It’s a fact of life that all animals (including humans) must eat. No eating, no life. But for some reason, in my garden this spring more plants than usual have been gnawed, nibbled, and chomped.
- A small plant of Rosa chinensis “Mutabilis,” purchased last summer and carefully planted in autumn, was chomped to 2″ above ground level last winter by a deer who found its little green twigs a nice snack. It survived and is even blooming now, but it’s half the size it should be.
- The potted delphiniums sprouted out beautifully, but sparrows decided their new leaves were a delightful salad green in March. Netting to the rescue!
- A tomato seedling was reduced to a stub by a slug whose presence in its pot was overlooked by the gardener when lugging the pots inside for the night. Amazingly, the seedling survived and has actually sprouted a new leaf, but I don’t think it will fully recover.
- A group of sunflower seedlings vanished overnight, eaten by something. Fortunately a couple of new ones sprouted late and survived.
- Siberian and Pacific Coast irises budded up nicely, but several buds were found on the ground or hanging by a thread, victims of so-called “climbing cutworms,” which are actually larvae of various moths. Like the other eaters, they dine at night. They don’t eat the flower buds themselves, but chew through the stems just below the buds. For some reason this is especially infuriating.
- The rose “Fragrant Cloud” for once escaped defoliation by black spot and developed several buds earlier than it ever has. Unfortunately, something drilled holes in a couple of them. Aphids invaded the holes and ants showed up to manage the aphids. Needless to say, the resulting flowers were rather poor, but there are some healthy buds developing now.
All this eating had me self-castigating for carelessness and resorting to defensive measures: grinding Perlite to use as a gritty deterrent around irises, lugging pots into the shed every evening, squirting deer repellant, and creeping around at night armed with a flashlight and scissors, looking for caterpillars. I dispatched several, and most of the irises bloomed well in the end.
Thinking about it, I’ve realized a few things:
- It’s not surprising that the fresh growth of early spring coincides with the emergence of life forms whose sole mission in life is to eat until they move on to the next stage, which is to reproduce.
- Buds are high-value items. Plants put a lot of energy into buds, so it’s logical that they would be targets for eaters.
- Once leaves and stems toughen up, they are no longer of interest.
- It’s a good idea to plant a few extra seeds, just in case.
- Most plants survive.