method to this madness.
In my house, we cook with shallots and onions everyday and we never seem to have enough. This year I plan to step up my game and grow more than ever. I don’t want them to be ready for harvest at the same time. Now THAT would be madness. Starting from a range of sources (seed, sets, and even store-bought transplants) allows me to have a steady stream of edible alliums (as well as tender onion greens) available for use in our meals throughout the growing season and well beyond. Not only have I already been using the fresh greens clipped from my onion seedlings, but I have even harvested some of the full-sized perennial bunching onions that I planted last fall! Over the years I have found that if I take care to plant at intervals and protect the plants, I can have some form of edible allium available almost year-round!