Monday, July 17, 2017

Leech or flatworm? Ants and Swiss Chard

For the 2nd time in a week or so, (1st time regarding dwarf beans), I'm following Alys Fowler's advice, this time with regard to Swiss chard.  Long story short, after midsummer plants which often bolt if planted in spring will resist the impulse to do so, probably because of shortening days; (I say shortening, but in Glasgow, in July, we're still getting 18 hours of daylight).  

I got a packet of Bright Lights, at a good price, (another reason to wait until July before sowing, lots of bargains, I've noticed). But where to sow them? Most of the 2nd bed is under a tarpaulin, but it wasn't quite big enough to cover the whole bed, so the last 5ft or so went under a sheet of plastic, (in the background of the photo in this post, here.)

Transparent plastic was a foolish idea, weeds were growing underneath it, so I covered most of it with sheets of metal from the old shed. I decided to leave the tarp, but use the area beneath the plastic for the chard. Who-ah there! Teeming with life: ants' nest, worms, and... what I took to be the mythical New Zealand flatworm, rumoured amongst plot-holders to be responsible for a perceived shortage of earthworms. 

When carrying it in a gloved hand to a sheet of tin for this pre-execution photo, memories of leeches came back to me: a big population of them in the Basingstoke canal fascinated me when I was a kid. But this one was moving like a worm, with the shuffling spasm along its body. Now, having thought it over, I should have settled the question by putting it into a jar of water, which a leech would have taken in its stride, not so a worm. 

The leech-or-flatworm despatched, I went back to hoe the new patch of ground, spotting two other worms there, a brandling and a regular earthworm. And the ground was absolutely gorgeously loamy and of a good tilth. Last winter I was still digging oomska in, I notice, sowing it with Hungarian rye seed which the birds devoured. Something has feasted on and broken down that horseshit. 

Maybe it was the ants, but I suspect an improving earthworm population. And now I'm pretty sure I executed an innocent leech. Which is an uncomfortable thought, but it's not the end of the world. It all means the good worms are coming back, and that there's also a leech population in the plot, probably centred in the pond. I'm looking forward now, come the autumn, to lifting the opaque tarpaulin, and see how things have been going under there.