Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vermin: Gophers, Earwigs, Symphylans, and Birds

I'm not sure if it's because we have settled in a little and the vermin have had a chance to find us, or if this year is just particularly good for them, but I am having a heck of time succeeding at growing food plants. Our cold frame is infested with never-be-seen earwigs that allow my seeds to germinate and create their seed leaves, and then the following night, the munch them down to the dirt. In some cases, plants have matured much farther than seed leaves, and THEN they decide to pick them off, one by one, until I do something else, or move them.

What makes it out to the big garden has been plagued by the furry digging vermin, the gophers, despite an active trapping campaign. We HAVE caught at least 5 or 6 gophers with the traps, and have utilized the attracting properties of a sheet of plywood lying on the ground to ambush them, but no matter how often I collapse their runs, they continue to do donuts in my one bed that currently has anything in it, creating large voids that roots can't cross. All I could think of today, as I furiously followed their tunnels around each and every beet baby was the song we sang for Cabaret last weekend : "I saw that 'tater shakin', saw it disappear, they're working on my corn now, i won't get one ear, they're diggin my potatoes, they're trampin on my vine. I got a special plan now...restin on my mind."

The birds are manageable, so far, they are only picking off strawberries. This I can remedy with some simple bird netting.

But lastly, symphylans...a long-dreaded, and diligently-avoided pest arrives at our garden at last. These little buggers look like tiny, white centipedes, that crawl around maddeningly fast, and eat the root tips of our lovely garden plants. And they LOVE soil that is loose and well-aerated, coincidentally, just like a garden bed.

I did move my newly sprouted basil out of the cold frame, along with the summer and winter squash. I can't afford any more time setbacks on them. Tomorrow, my friend Dana is coming over to help in my garden, and I will return the favor for her next week. Today, I built the tomato trellis, and brought out the tomatoes to harden them off. And I rescued the lettuce starts, which were suffering the earwig treatment.

Pests are a funny thing. For me, they invite an inquiry into methods and wondering if I'm approaching things the proper way overall. And desperation leads to strange contemplations, such as, should I commune with the gophers, and plant them their own veggie garden, in hopes they will leave mine alone? If my soil was really healthy, would the plants grow so fast gophers couldn't harm them? What about those symphylans? Mostly, at this point I'm grateful that I purchased a CSA share for this season!

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Good question about gophers and if one should let them take their share. I talk to a lot of folks about gophers and also have farmed for many years. My thoughts are that if you can not fence them out somehow (there are directions on my web site) you will have to "manage the herd". The best method I have come across is the Cinch surface trapping method and if you master this, gophers are easy to handle. See my site for tips and information.