30 September 2013 By Sarah Wain
A slow cold start to this year followed by bright summer sun has worked well on so many horticultural fronts here at West Dean. Outdoors, the fruit trees are dripping with fruit while under glass the ornamental floral displays have shone in particular.
Thriving edible crops in the glass houses in 2013 have included; dessert grapes, peaches, nectarines, cherry tomatoes, ornamental gourds and cucumbers, melons, glasshouse cucumbers and chillies BUT poor old beefsteak and potted tomatoes have had to suffer the indignity of my careless application of biological control i.e. none, or to be more precise, a poor application of too little too late!
I have been using biological control for pest management under glass for over thirty years learning about what to use on which crops and when to apply it bit by bit. On the whole I would say it’s a successful method of controlling pests as long as you have an understanding of the pest, its life cycle and the conditions in which it thrives - a very useful book on this subject is Biological Control in Plant Protection by Neil Helyer, Kevin Brown and Nigel Cattlin published by Manson Publishing. ISBN 1-874545-28-6.
For some reason this year I chose not to do my usual thing and omitted to introduce the Encarsia wasp to control whitefly where the beefsteak and potted tomatoes reside with a devastating/annoying population of whitefly developing as a result- never again! I’m going to be introducing cards impregnated with Encarsia eggs in spring 2014 to avoid a repeat of whitefly city in 2013- Oh the shame!
On a cheerier note I’m always pleased to see the appearance of an autumn blub called Zephyranthes candida which grows at the foot of our peach-nectarine house and the late vinery. It grows in an external narrow bed facing south and this year looks particularly fine.
Its bed companions are Nerine bowdenii and Hermodactylus tuberosus the Widow Iris - all enjoying the warmth and protection that the house provides and creating a lot of interest at the same time. Hooray for bulbs!