Wednesday 15 July 2020

Still battling the Blackfly

Not content with decimating my Broad Bean harvest, the Blackfly have moved on to my climbing beans - Runners, French and Borlotti - which are now infested with the damned things.

I have been doing my best to keep them under control, but I admit I am losing the battle. I initially sprayed them selectively with a proprietary bug-killer product, but it doesn't seem to have had much effect, and I certainly don't want to spray it onto my plants repeatedly. I've also tried the diluted washing-up liquid method, which again has had some effect but nowhere near enough. I've also tried blasting the aphids off with a hose. The net effect of all these methods has been to reduce the problem, but it hasn't reduced it enough. I now fear that my climbing bean harvest will be as poor as that of my Broad Beans - and that would be a very serious issue, because climbing beans are one of my biggest and most reliable crops!

Today I harvested my first two beetroot, with which I would normally be thrilled...

But, on removing the netting covering the beetroot and their neighbouring onions, I find that the onions too are covered in Blackfly! I have quickly applied the washing-up liquid and hosepipe remedies in the hope of arresting this outbreak before it gets too serious, but now I have a mess of tangled onion leaves all battered down by the powerful jets of water!

The netting over this bed has been in place primarily to deter what I call the "Nocturnal Diggers" (foxes, badgers etc), but I think (hope) the plants are now big enough to fend for themselves because I'm going to leave it off so that the little birds and maybe predatory insects might be tempted to eat a few of the offending critters. The onions are mostly swelling quite well, but they won't keep growing if their foliage is sucked dry by aphids.

It's not all doom and gloom though - several of my tomato plants are now producing ripe fruit.

The smaller-fruited varieties rend to ripen first, and those seen in the basket above are mostly "Maskotka", with a couple of "Montello".

Some of the "Sungold" are nearly ready, though I confess that I have been holding back on picking any of these because I really want to have a complete truss of them all ripe at the same time, with no green ones!

The bigger tomatoes are always later to ripen, and all of mine are still firmly green. This is "Larisa".

And this one is "Ailsa Craig", which has now produced three very even and plentiful trusses of fruit, with more on the way. I have stopped the plant after the fifth truss has formed (it's only flowers at this point), so that it doesn't get too top-heavy.

The chillis are ticking along quite nicely too, and some have now produced ripe fruit. This one is "Orange Cayenne".

I'm continuing to harvest new potatoes every few days. The latest to be lifted were the Second Early varieties "Spunta" and "Charlotte". The former was not bad at 632g from a 35L pot, but "Charlotte" was disappointing at only 556g. It's normally one of the best performers.

"Charlotte" in the round container and "Spunta" in the rectangular one.

To finish off for today I just want to show you some mushrooms I foraged yesterday. They are Cantharellus cibarius - Chanterelles. I was pleased with this batch, which weighed-in at 430g, because I don't normally find this many at once.

Quite apart from being delicious to eat, the Chanterelle is a thing of beauty, in my opinion!


  1. Hi Mark I’ve been following your blog for ages and look forward to your posts. I’ve copied quite a few of your suggestions! Dismayed to see your black fly problem. Just to say I have had good success with SB Plant Invigorator which I get fromGreenGardener. It’s a natural product so great for veg. I originally used it on aphids in a conservatory setting before introducing natural predators. I don’t do that any more, But since then I have used it each year on broad beans. I may just be lucky but it has always worked for me. Also it saved a lemon tree which was blackened with mealy bugs. Your tomatoes and chillis look fantastic however as always.
    Best wishes Dilly

    1. Hi Dilly; Thanks for the suggestion - I'll check it out! Glad you like my blog... :)

  2. Hi Mark, I know that in the past, like me, you've had problems with pesticide contamination in compost. I've recently received a newsletter from the national allotments society (Wales) asking gardeners to contact them about such problems. Perhaps at last this issue is being taken seriously? I can forward you the newsletter to your email if you'd be interested.
    Regards, Pat Williams

    1. Hi Pat; Thank you for this. Yes, I would like to have a copy of that newsletter, please. My email is

  3. Blackfly does seem to be a problem this year. We are not usually affected by it but have been this season.


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