Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garden sadnesses

I've heard that something that seems too good to be true probably is.
Last July a visitor told me of an anti-woodchuck plant; she has had no woodchucks (also called "groundhogs") in her yard since she imported it for that purpose. I was overjoyed when she brought me some seedlings in August. Whew! Since then I had no woodchucks... until last week.
Last week my heart sank when I saw one through my kitchen door. I went out and it made a bee-line down the garage into the woodchuck hole under the garage. I burrowed in the garage for the 9-month neglected cage, and put it where it would do the most good in front of the hole. The next morning it had an occupant.
Story done? Yesterday morning Fred saw another woodchuck in the garden, but it didn't run into that hole. After lunch we saw a pile of dirt on the cement walk next to the house that obviously had come from a new hole under the house. I put the cage there, but observed no success this morning. We were away most of the time from mid-afternoon yesterday until mid-afternoon today.
As I meditated outdoors this afternoon, it seemed that the lettuce plants weren't complete. Looking more closely later, I saw signs of damage. I decided to pick lots of ready lettuce. I usually pick dinner late in the afternoon when it will be eaten, but now it seemed prudent to get there ahead of the thief. Most Americans eat food picked days earlier. (Marion Nestle computed that the minimum time for asparagus to travel from the farm to NYC store shelves is ten days.)
However, as my eyes scanned the pea vines, I saw something much sadder than missing lettuce. When a pea vine is nipped, that is many future peas that won't be harvested. :( There was one vine lying on the garden path, not even eaten by its murderer. Woodchucks are an egregiously wasteful pest. When they eat a pea vine, both they and we have much less food in the future.
Then I noticed that the brocolli plants are essentially all gone. I mourned for a while, and then realized I can buy replacements at Bartlett's when the culprit is captured. I like to raise my own seedlings, but Bartlett's (and others) do a fine job. The Bartletts have a stand on Grove Street just north of Montclair on the left before you reach Rt. 3. They support a 14-member, 4-generation family on three acres, and I like to give and send them business. Family businesses are the heart of healthy American capitalism.
Gone brocolli is easier to replace than gone pea vines, which take time to grow in place -- and should be planted in March or April.
The culminating experience of the afternoon came when I brushed the dirt from the new hole back into the hole. Amid the dirt was a half a tomato. My prize tomato! Started by Renae on January 11. It was almost the size of a golf ball, but it had been picked and half eaten. Those wasteful woodchucks. At least it could appreciate the whole thing! I was comforted to see another tomato below it, somewhat larger than a pea. I hope it's still there tomorrow. I put a cage around the plant, not because it needs one for support yet, but hoping...
I was beginning to plant out tender plants from my bulging greenhouse window. Thus far the zuchinni plants have not been nipped. Basil has been traditionally unappetizing to woodchucks. Anyone know whether they eat zinnia plants? I'm sufficiently dissatisfied with the crabgrass-like stuff the Belgian block installers put between the street and the sidewalk that I was considering digging it out and putting zinnias there. I have a bumper crop of zinnia seedlings now. I'm curious about others' experiences with woodchucks and zinnia plants. Crabgrass is better than feeding woodchucks.
Life isn't perfect, even in a home garden. But the spring has been lovely, hasn't it?

1 comment:

frogboots said...

SOMETHING has eaten my zinnias. I've warded off deer and rabbits with Liquid Fence, so my only possible culprits are raccoons or woodchucks.

I suspect woodchucks - I'm pretty sure it was them who decimated my garden last year.

good luck with yours.