Sandy’s Garden ... I Never Knew I Needed These

The first horticultural catalogue of 2020 flumped through my letterbox last week.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 9:34 am

Not the first catalogue seeking to persuade me to indulge my garden in 2020 by offering me special privileges if I order items (illustrated and described in its pages) for the garden – no, several of these arrived during the autumn.

This particular catalogue was the first to be delivered since the calendars were changed to read ‘2020’. And a fascinating read it turned it to be.

Sent from a company in Essex which specialises in supplying fruit trees, bushes and plants … almonds, apples, apricots, apriums and pluots (no, neither have I), blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cobnuts and filberts, crab apples, currants, elderberries, figs, gooseberries, grapes, lingonberries, medlars, mulberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranates, quince, raspberries and strawberries (both tabletop and French), and I may well have missed a few … I was intrigued not only by some fruits I’d never heard of but also by some of the accessories and sundries which the successful fruit grower will need to order from this catalogue. Anti-mole bulbs took my fancy, as did insect barrier glue, WaspinatorsTM, grow-your-own ladybirds and rootgrowTM mycorrhizal fungi. Perhaps my lack of any or all of these products helps to explain why my several attempts to grow strawberries all ended in failure, a fate which also met the self-pollinating apple tree which once graced my garden; the wasps enjoyed the several tiny, deformed fruit which was all this unfortunate tree produced over a fair number of years; certainly, not a single home-garden-grown apple ever made its way into the kitchen, let alone the fruit bowl.

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Let’s turn, then, to the WaspinatorTM. “This ingenious fake wasps’ nest will keep your garden free of wasps without disturbing other insects!” the text promises. “Wasps are territorial and the WaspinatorTM appears to a foraging wasp as a rival nest, making it rapidly leave the area for somewhere safer.” Well, I wish these had been available during the years when I was struggling with my recalcitrant apple tree. At only £14.50 for 2 including p&p … although the product seems not to qualify for the 10% discount off selected items … I’m sure I could have been tempted. So why not plan to chase wasps out of my garden now so that I can enjoy an evening gin and tonic in peace this coming summer? I’m just not too sure how easily-fooled the wasps around here are, for the pest control officer who removed what he described as the biggest wasps’ nest he’d ever seen from my loft 18 months ago told me that wasps never re-occupy a previous year’s nest; it’s a single-use property. Now that must mean that there are real, abandoned wasps’ nests not a million miles from my garden, nests which don’t seem to persuade ‘new’ wasps to stay away from the territory. But then I don’t know how quickly a real wasps’ nest deteriorates outdoors after being vacated; perhaps all trace of it disappears during the winter and I do need a long-lasting fake one to deter incomers.

Anti-mole bulbs? These, I learn, “make moles and field mice disappear without using pesticides or poison. They secrete a smell that humans cannot detect – a smell that keeps moles and field mice away or forces them to move.” At £17.95 inc. p&p for a pack of ten … enough to cover 500m2 … this might well be the most cost-effective way to solve this problem for between 2 and 5 years, depending on soil conditions. And why have I not encountered rootgrowTM mycorrhizal fungi before? This RHS-approved product is, apparently, all I will need to grow naturally healthier plants with better drought resistance and stronger flowering and fruiting. That’s a pretty all-embracing promise; and, since one application at planting time is all that is required, perhaps I really should be ordering items from this catalogue!