Strategies for dealing with pests and preventing disease in the garden. And occasionally I just throw my hands up and surrender to the possums, squirrels, raccoons, and people who wreck havoc on my gardening spaces.
Remember a few months back when I said something like, “Let’s stop using war mongering language against the critters?”
I can’t locate it on the site, but I know I said it. Somewhere. To someone. Was it you?
That was a kinder, gentler, more innocent me. That was me during the off-season when my thoughts are turned to planning new and fun gardening experiments and I’ve forgotten all about how maddening it is to discover a half eaten tomato laying on the roof like a cruel taunt.
Hey human, I took your precious tomato and I only ate half! Here’s the rest, all germy and covered in raccoon and/or squirrel saliva.
That was the me that existed before today when I walked out onto the roof garden to discover bits of the best ‘Black Seaman’ tomato of the bunch that I had been eye-balling with anticipation laying on the railing.
The raccoons and squirrels are out of control this year. They are taking far more than their fair share of the bounty and leaving almost none for me. Jerk faced jerks.
Everything is too much this year. There is too much rain and too much cold; too many wasps and aphids. But there are not enough tomatoes and the fruit I am getting are being poached while I sleep. Yesterday, my neighbour helpfully suggested that I hire Dick Cheney to come by each night and watch over the crop until morning.
Come winter I will look back on the positives of this gardening season and write lovingly about the discoveries that were made and the opportunity for experimentation this odd weather brought about. But until then I want a do over.
I haven’t noticed it to be quite the exaggerated horror film some are saying, but apparently Toronto is in the midst of a yellow jacket population explosion. The increase is thought to be the result of the combination of a cool, wet season, and the recently resolved garbage strike. All-in-all there’s just a lot more bugs in our gardens this summer, period.
Which is why, like Not Far From the Tree, I would also urge home owners to reconsider calling in an exterminator to destroy nests. Wasps may be a nuisance around the backyard barbecue, but they are also predatory insects that help to reduce the increased population in pesky plant eaters like aphids. Check out this fantastic series from Chair BriÃƒÂ¨re of a yellow jacket eating a cabbage worm.
Yesterday afternoon I happened upon this scene on the sidewalk. I’m not sure if the yellow jackets are doing us any favors by decreasing the cicada population (I love cicadas) but unfortunately like spiders, they aren’t very discriminating. Still, it was fascinating to watch them in action, if not a little bit gruesome.
Yesterday, while visiting a series of test gardens, I witnessed legions of these gold and black soldier beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) aka Pennsylvania Leatherwing beetles squirming, frolicking and procreating up a storm all over a bed of ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ Rudbeckia.
As I moved around the beds I observed that they only inhabited the flowers that perfectly matched their body colours. Interesting tactic for safety since they are likely quite vulnerable during these frenzied acts reproducing the species. When not procreating, I’ve read that the adults eat pollen and specifically enjoy goldenrod. However, this was a HIGHLY cultivated property and there was nary a goldenrod in sight.
Why is it that I can crush a slug underfoot, albeit with some trepidation? But when it comes to snails, forget it. They are carefully transferred to another area away from my lettuce and kale.
I’ll let a snail slime all over my hand without wincing or cringing. Slugs? No way! Slugs creep me out just a little bit.
And yet when you think about it, what are snails but a slug-like creature living inside a pretty little shell.
I accidentally brought one home from the community garden on a head of lettuce yesterday. It is now living in a small terrarium with a stem from my currant bush until I get a chance to release it “back into the wild.” I would never show that kind of compassion or care for a slug.
For me, it comes down to the fact that these snails are some of the first wild creatures of my childhood. There was a time when I would spend recess tromping around in a ditch at the side of the school yard searching for these elusive, exotic critters. It was a victory to find one and I would spend the few minutes before the bell letting it crawl over my hand, considering its movements with great interest and wonder. The landscape of my childhood was primarily a tiny postage stamp yard in a townhouse complex and my grandmother’s hi-rise apartment balcony. We had sparrows, yellow jacket hornets, neighborhood cats, and the occasional pigeon, but no snails.
It turns out that in this part of the world this particular type of snail is neither elusive nor exotic — the state of my cabbage are a testament to their numbers. Yet they still hold that fascination for me: the way they extend and contract their antennae; the speed at which they can get around in what appears to be an almost sliding motion with their house firmly affixed to their backs. Snails are a marvel really, and so cool to watch.
Yes, my feelings towards them is primarily nostalgic and a bit self-centered, but for me my paradoxical relationship to snails and slugs in the garden are one of many lessons in seeing the value in all the living creatures, even the pests.
Does that sound too Pollyanna-ish?
There is a lot of focus in gardening literature on getting rid of the offending creatures. An abundance of battle analogies. Believe me, I’m guilty of using this kind of language myself. And at times I have truly felt at war and at odds with all sorts of critters. That’s probably not going to go away entirely, nor do I think it is meant to. There is nothing unhealthy in being self-interested when it comes to keeping your garden alive and productive. I want my currant bushes to make fruit. I want to eat at least some of the tomatoes I grow.
Yet, it is also healthy to stand back from the war making, fighting battles, and rallying of the troops now and again to discover and cultivate a sense of awe and respect for the critters that we share space with, including those that are at odds with our agendas as gardeners.
Maybe next week I’ll take a few minutes to cultivate a sense of wonder and respect for the slugs…. before I proceed to crush them underneath my shoe.