Plan B

As every gardener knows things don’t always work out as we plan.  Among the things I planned for this summer were:

  • a selection of root vegetables from saved seeds scattered in one patch
  • a selection of grains (quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat) from purchased seeds in another patch
  • a row of beautiful tall sunflowers at the back of a border

Sadly none of these are working out as I hoped.  Very few of the root vegetable seeds germinated and even fewer of the grains (just three plants).  Some of the vegetable seeds may have been too old, though most were only saved last year; whilst some of the grain seeds were definitely past their ideal sowing dates.

However I am mostly blaming two pheasants (escapees from the neighbouring woods where their brothers and sisters are shot in massive numbers) who spend a lot of time grazing the garden.  I hadn’t seen them for months before I scattered the seeds but they soon turned up afterwards.  My attitude to problems – like pheasants – in the garden is to take minimal action and to try to live with them.  Not that I could do anything about the pheasants anyway, they can either walk in along the drive or fly over the hedge.

There is a scattering of salsify that have germinated in the root vegetable patch with some self sown flowers so it is not completely bare and at the moment I am just leaving it to see what happens.

Plan B in the grain patch has just been to plant some yacon plants I had ordered, a squash I found at a plant stall, plus runner beans, beetroot and chillies that I have been given.  Some oca and Jerusalem artichoke have also come up from last year.  These plants will fill it quite soon I think.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

would have been grain patch with assorted beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon, beans, chives …..

I planted nearly 60 sunflower seeds in modules to (hopefully) ensure they germinated and grew into successful plants as I have never had much success sowing them direct in the garden.  Many did indeed germinate and then had their first two leaves eaten meaning they would not grow any further.  I eventually found a tiny slug that had hidden in a corner of the plastic moulding which was responsible.

Plan B was to sow some more sunflowers in a pot and keep it where the slugs could not get.  However something came and nibbled them whilst I was away earlier this week.  I am hoping the part nibbled sunflowers from both batches will eventually grow into full sized plants.  The border (pictured below) they are destined for has filled up a lot at the back anyway with evening primrose, yarrow, carrot, calendula, elecampane and wild rocket and some alliums; but I will squash in any sunflowers that do grow.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Border currently minus sunflowers

If all else fails I will plant some field beans in the root vegetable patch and the ‘would be’ grain patch.  They are one of the most durable and reliable plants I know and can be sown just about any time of year.  If I get them in soon they will crop this year and if they are growing densely together perhaps I can sow some of my desired seeds between them and out of reach of the pheasants.






About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
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6 Responses to Plan B

  1. How do you protect your young runner beans from slugs and snails? I use slug collars around mine which means space so the slugs and snails don’t crawl along overlapping vegetation and get inside the protection. My problem at the moment is not pheasants but 3 fox cubs flattening where they play fight and chase each other!


    • Andy says:

      I had such a problem this year and last with slugs on runner beans. I used beer traps, organic slug pellets, Nematoads, and going out every night and picking them off by the hundred etc nothing worked well enough. I took the bold step and, against my principles, to use full on killer slug pellets. They simply work. I’m big into my wildlife and have monitored very closely, nothing else appears to have been effected. Give the birds plenty of feeding stations.

      Alternatively, especially for runners, pot them up and get them much taller before planting out, although I only had a fair amount of success, not perfect but I’d do this again next time as long as the slugs aren’t prolific. Also sow 3 times the amount you want using saved seed from previous year and just keep replacing damaged plants. As the nights dry up toward summer the slugs will be less active and the problem goes away as plants get bigger.


      • Matt @ Garden59 says:

        That’s my approach, Andy and it works fairly well. Growing the plants as big as possible in modules definitely gives them a better chance.


      • Anni Kelsey says:

        In the past I have planted runner beans in containers and left them as long as possible before planting out. These days I sow direct and use lots of seed. It is a bit of a lottery either way as they seem to be the most attractive plants for slugs that I grow and the slugs win more often than I do.


  2. Anni Kelsey says:

    I like your thinking! Thank you for sharing your experience.


  3. Andy says:

    “They are one of the most durable and reliable plants I know “…..You’ve done well to only be on plan B. I gave plan B up a while ago 🙂 ….when my Autumn sown field beans failed. I sowed some more and slugs got them. Ditto broad beans.

    A fruit and veg seller was telling me only this morning that beans have been a problem because of the weather. I can’t remember exactly why but mine flowered, everything looked fine, and then no beans appeared. Then they started turning black from the ground up with all the leaves falling off.

    Some of my tomatoes were planted in a mix of compost and manure….they got extreme leaf curl which I think is caused by herbicide left in either the manure or compost. The manure supplier says he didn’t use herbicide this year so it may be the compost. Ditto cape gooseberry. A good test is to plant beans and peas in the mixture, if they suffer then it is a good bet it is caused by herbicide…the pea test had similar problems. Luckily I only did 10 tomatoes in that mixture. Some sweet peppers were also affected. Main crop potatoes failed because of slugs…so another main crop has gone in but they may well end up being new potatoes.

    …and to top it all my Autumn garlic and onions all bolted. They got rather wet, plus I think I sowed them too early. Another bed of garlic got rust.

    Plan D or E is now going well though 🙂 It’ll still be my best year for the amount I am growing.

    What I have learnt is that when something is failing – give up on it early and replant. In previous years I’ve left things to see if they recover, and they generally don’t and it becomes too late for another crop.

    Plus this year they are talking about biblical proportions of diamondback moths which have come in from the continent in the tens of millions which will eat cabbages kale etc…I’ve planted loads…netting them should work but I had a look at one of these moths this morning and I’ll need a smaller mesh net than what i’d use for cabbage white butterflies.

    When plan A fails, remember there are 26 letters in the alphabet to use up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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