Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Spring Garden 2008

What a slow start to the Spring garden here at the old homestead! Between cool weather, tunneling moles, scarce amounts of rain and a gaggle of cutworms, I have little food for the table to show for all my callused hands.

Things were promising enough at the beginning of May. Dan moved one of our outdoor sheds and we used the underlying bald patch of ground as a third garden plot, intended for the crazy cucurbit family to roam free. Pumpkins, gourds and squashes tend to take over the other garden plots, so we stuck our winter squash transplants there along with a few cucumbers and peppers for company. The yellow-striped cucumber beetles immediately found these infants and gnawed at them for a couple of days until we found out about them. I went out each morning and night and squished them until no more striped inhabitants remained.

I was not so lucky with my other garden plot, where the stubby Striped German tomato plants and hot pepper plants were lovingly plunked into compost-rich holes. The morning after transplant, I found several tomatoes felled by offending cutworms, which have never been as ravenous as this year.

Here's a photo of the damage caused by these grayish caterpillars that are the larvae of several moth species. They apparently come out at night and wrap their bodies around the stem of a delicious plant and then whip around with their pincers and fell it. Then they feast and sometimes drag the tops back into their little underground lairs. I grubbed around in the soil around the base of my damaged plants and found this little guy

whom I promptly consigned to the Circle of Life when I tossed him to a hungry robin lurking nearby.

The organic way to prevent cutworms from lumberjacking your crops is to encircle them with a cardboard toilet paper tube or juice can, which lessens the aesthetic value of the garden, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Mole Miners have been tunneling underground to slice away at the sumptuously tender roots of my other crops and I have been bereft of radishes and spinach and fennel as a result. Radishes are the easiest vegetable of all to grow, and yet from two rows of radishes planted from a fresh packet of seeds, only a few bunches are present. I grew Easter Egg Radishes this year, which are a gorgeous mix of purple, pink, red and white.

I have resorted to importing snapping turtles to rid my garden of these crazy moles.

Just kidding. This guy/gal sauntered into the yard yesterday afternoon and it's a good thing we spotted him before letting our beloved Martha dog out for a romp because these prehistoric critters have lightning-fast and fearsome beaks. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with the moles and would welcome advice on organic mole control. I've tried stuffing hanks of Martha's everpresent hair into their mole hole openings, but so far the mole rampages have gone on unabated. At least they leave us some asparagus.

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