Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thinning, 2 questions, woodchucks again

Someone asked, "What is thinning?" We all know there is jargon in every human endeavor, and I guess I assumed more than I should have. You have all heard of thick woods and thick hair. If you scatter carrot seeds, you may get a think crop of carrots. Then you need to "thin" the crop by pulling out the excess. We speak of "thinning to one inch" when we are pulling out enough carrots so that the remaining ones are all one inch from their nearest neighbor. The tradition was to thin to a half inch in June, to one inch in July, and to two inches in August. My tradition was to throw away or compost the thinnings, but this year I've been transplanting them to fill in the empty spots and to expand the carrot plot. The moist weather has been conducive to success in this project.

Someone asked what to do with aphids. Some folks suggest spraying soapy water on them,
and I've found plain water just as successful. It's a lot of time and effort, however, for each leaf, and this year I have settled with going on a guilt trip for not removing the aphid-ridden leaves from the plant before they spread. This is not a very useful approach. Any other suggestions? This tropical weather is good for aphids.

And for mushrooms. Several people have asked what I do about mushrooms. Don't eat them! They are probably deadly. My own approach has been to kick them in the lawn, and to mulch over them with grass clippings in the garden. I'm not sure I recommend either. Any other ideas? Most years they aren't a problem, but this year is surely "special."

When I first had woodchucks, we invested in an electric fence. This worked, but is expensive. Worse, the battery died over the winter, and we couldn't find any replacement battery the following spring. So that was one very expensive woodchuck-free year. An electric fence is less invasive in your yard than a "real" fence that goes a foot underground and four feet over. I put it about one foot above the ground so I could step over it easily. Our neighbor found it upsetting in the yard next to where he was raising children, but verified that electric fences are legal in Montclair. A friend told me her two sons liked to annoy her by touching the fence. One is now a professor of mathematics at Columbia University, so I gather this
repeated prank did him no short or longterm harm. I touched mine once by mistake, and wouldn't do that again just to annoy someone else! However, the discomfort stopped as soon as I jumped away from the wire, which was quickly. If anyone knows where they (or replacement batteries) are available nearby, that might be of interest to readers, perhaps even me. Yes, you can turn off the fence whenever you like.

Our woodchuck infestation continues. My main defense is to think of Marie-Antoinette as I say to myself, "Let them eat tomatoes." Thank you all for the cages. I am going hog-wild with supersteak tomatoes and eggplants. The woodchucks don't eat tomato plants, but they will take a bite out of a large tomato. I'm not above cutting around the bite and including the remainder in sauce. They don't seem to find tiny tomatoes worth their time. They take occasional bites off the tops of eggplants, peppers, and zinnias, but they aren't speciescidal with these, as they are with broccoli, and the plants seem to grow back or around the bite.

I ate my first sugar snap pea today. Yum, but sigh. There won't be many this year. The ones I have grew up in the protection of early tomatoes or overwintered volunteer pak choi. Pac choi (for the reader who asked) is a kind of chinese cabbage that does very well in the NJ climate. I think I may plant its seeds along the main fence this fall to protect more peas as they climb the fence next spring. Also, I'll follow Renae's lead in starting tomatoes for my circular fence in January, so they will protect the peas around that fence.

You can see I'm settling into the possibility of life with woodchucks. I hope Jean's plants will do their thing and evict them, or someone will find a battery that can reactivate my electric fence. No children live next to me now. However, I just harvested my fifth zucchini of 2009, the volunteer greens will provide stir-fries when the Hakurei turnips are finished, and the basil is almost ready to provide dinner pesto, so eating is still mighty good INSIDE the house here.


1 comment:

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