Anna Pavord's A to Z of pests and problems: B is for bindweed, black spot and boasting

 

Back

Our backs were designed to cope with much heavier work than we usually find in our gardens. But we have become a sedentary lot, so the back gets a shock when it is suddenly involved in the destiny of a 75-litre bag of compost, or a day's digging on a draughty allotment. Pictures of The Correct Way to Dig show unnaturally rigid figures with a foot on a spade that enters the earth almost at the vertical. I bend over my spade, which you are not supposed to do. When weeding though, it's better to kneel than bend from the waist. Occasional backache is inevitable. Jo Malone's Lime, Basil and Mandarin Bath Oil in a very long bath is my favourite remedy.

Bindweed

"Neither blasphemy, hoeing, nor selective weedkillers have yet destroyed it," writes Geoffrey Grigson in his Englishman's Flora. The vast number of common names for bindweed – bellbind, cornbine, Devil's guts, withywind – shows that it is an ancient enemy. The thick, fleshy roots lurk underground till quite late in spring. By August it is fully on the rampage, garrotting raspberries, swamping blackcurrant bushes, fighting buddleias and roses. It can cover 250sq ft in a single growing season. Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) will knock it back, if you spray in July, but it won't get rid of it permanently. Remember that this weedkiller kills whatever it touches, which means you can't use it where bindweed is inextricably tangled with other plants, as it usually is. Glyphosate kills top growth relatively slowly – you don't seef the results for about a month – but it is a translocated herbicide. It works through the leaves of a plant down to its roots and it is most effective when there is the maximum leaf area to take it in. But the best remedy against bindweed is vigilance, pulling out the growths at ground level before they have a chance to start climbing.

Biological control

There is a ghastly fascination in peering through a magnifying glass at a purposeful ladybird cramming mealybugs into its mouth with the delight of a five-year-old at a birthday tea. This is biological control in action.

This particular ladybird (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), a black and brown beast about 4mm long, is one of a whole series of exotic predators which you can let loose in your garden or greenhouse to attack troublesome garden pests.

One of the biggest problems associated with biological controls is timing. The parasitic wasp Encarsia formosa (which controls whitefly) works best, for instance, if it is introduced three times at two weekly intervals as temperatures warm up in spring. Hatching at regular intervals, the wasps are then brilliantly poised to take on the whitefly right in the middle of their reproductive cycle. Creating the optimum environment is another problem. The wasp will not work while night temperatures are below 10C/50F and is most energetic in day temperatures of 18C/64F and above. If the temperature's too low, the wasp doesn't breed as fast as the whitefly and so can't keep its end up in the battle.

Black spot

Black spot is a pernicious fungus that attacks the leaves of roses, leaving irregular black blotches over the surface. The leaves eventually fall off and this relentless defoliation severely weakens the bush. It's spread by rain and can be carried from rose to rose on the blades of secateurs. Spores of the fungus overwinter in the soil from leaves that have dropped and reinfect bushes the following year. The disease spreads most rapidly in warm, moist summers.

Clear up and burn affected leaves to minimise the amount of reinfection. Mulch plants thickly in spring to prevent spores splashing up from the surface of the soil. But above all, avoid planting roses, such as 'Grandmere Jenny' or the yolk-yellow climber 'Alchemist' which are particularly susceptible to black spot. Choose, instead, blue-mauve 'Veilchenblau', or pink 'New Dawn' climbing roses which have inbred resistance to the disease. By refusing to buy disease-prone roses, we can force breeders to give us something better.

Blight

Germaine Greer, when she wrote a gardening column for Private Eye, used the pseudonym Rose Blight. What could be better? As a word, it is saturated with gloom. It describes how my garden feels on certain days in winter: rotting stems of Brussels sprouts, melting piles of poppy leaves, slimy trails of mollusc. Cosmic blight.

In the more specific sense, blight can be potato blight or tomato blight. They are both fungal infections, discolouring leaf tips and edges, particularly when the weather is warm and moist. Plant potatoes with inbuilt resistance, such as the second earlies 'Baillie', and 'Estima', maincrop 'Diamant' and late maincrop 'Cara'. Avoid varieties known to be prone to attack such as 'Arran Comet', 'King Edward' and 'Ulster Chieftain'. Forget seedling blight and chrysanthemum petal blight. They may never happen.

Boasting

You, yourself, will never do it of course but you may have to put up with it going on round you. "Oh! I never realised how lucky I'd been with my lapageria until I saw yours." Yours, of course, has never bloomed and now looks as though it is going to throw the towel in altogether. What can you do except grit your teeth and wait for your reward in heaven?

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected