It seems to me that those of us who engage in home gardening, that is, we plant seeds, seedlings, and such around our homes, may be described in a number of ways. Among the more polite terms are impractical, stubborn, foolish, idealistic, ridiculous, and extravagant. Lotsa folks may buy a hanging flower basket or two that require only occasional watering, but for someone to actually prepare flower or vegetable beds, plant them, and water and weed them with the expectation of an enjoyable “crop” , that’s a different story.
Well, I fit into the category of those who, each year, take on the chores associated with what some call “backyard” gardening. These endeavors are not always as fruitful (no pun intended) as I would like, but that’s just part of the adventure. Sure, gardening requires investing money and working for hours so it may be looked on as being extravagant and a foolish waste of time, but after all, these resources are ours to do with as we please, right?
Anyway, readers may recall that last year my gardening efforts suffered considerably. There was the onset of tomato blight – this year’s countermeasures to which I already addressed in my previous column. But that wasn’t all. Not far from my tomato patch was another small garden plot where I planted green pole-type and yellow bush-type beans.
They were growing nicely but one morning I saw that some kind of midnight marauding muncher(s) had eaten everything down to the bare stems. Well, this was fairly early in the season so I had time to replant – however, the newly planted seed beans were dug up before they had a chance to sprout. – but even that wasn’t all.
Each year I carefully prepare the flower bed next to our garage and plant several dozen New Guinea Impatiens in a variety of colors. These bright flowers spread nicely resulting in an veritable blanket of blooming brilliance that continues until late fall. But last year was different. One morning, as happened with my bean patch, I found about a third of the plants had been eaten right down to the stems – flowers, leaves and all. Kinda looked like the mysterious midnight marauding muncher(s) had struck again.
Now here’s where the label of being stubborn – I prefer persistent – comes in. I figured I wasn’t going to let these critters disrupt my gardens. And so, over the winter I had time to figure out who these interlopers likely were and how to counter them. Rabbits turned out to be the most likely munchers and squirrels likely dug out my seeds. A physical barrier, such as a chicken wire fence, might prove effective, particularly against rabbits, but the physical layout of the garden area made that difficult. Therefore, I had to examine alternatives.
The solution I came up with has two parts. First, I found a number of repellants – stuff that rabbits, squirrels, and a host of other unwanted critters can’t stand – that may be sprayed on the plants to be protected. Unfortunately each of these products comes with a warning that it is not to be used on any plants that are to be consumed. But I did find one product in granular form that has the same effect on interlopers and makes them go away – and may be spread around the perimeter of my raised beds, not in the beds themselves. Aha! step one.
For step two, I also found that these intruders will avoid certain plants because of their odor. Prime among these are Marigolds. Yep, just plain Marigolds – which emit a rather unpleasant scent. And so I planted a border of Marigolds just inside both my bean and New Guinea Impatiens beds – and, for good measure, scattered a few additional ones among the other plants. And, since I also found rabbits don’t like onions, I planted some among my beans.
Well, so far, my bean plants are growing very nicely along with their companion onions in their Marigold bordered bed – and the yellow and orange Marigolds provide a pretty contrast to my more colorful New Guinea Impatiens. I have no idea how effective this scheme might be at countering those pesky critters, but it’s worth a try.
You know, we backyard gardeners might well be impractical and foolish among other traits, but, above all, we are optimists. Sure we have disappointments and setbacks, but we don’t quit. Nope, we just try to figure out how to cope with the blight, bugs, varmints, or whatever else comes our way. And besides, there’s always next year. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.