And by “man” I mean grasshopper. While grasshoppers often play magically hillarious smart asses with tophats in cartoons, in the garden, they are anything but magically hillarious. They will sit in one place for a week at a time until everything around them has been eaten; the insect equivalent of fat guy in supermarket, eating his way out.
For a few weeks I noticed something was eating tiny, horrible bites out of every other leaf in my garden, so I spent the following hour and a half searching, obsessively, every leaf top, every leaf bottom. Then I found him! And then I lost him. The I found him! I swear if you look away from this picture for a half a second, he will disappear.
I literally had his green dust on my fingertips and nothing more. When I spotted him again, I got nice n close. Steady now… Snap! Mr. Miyagi grab.
A slight pang of guilt ran through me; one of his tentacles was still wiggling despite his fully visible guts. I put him down to finish the job and his mangled body sprung into action, grotesquely zipping around despite a completely crushed body. One more clap of the gorilla gloves and it was over. The lil’ bastard will be remembered for his dexterity.
But the cycle of life continues; Panthy’s Garden is still a romantic place for some insects.
That is until they become entangled in a spider web and devoured slowly. Good times.
With the construction guys gone and the funk of 100 degree summer days creeping into knee pits everywhere, I finally had some time to get Panthy’s up to speed. And in case you’re wondering, daylight was not a limiting concern. It’s time to grow son! Ask yourself: if not now… when?
But before I put in those post-work-day hours on the ruff, I headed up to my ancestral homeland of Massachusetts to hang out with my mother, eat some of her world-famous ham cups and of course, enjoy the pre-requisite lobster with a side of violent coastal storm.
My neighbor growing up owned a gas station and always seemed to have a lot of cash in his greasy pocket. He referred to anything over a twenty dollar bill as a “tucky.” Maybe because you “tuck” it away, far away from the prying eyes of the Feds. Anyway…. I dropped a few tuckies at the garden center, rolling out with this cart of summer sweetness. Gray Feather, Lambs Ear, Strawberry Seduction Yarrow; all full-sun perennials that love the abuse my roof can dish out.
The burbs have us beat with their gardening centers, it was nothing short of a motherlovin’ Garden of Eden in there.
I skipped the cement frog with the iPod. Did not skip the free lilies my mom let me hack out of her garden.
With my three best friends, I tore out a bunch of root-bound, past-their-prime, ugly-ass, strawberries and planted up the new jams, dolling out scoops of compost like chocolate ice cream. Or, shit if you’re less of an optimist.
The new additions look good! The whole garden looks good! I hope to God my new acquisitions remain as fly as they are today.
We shall see. In the meantime, give this jam a listen, and stay cool folks.
You’ve made it to yet another gripping installment of What the Fuck is Happening Up in Panthy’s Garden! Here’s your trophy, send me your address, I’ll mail it to you.
Whoa buddy, how come you so salty? Well I’ll tell you. Get a load of these guys. ALREADY. These little bastards usually don’t turn up until mid-summer, and yet here they are, tiny black aphids getting their start on the underside of my nasturtiums.
In time, their sugary excretions known as “honeydew” will coat these leaves and a train of ants will begin somewhere in Queens, marching all the way to Panthy’s Garden to harvest it.
My crop of tomatoes and everything else will become a wilted embarrassment. Every two weeks I’ll pull off a horrible, disfigured tomato and fling it as far as I can onto the street below. Green Zebra my ass.
Last year, I ordered up an insect cavalry of lady bugs to handle this problem. It was amazing watching lady bugs eat the faces of aphids. I literally sat for an hour, at night, with a headlamp, like a creep, watching ladybugs slowly massacre aphids. And I have noticed a few of these guys, who I suspect are aphid eaters….
But I’m feeling a bit more urgency, this cluster says to me “infestation.” This needed to be handled TODAY.
Hose: on. I adjusted the nozzle adjusted to the fearsome FLAT setting typically used to hose vomit off sidewalks. Leaf by leaf, I blasted them into oblivion with a powerful jet of water.
The unlucky aphids that wound up on my hands got the finger smoosh. If I didn’t think I’d hose down my iPhone in the process I would’ve done a better job at capturing this but take my word for it, it was awesome.
Apparently, this is a viable solution to the aphid problem, at least according some person on the internet. I’m not into pesticides, and my solution of soap and mineral oil was really only partially successful. And who doesn’t like blasting the enemy with brute force? The world is built on it.
Sure, I enjoy the carnage. Maybe too much. But it’s in service of a higher cause: FREEDOM. No, actually, it’s in service of eating of fine, homegrown, pretentious, heirloom, hipster-ass, Brooklyn, tomatoes. Like these little beauties…
What’s the difference between these starter plants? One set is the extremely slow, meek looking batch of sprouts that I planted myself, the other are robust, ready-for-action beasts I got from the Farmer’s Market. I’m a terrible person.
In real terms, it’s been spring for roughly three months now and I can’t really afford to wait any longer to get the goods planted. Phase one: the beasts. Phase two: the midgets.
This strategy may have a hidden benefit. If some horrible blight hits the beasts, a later, additional planting might avoid it altogether. See what I did there? I’m not so bad after all!
In this batch of beasts: Black Prince and Green Zebra tomatoes, “Classic” eggplants, and some fancy cinnamon and osmin basil (which is so flavorful, it’s purple).
The Army Knife is made in Sheffield, England, the UK’s answer to Pittsburgh I’m told. It’s simple, roundish, and looks like it could live well in a pocket, unlike my Leatherman which is like having a giant heavy metal rectangle in your pocket. That’s heavy and metal, not Heavy Metal.
It’s got a can opener, a spike and a straight blade. I originally thought the spike was for impaling an enemy but the website says it’s for rope work. Rope work. I need to use more ropes now. It’s beautiful and simple. (And it can handle rope work.)
The name “Professional Gardener’s Digging Tool” is really a kind way of saying Garden Impaler. It comes with a scabbard if that tells you anything. It’s got a serrated edge, a very pointy tip and if I could guess, was probably originally used in the trenches of WWI. The only thing missing are some brass knuckles over the handle.
I put it to work breaking up the soil blob that is the dirt from last season’s planters. This is what a sub-irrigated planter looks like dumped out.
The digging tool was so effective that I accidentally punched a hole right through the side of the container. Guess my stabbing was a little too vigorous. Good news is, it made very short work of loosening the compacted dirt. I almost felt like it needed a more worthy foe.
Its pointy tip was precise enough to scoop up these mystery grubs, which no doubt, will blossom into some horrible insect that will destroy my crops. With a quick flip of the wrist, those squirming horrible creatures were sent sailing over the railing to the street below.
The Dutch Hand Cultivator sounds, well, cultivated. But it’s no bullshit design is completely hand made and it’s actually a bit scrappy looking. Its solid construction gives the impression that it will be around for perhaps longer than my garden or me, maybe winding up in the Brockland Center for Historical Studies in the year 2962. ”Hipster Garden Tool - c. 2012”
It’s great at raking around dirt and pulling out large root clumps. I found it nice for spreading precious compost with the round side, or generally fussing up the dirt with the sharp side.
I suspect that once a man has tools like this, he becomes dependent on them. The tools become an extension of the man himself even! And naturally, he winds up getting a giant, corny belt to hold them all. Guess I’ll see if those guys have a belt.
Sitting on the couch enjoying New York 1 and some two-day old coffee I heard a ruckus on the roof. The clatter of claws and the weird yodeling of a pigeon suggested an animal face-off. I flung the door open to see both a squirrel and a pigeon looking at me like two kids who just got caught punching each other. I wish they had been punching each other. Being barefoot and in boxer shorts didn’t stop me from hurling chunks of wood at the invaders, and chasing the squirrel around the roof for ten minutes.
Confirming reports from my neighbor that a squirrel was using the fire escape to access the garden, I chased the little bastard around until, quite skillfully, he descended a LADDER and escaped with his life and a story that he’ll soon forget because he has such a tiny, stupid brain. (Not that stupid apparently.)
I’ve let my guard down. While there’s not much to eat up there now, there will be.
It’s official, the Panthy Defense Shield (P.D.S.) has been initiated (cue robotic sounds).
The two pronged approach uses my robotic owl S.T.E.V.E. intimidate pigeons ON SIGHT and a non-lethal trap to capture the squirrels. If you’re familiar at all with WWII tactics, you might also know this strategy as a pincer movement.
It’s going to be a little sad seeing that squirrel in the trap. Until of course, I ride him on my bike over the Gowanus Canal, to the relatively peaceful, industrial environs of Red Hook, where no doubt, he’ll live out his days molesting someone else’s garden. Can’t wait.
After Tornado Bruce ripped through Panthy’s Garden in the fall of 2010, the head of my robotic owl S.T.E.V.E. became the focus of a nation-wide head hunt.
His service was short and came with mixed results, but I respected his hustle deeply. When activated, he literally never stopped hooting, which if nothing else, showed real fire.
Flyers went up, tips came streaming in, many a night’s sleep was lost. The streets were littered with BBQ’s, deck furniture and downed trees, but nowhere was the head of my sweet over-hooting owl.
Until I spotted it in my neighbors backyard, staring blankly up at me. Not more than two minutes later I was ringing their buzzer.
“Hi, uh, I’m your neighbor from next door, and I have this owl on my roof. A plastic owl. His head flew off and I’m pretty sure it’s in your backyard. Could you go grab it for me?” Skeptical, she disappeared back into her apartment and returned a few minutes later.
She never opened the wrought iron security door and I don’t blame her. She handed me S.T.E.V.E.’s head through the metal bars. “Thank you!”