Monday, May 17, 2004

Gnomes, gophers, whatever

Something is tunnelling underneath our garden and stealing potatoes. Entire potato-plant root systems, to be more exact. I keep going outside and seeing that one of the large, glossy-green plants has suddenly withered. A quick tug reveals there's nothing left to hold it in the ground. We've lost four out of ten, just as we have already lost most of the salsify.

Overall, I can't complain about garden pests. A lot of the plants are practically perfect, and to be honest we have just about as much food as we can eat (and it's only May!). Slugs eat holes in the collards, but they leave plenty for us. We lose an occasional few leaves of chard to rabbits or deer, but the leaves grow back.

Last year was my first year growing tomatilloes. We had a small garden that we neglected horribly because we were so caught up in remodeling the house. Tomatilloes (which figure into my favorite homemade salsa recipe) were the "experimental crop." They survived despite drought and malnutrition. Some kind of evil squash beetle launched an offensive against them, but the tomatilloes proved too wary. The beetles ate holes in the husks but couldn't seem to figure out that the good part was inside, untouched.

That's the kind of crop I like--one that can stand up for itself. You can bet I planted tomatilloes this year! I'm not so much concerned with competing against all the creatures in our back yard. I'm more interested in figuring out what we can accomplish without resorting to traps and chemicals. And if, next year, I have the energy to build a bed with a chicken-wire basket embedded underneath it, then that's where I'll put the potatoes and salsify. Just because some root crops are extra-delicious to animals doesn't mean I don't want my cut!

In the meantime, since I'm running behind on planting green beans anyway, I've replaced the munched-on potato plants with bush-bean seeds. The plants are sort of the same size and shape. I'm not one to waste space.

And now, once I wake my ass up a little bit, I should go out there and dig some more rows!