Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who's been eating my garden?!

One of the strawberry plants had 5 blooms on it already. Once the white petals had dropped off, I was watching it daily, as the little green nubs in the middle would grow into our first strawberries!

I went out to check on our little garden patch in front this morning, and I discovered a terrible crime had occurred! This morning, ALL FIVE of the stems had been bitten through, and the green nubs were lying on the ground, half-chewed up. This will never do--they didn't even get a chance to turn into strawberries!

Suddenly all the squirrels and birds frolicking in our backyard do not seem so innocuous. They seem downright menacing! I am tempted to deck myself out in camo and stake out the strawberry plants overnight to catch the culprit. Going overboard? Me? Why would you say that?

I found this site to research how to defend my strawberries from the depredations of suburban wildlife. Hmm, it says here that new strawberries should have their first blooms pinched off to enable a good root system to grow. Seems like maybe the critter may have done me a favor. This is similar to the advice I got on the blueberry bushes--don't let them bear fruit the first year. At least with strawberries, it is just the first round of blooms to be pinched off.

I bought these as bareroot strawberries, which was a kick. The garden shop clerk pointed me toward a huge barrel full of strawberry plants. I turned back, and said, no, I don't need something that big, I just want a few seedlings. She walked me over, like a slow-witted child, and grabbed a bunch from the top. They were very loosely packed, so they came right up, but I think they must have left a root tendril or 2 behind. She was not trying to be particularly careful with them. Then she stuck them in a plastic bag and handed it to me--not even any dirt! (Duh, Jo, bareroot--get it??) I could now see that they were actually 5 plants twist-tied together. Well, if they could survive that kind of manhandling, then they could survive my gardening!

At the least, this strawberry beheading incident is making me rethink the wisdom of setting up that birdbath in the yard...we are practically inviting them to come eat our garden, aren't we? I'll have to think about this now...

On the upside, my friend showed me her worm farm...and it really was not as gross as I thought it would be. Some fruitflies in the top layer, to be expected, but hey, it's outside anyway. Add kitchen waste and cover with mulch. Middle layer had the worms and all the earth they'd made in 9 months. And a spigot on the bottom layer for the worm "tea" to use as fertilizer. If I can get my boys to assist with maintenance, this might work after all. Since I want to plant 2 more blueberry bushes in the only open dirt the in the backyard, having a real compost pile is no longer going to work.

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