Welcome to Lee’s gardening advice for September written by local resident and keen gardener, Lee Stevenson (aka An English Gardener in Çalış).
Despite it nearing the end of summer – and hopefully the constant heat, gardens still need regular watering and tidying to keep them looking at their best and to make sure harvests fulfil their potential.
The best helper in your garden at this time of the year is also probably one you don’t enjoy the company of …
Yes, that mostly yellow, stripy buzzing bug that likes nothing better than a family barbecue with friends – he’s actually looking for a sugary drink or even a piece of meat.
Apart from gatecrashing barbecues, the wasp will happily eat greenflies, caterpillars and other garden pests.
Several species of wasps are parasites of garden pests, some of which are so diminutive they are like pin heads.
The majority of larger wasps which have a stinger are solitary and cause no upset to humans.
However when we mention wasps we almost always think of the common wasp which, at this time of the year, is a bit more of a nuisance. This is to do with the life cycle of the wasp.
Common wasps live socially like bees but, unlike honey bees, they haven’t evolved a way of storing food to allow the colony to survive the winter. In fact the only survivors are the young, fertilised queens who hibernate over winter. They emerge in spring to build little walnut sized nests where they lay around 20 eggs.
The queen feeds the resulting larvae until around May, when they mature and become workers. Then she focuses on more egg-laying and the workers get on with feeding them, enlarging the nest as they go along. By this time of year the nest has grown to around 40cm in diameter, often larger, and that nest can contain up to 10,000 wasps!
Then in late August and September a dramatic change takes place. The queen quits her egg laying (except a few that will go on to be future queens and males to fertilise them) and no longer releases the pheromone that causes workers to work.
Basically these workers are made redundant and are left jobless and disoriented. Now with fewer larvae to feed they become uncontrollably and insatiably hungry.
And that is why they pester us in their search for food. Towards the end of their brief lives, their hunger drives them to search for easy sugar at exactly the time we are most likely to be using our gardens and outdoor spaces, enjoying sugary drinks and eating sweet food and ripe fruit, favourites of the wasp. The timing couldn’t be better for them or worse for us.
So why are those who panic and try to swat them away more likely to be stung than those who remain calm? Well the problem is that these redundant workers have there own pheromone which helps protect the nest from attack so when you swat that annoying wasp it feels under attack and a rallying cry will go out. Suddenly it all kicks off and lots more wasps will start arriving in aggressive ‘red-mist’ mode, fired up and ready to defend their nest. This is why the best advice is to stay calm.
Think of it this way, from May the wasp has been working its (stripy) socks off helping to keep things nice on planet earth. Now its going to die so why not give it a break, save your swats, put a bowl of sugary drink (not EFES) somewhere out of your way and let it go out on a nice sugar rush. At the very least, don’t kill it.
The end of summer flowers
It’s not just the life of the wasp that is coming to an end, so are summer flowers so it’s a good time to save some seeds for next year.
Cosmo, sunflowers, zinnia and all sorts of flowers are fairly straightforward to save seeds from. If you’ve never done it before, here’s how you do it.
- Remove a dried seed head and place it in a paper envelope, somewhere dry and out of sunlight.
- Leave until early spring and then, using your hands, gently rub the seeds from the dried flower head and lightly cover with soil.
- Put in a place that gets at least 4 hours daylight and keep moist. Within 2 weeks you will see green leaves appearing. One of the benefits of growing cosmo and zinnia is that they tend to self-seed where they are grown and you can have plants appearing year after year.
Its not only flower seeds you can harvest at this time of year. Seeds from courgette (zucchini), marrow, sweet corn, tomato’s, beans and peas are easy to save.
Try to keep seeds in paper envelopes to avoid sweating as the moisture will make the seeds unusable. You can even have a go at growing seeds harvested from vegetables purchased at the markets.
I’m currently trying to grow four different types of tomatoes. I’ll be growing them in pots so I can move them to the sunniest spot in the garden. When growing tomatoes, I recommend growing cherry (mini) ones as the bigger ones are freely available at the markets and its good to grow something different. Of the ones I’m growing, one is a striped tomato called Tigerello and another, blue bayou, is a small blue (off black) colour.
Hot chilli eating competition
Do remember the Hot Chilli eating competition I ran last year? Yes, I’m planning to do it again towards the end of September, venue TBC, so if your interested in watching others suffer or even think you can handle the ‘heat’ keep an eye out on Fethiye Times and An English Gardener in Calis for details.
That’s it for this month, Happy Gardening all.
Just before I go…
Which vegetable is always cold? …A Chilli.
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