Sunday, 10 June 2012

Couch Grass vs Cucurbits - the showdown

Squashes ready for battle

I am annoyed. Annoyed and frustrated. Annoyed frustrated and thoroughly vexed. “By what, Best Beloved?” I hear you ask, concern in your voice, your gentle brow lightly furrowed (and having evidently recently re-read the Just-So stories).

I am sick and tired of the continual battle against couch grass on my veg plot. I pull it up. It comes back. I double dig. It comes back. I cover it up. The sheet blows away in the wind. Like I said. Vexing.

So I have a plan. An ambitious plan. “And what is thy scheme of redoubtable cunning regarding the aforementioned productive location, Best Beloved?” I hear you ask (being possessed of ‘satiable curiosity and having spent a bit too long in the company of a Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake with a scalesome, flailsome tail, I can only presume).

Aha. It is this.

For each squash or courgette I have dumped two thirds of a heaped wheelbarrow of well-rotted horse manure, unceremoniously on top of the offending weed.  In the centre I have created a well and planted the well-grown cucurbit into the ground, with a thick manure mulch spreading at least 30cm in all directions.  So far I have planted about 20 of them, on a grid system, roughly a metre apart. (‘Crown Prince’, ‘Festival’,’Polo’ and ‘Hundredweight’ from Suttons; Courgette* ‘All Green Bush’ from Kings Seeds; Courgette ‘Sunstripe’ and squash ‘Golden Hubbard’ from T&M; ‘Hawk’, ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Uchiki Kuri’ from DT Brown; and ‘Marina Di Chioggia’ from Franchi...since you asked).
There are three possible outcomes. 1. The squashes scream ‘Argh! No! My roots! The nitrogen, the ammonia, the pain!’ and keel over. 2. The squashes get eaten by slugs (which will then inform my next post). 3. There is a big and satisfying fight and, ideally, a dense mat of squash foliage outcompetes the weed of doom.

In the Just So stories, the eponymous elephant’s child gets roundly spanked by his tall uncle Giraffe with his hard, hard hoof; by his hairy uncle Baboon, with his hairy, hairy paw; by his broad aunt the Hippopotamus with her broad, broad hoof and by the verbally tortuous Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, with his scalesome, flailsome tail – while handing out helpful advice on the subject of the crocodile that is biting his nose** and effecting a rescue (on the banks of the great, grey, green greasy Limpopo River). Which, incidentally, is how the elephant got his trunk.

The question is, will the fabulously well nourished squashes give the couch grass the good hiding it deserves,  or will the couchgrass romp back and smother the young squashes in an orgy of vegetative propagation and nasty, nasty, spiky shoots? Or will they combine into some sort of horrific pestilent chimera of epic proportions*** to try and spank me in a kind of revenge match? Only time will tell.

*My track record for growing courgettes is woeful, but winter squashes generally work rather well.

** Which is the answer to the question ‘What do crocodiles have for lunch?’

***Who you gonna call? Well, Rick Moranis presumably. In a horrific epic chimera of Ghost Busters and Little Shop of Horrors.