Healthy Beginnings

The Ultimate Pest

“A Rough Patch”

I’ve one garden pest that resists my best organic control methods. It attacks crops only at their peak. Early in the spring, if I thought there might be enough peas for a meal, half of the fattening pods I’d noticed the day before would be empty shells lying in the dirt. Mysterious holes appeared where I was sure carrots had been growing.

Entire leaves disappeared from the lettuce, and fat spears of asparagus would just be gone. Not even the zucchini was safe.

It is most active in the berry patches. I have no way of knowing how many jars of strawberry jam, how many blackberry cobblers or raspberry tarts have fallen before its voracious appetite.

I saw it in the watermelon patch yesterday. It was intent on thumping the biggest melon, so I thought I could sneak up on it and give it the big smack, and end the depredations once and for all. But it saw me just as I was about to strike. It wrapped its tentacles around my neck and gave me a big hug, and said “I love you, Mom.”

What could I do? All pests will eventually develop resistance to controls, and this one learned faster than most. Oh, it helps with the dishes and the weeding, and it’s generally well-behaved. But I cannot keep it out of the garden.

In that, my pest is much like similar pests. I read somewhere that when families garden, they are much more likely to eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.

It may be that people who enjoy fresh produce are more likely to plant gardens. But I believe it’s because kids growing up in a garden snibble. “Snibble” is a term my dad used, which combinesthe words “snitch” and “nibble.”

Snibbled food is always best, partly because it feels like getting away with something, but mostly because of the taste. Children who hate peas have probably only eaten those mushy canned ones, and never eaten a fresh one.

A garden full of vegetables is always there, and usually nobody is trying to make kids eat a certain amount of them. They grab a carrot here, a handful of peas there, and tomatoes when they can, and without realizing it, they’ve eaten at least as many vegetables as recommended.

As an adult, I’m above snacking my way through the garden. NOTE: I do not recommend eating unwashed vegetables. So I want you to believe that every time I grab a cherry tomato or a lettuce leaf, I go in the house to wash it, then bring it back out to enjoy in the garden. Well, with carrots I actually do that.

Berries and small fruit attract even more pests than the vegetables. My strawberries didn’t produce much at all this hot summer, but now that it’s cooler, they’re beginning to set enough fruit so that we can pick a small bowl of them now and then. But I estimate that only twenty blackberries actually made the thirty-foot trip from the patch into my kitchen.

That’s fine with me. Sunshine makes a better sauce for berries than any amount of sugar, and it’s much better for you. I only wish the pest wouldn’t always reach them before I do.

When Teresa Howell isn’t trying to get her share of the blackberries, she teaches English at Great Basin College.