Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A gardeners' worst pest

Yesterday morning I couldn't believe what I saw (more to the point, didn't see) in my garden. I will postpone the description to the end of this email since I wouldn't want to disturb your holiday joy.

Fortunately, last evening someone told me that deer have been seen on "my" end of Ridgewood Avenue recently, and a photo posted on Baristanet. Click! This morning first thing I went through the print-outs of old "beg. gardening" messages to prod my memory. It was two years ago that when I went to Barletts to fortify myself after some minor disappointment when I heard Skip Bartlett say to someone on the phone that he had lost 5,200 tulip plants to deer last night. Last year he told me that hanging Irish spring soap around his place had ended his deer problem.

So shortly after breakfast Fred went to Shoprite and bought an 8-pack of Irish spring soap. They are slightly smaller in the middle than the ends, so I was able to easily hang one from a commerical circular tomato cage. However, they squeeze even more easily on the top of my home-made tomato cages and the high pea fence, so quickly all eight were gracing my garden.

The odor is impressive even for a human. Surely no deer will enter my garden again! However, it's a nice scent, I think. It reminds Fred of his academic brother, who used that kind of soap in graduate school, and returned to Africa decades ago after they both earned their doctorates.

Before I tell you my sad tale, let me prevent any overwhelming pity for my condition. I harvested my first cucumber today, which is about two feet long. I harvested my first green bean today, which was delicious despite the leaves of its plant having been removed several weeks ago. It appears other beans will bravely grow to maturity. I finished harvesting my garlic today, and two of the cloves are 3" in diameter! We are enjoying celery and tomatoes at every dinner. Both the raspberries and blueberries are delightful.

Yesterday morning I first noticed that my cucumber plant had been nipped. Then I realized that quite a few basil plants had been shorn of most leaves. (I picked enough then to make a dinner-for-two of pesto, which I froze.) Then I noticed that the only pepper plant that had been sporting a flower the day before was naked except for the flower and one leaf. The flower dropped today, and that plant is going to have to be very determined if it is to revive. Most startling: ONE of my smallest tomato plants had been stripped of most of its leaves. The big plants look the way they did before, and I have enough that it's no great loss if this one dies, but what it portended left me breathless.

I immediately thought of the article I had just submitted for the upcoming CNNJ newsletter, "Gardening With Woodchucks." It claims that woodchucks (also called "ground hogs") don't eat basil, or pepper, cucumber or tomato plants. I felt a surge of guilt. Now that I've decided my new marauder is a deer, not a woodchuck, that emotion is at peace. There are others that aren't entirely positive, but the good news is that there is no sign today of either a woodchuck or a deer visitor.


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