“Question: Amma, in order to re-establish the relationship between human beings and Nature, what is your advice?
Amma: Let us be compassionate and considerate. Let us take from Nature only what we really need, and then try to return it to some extent. For only by giving will we receive. A blessing is something that comes back to us in response to the way we approach something. If we approach nature with love, considering her as life, as God, as part of our own existence, then she will serve as our best friend, a friend whom we can always trust, a friend who would never betray us.”
From “From Amma’s Heart“
Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha
We apologise for the gap of a few months between articles. This was due to a combination of computer problems and illness. We hope that we will be able to continue as normal (or as near as we get to normal!) from now on.
The weather, as I’m sure you all know, has been rather chaotic this year. We humans find it hard to adjust to this at times, but at least most of us have the option of moving indoors to get out of the elements. Wild plants and animals do not have this option, but over thousands or millions of years they have developed strategies to deal with weather like this. Swifts, for example, visit this country in the summer after wintering in Africa. Their food consists entirely of insects caught while flying. In cool weather these insects may be in short supply, and when this happens their chicks can apparently go into a state of semi-hibernation until conditions improve.
Cultivated plants, however, like the vegetables that we grow, do not always have such strategies. A lot of the plants that on our allotment, such as courgettes, potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes were originally from somewhat sunnier climes. A lot of them have been looking a bit unhappy this summer. The potatoes have taken anything from to 3 to 7 weeks to sprout from the ground after planting, due to the very cool weather in April and May. Here they are, much smaller than they should be now.
The courgettes and squashes look very small, and have been voraciously attacked by slugs.
When faced with these kinds of difficulties, it is good to have some strategies to help you deal with them. One is to sow more plants than you will need to replace those that are lost. You may of course end up with too many plants, but then you can always give them to someone else.
This variation in weather is also the reason why it is a good idea to grow a rich variety of plants. If you do this you are far more likely to have some success, as the weather is almost bound to suit some of your crops!!!
Slugs are extremely happy with a damp cool summer, and the numbers of small ones we have found indicate that they are breeding very successfully. We don’t put down slug pellets due to the impact of these on creatures that eat slugs such as hedgehogs. A hedgehog eating a lot of slugs that have been killed by slug pellets will absorb the poison from all of them into its body. This accumulation of poisons in an animal eating other animals that have been killed by such poisons, has been shown in the past to cause a lot of environmental problems. A well known example was the use of the insecticide DDT until it was banned. This caused a lot of problems for many species. If one small bird ate 100 insects that had DDT in them, and a bird of prey ate 100 of these small birds, then it would have the DDT from 10,000 insects. Many birds of prey suffered population crashes because of poisoning from DDT before it was banned.
Our main way of dealing with slugs is to collect them in a bucket, and take them to an area where they won’t cause harm such as a local wood. Kaivalya also spins the bucket around a few times to disorientate them!!!
We are also very happy that our pond has now become well established, with several frogs spending the day there (and hopefully spending the night eating slugs!!!). It also has a newt in it which we haven’t seen before on the allotment site. Here is one of the residents.
As we said earlier, a lot of crops are struggling this year. The onions seem to be doing OK, the potatoes, now that they have finally come through and sprouted are also OK. The gourds, courgettes, squash and pumpkins are taking quite a battering from weather and slugs. The runner and french beans are just about holding their own. The broad beans are doing quite well, being suited to cool weather. We hope to begin harvesting them very soon. we tend to eat them raw when they are quite small, usually in a yogurt / mint dip. Very, very nice!!
We have a number of brassicas (cabbage family) out or getting ready to go out. The cabbages and broccolli are in big netted cages. The cauliflowers and kale are to go into something similar.
The lettuces have taken a real hammering from slugs. We currently have them in a mini plastic greenhouse, to try and help them grow quicker to stay ahead of the slugs.
The fruit has been very mixed. Badly timed late frosts wiped out most of the gooseberry and pear crop. we have some developing apples, and the strawberries are coming on at the moment. We also have some new red currant bushes which are doing well.
The greenhouse also has a mixed story. The aubergines are doing OK, albeit with a few greenfly. an attack of greenfly is the only time that we resort to killing on the allotment. We use a home made spray of water that has garlic soaked in it, plus washing up liquid. Any stray ladybirds (which feed on greenfly) are collected and put onto effected plants. This is not something we really want to do, but there are times when we can see no other options, and a plague of greenfly can really damage a plant.
The peppers, after a disastrous start when we had some out of date seed, and they didn’t germinate, are now looking well, as are at least some of our cucumbers. The tomatoes have been looking peculiar even since that intense heat wave in May. The temperature in the greenhouse reached 44 centigrade, and it seemed to be too much for them. Their leaves stayed green but curled up, and are still like that now, even though they are still growing. Here is a recent photo.
Om Namah Shivaya
Richard and Kaivalya