Aside from a single encounter this spring where I chased a squirrel down the fire escape in my underpants, I have not had a single tomato molestation all summer. My trap sits un-used.
Mike Sula hasn’t been so lucky. Writing for the Chicago Reader, he describes his squirrel jihad and his recommended solution to the problem: eat them. He’s got my full support.
“I stood staring at the enemy’s trophy, the familiar impotent rage rising. But the impulse to fall to my knees, gnash my teeth, and howl at the gods was stayed this time by a resolution I’d made earlier that spring. The squirrels may take my tomatoes and spit them back, but they would not go unanswered. The time had come to close the circle of life.”
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.
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!”
A few years ago my office brought in a wellness expert presumably to correct our wayward habits: poor posture, over-caffeination, and love of Chipoltle.
Among the many things we learned from her (including how to participate in awkward massage circles) was that leafy greens are “nature’s feather dusters”; a nice way of saying that if you eat enough of them no food remnant in your intestines would ever be safe again. And this would be good for you, after all, you’ve been eating cheeseburgers all winter, and well, you could stand to lose a couple.
My kale is starting to bolt so it was time to harvest. I’d been pretty leery of the stuff, particularly after said wellness expert recommended baking it into “chips” as a healthy alternative to potato chips.
Truth is, it’s pretty great. It tastes like broccoli lettuce, if that existed. Describing it as a “feather duster” would be a gross understatement, this here is nature’s grappling hook. I’m fairly sure you could thatch a roof with it.
With a few bits of other leafy things I was able to scrape up from the garden, some Swiss chard, spinach and some mint, it will become tomorrow’s lunch. I literally ate a cheeseburger for dinner, my last for a long time. And by “a long time” I mean roughly two weeks. I’m not sure how things will work out, but I’m confident I’ll be a better person for it. Wellness expert, this one’s for you!
This is a hanging squash garden some pals of mine recommended I investigate. They told me it reminded them of my college apartment, the one we called “Club Balls.”
Yes, there were lots of dudes in that place but that’s not why we called it that. We hung dozens of brand-new tennis balls from the ceiling with rubber bands, really to celebrate their bouncy and black-light friendly properties. No we weren’t on drugs! That much.
Anyway, this hanging garden is pretty fresh. After all, to get straight fruits from your zucchinis, cukes and relatives, you gotta let em hang. Or in the case of these squash, uniform bottoms. (I said “uniform bottoms”). How’s my innuendo going?
What I’m not seeing being used in the squash garden is the other benefit to “letting it hang” which is shade. Some of your plants may not thrive in direct sunlight. Why not create a shade of hanging jams to help protect the shade-friendly plants? The fine folks at Gardener’s Supply are doing just that:
See what they’re doing here? Cuke vines crawl up the front, cukes will dangle, and below spinach can grow, protected by the partial shade. Pretty sweet.
A day late and a dollar short I got my seeds started for what I’m hoping will be an EPIC 2012 season in rooftop gardening shenanigans. My tomatoes are going to explode off the branches with flavor!
My peppers are going to get so big they’re going to crush curious guests… in their mouths! My Dwarf Siberian Kale is going to get… appropriately little! Panthy is practically jumping out of his skin.
Some people get extremely nerdy about their seeds. They fawn over the quaint packaging, rattle off the obscure names, and collect them in precious little files. I respect it to the fullest, it just ain’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some heirlooms and everything they stand for, I just hate planting them. I’m more of a dig a hole and dump a plant in it kind of guy. If I could somehow use a chainsaw to plant seeds, I just might.
Trying to get into the spirit, I pulled out an appropriately tiny notebook and a very fly Swiss pen and got down to the tedious business of planting and marking down exactly where each of the 144 seeds went.
Keeping a record is almost as important as planting the seed. Today I ate part of this mystery plant to see if it was a weed or the obscure Corn Dutch Salad I planted last summer. I think it was a weed. Hard to know, I don’t think anyone has ever eaten Corn Dutch Salad. Probably because it looks like a weed. Or tastes like one. Or is one?
After a quick soak, each tiny divot in these puffy little shit disks received a pair of precious seeds.
They’ll sit in the window until they start to sprout, after which my grow light will take over, combining its beaming light with the grooviness of this patterned cloth to make the magic happen.
Almost my entire flock of sweet veggies will emerge from these humble plastic trays; ground cherries, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, cukes, eggplants and bunch of other exotic heirloom vegetables. Hard to believe actually. An entire season of obsession, dutiful watering, constant complaining, and occasional success; all from these little seeds. Maybe I better start showing them a little more respect.