Tag Archives: snails

“Mysteries” of the garden

My cousin picked me up from work on Friday so we could check out the organic farmer’s market on scenic drive. It was a pretty small market, about 6 vendors outside Scenic Drive Convenience Store, at Scenic Drive and Upper Paradise Road. She’s trying to lose weight for a wedding in August by increasing her consumption of greens and veggies. She’s decided that heirloom vegetables are what she wants to eat. It was funny to note that she had no idea that I was using organic and heirloom seeds and plants in the backyard. She picked up some kale and greens from Japan (looked like bok choy and name begins with a K). I was happy to sample blueberry pie and apple strudel while she made her choices and I learned from one of the farmers that a plant I had picked on the trail near James street stairs was from the spirea family (he was selling some). I’m trying to see if I can root it for transplant.

Not long after we came home, the sky turned dark. Storm clouds rolled in and the rain started coming down sideways. I was disappointed. I’d planned to quickly plant another strawberry that I picked up at Urban Harvest on Wednesday, take stock of what was going on in the garden, and then head back to Toronto. About an hour, tops. It had been a long week of commuting after recovering from a cold that had kept me off work last Thursday and Friday and in bed for most of the weekend. I wanted to head home at a reasonable time so that I could relax and enjoy my weekend. However, I wasn’t prepared to travel home in a storm so resigned myself to staying the night. I was dying to see what was happening out there so when the rain let up, I went out to check things out.

Snail on the prowl

Snail on the prowl after the rain

The first thing that caught my eye was mysterious little sprouts all across my beds. And then I remembered that my cousin had warned me – “don’t blame me…” she had started. My uncle had decided before he went away for work again (he goes every other month for a month) that he would sprinkle down “mystery” seeds in every space that was unoccupied. This included walkways.

My uncle's "sprinkle" method inside the greenhouse

My uncle’s planting method inside the greenhouse. This is how I knew he was to blame for what I saw below…

"Mystery" seeds around my tomatoes!!!

“Mystery” seeds around my tomatoes!!! Argh!!!

Clearly he doesn’t understand square foot gardening method. And, as I mentioned, he likes to do things his own way. Well, so do I. I had planned to put some companion spicy salad greens and basil on every corner of the tomato plants (ie. 4 plants to one tomato plant) so I proceeded to do so. We’ll see whose seeds to better. Did I mention I was stubborn?

Some plants are doing quite well after about a week and a half. Others not so well.

Onions are doing well

Onions are coming along

Apparently I didn't need to worry about the zucchini

Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the zucchini. I’ll have to remove the smaller plant.

One of two pea plants coming up.

One of two pea plants coming up.

I was disappointed to find that neither the butternut squash nor the nasturtium had come up so I planted more seeds. Also, surprisingly, no borage! That stuff grows like mad. I planted a few more seeds near the strawberries. I also put down some spinach because I had seen in one of the companion planting charts that it was a good companion for strawberries.

This strawberry plant is larger than the first one I bought and has a small strawberry growing already.

This is the first strawberry plant I bought. It doesn’t seem to be doing much right now. The new plant I ot is larger and already has a small strawberry growing on it.

It’s a mystery why some plants do better than others. A combination of seed issues (eg. germination rates),  soil and weather conditions, water,  pests… Nevertheless, nature always finds a way to reproduce. I have a feel that although some things are coming along more slowly than I had expected, it will be a very productive garden. I also have a feeling that I’ll have to put in a lot more work than last year. Damn.

My uncle's okra are really coming along.

My uncle’s okra are really coming along. I wonder where he’s going to put them…

My uncle's section of the garden.

My uncle’s section of the garden.

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The garden has no end of creepy crawlies. There are the usual suspects you expect every year – slugs, snails, earwigs, ants,  earthworms – some of which are helpful, even beloved (I’m thinking about the earthworm), while others do no end of damage when you’re not looking.

We’ve had problems in the gardens this year with aphids and leafminers. When I bought my tomato plants, little green bugs that I suspected were aphids were hiding under the leaves and on the stem! I spent the bus and train ride home obliterating the little buggers with my fingers to ensure that I wouldn’t put them into the garden infected. That could have been disastrous!

Leafminer trouble on a nasturtium leaf

The whitish brown spots on the beet greens are leafminer damage

I’ve read that the least toxic and best method of controlling leafminers is to remove the affected leaves. Not a big deal. It took a while before I could see improvement in my plants but they improved. After our most recent community gardening day, where we work on the community areas of the garden group, I was tending my garden and talking with another gardener named Michael. He was able to tell me what was affecting my plants, which helped me determine that the blotches were leafminer damage and not sun damage from watering the leaves as I’d thought or potentially some other kind of disease. For his help, I gave him one of my many onions.

On Sunday June 3rd, while I’d gone on a washroom break, my brother came across the creepiest critter: a long, thin, white worm! Horrific and disturbing! Needless to say we rushed home in search of info on this awful creature. Turns out it was a horsehair worm, a cricket and grasshopper parasite. Completely harmless to humans (pfew!). My brother recorded a video, but since I haven’t enabled video in this blog, you can check out the Cricket infected with parasitic worm video on Youtube to get the full effect of the damage this little guy can do to its hosts.

Horsehair worm

After that horrific encounter with the horsehair worm, I become fascinated by this awesome snail exploring the garden.  So amazing – the colours and symmetry of the shell, the different textures (hard shell, soft body), his antennae (where my brother tells me his eyes are)… still, he would only do damage so I had to remove him.

A snail exploring the garden box

Snail exploring my garden glove

My brother said pick him up with my bare hands. Yeah, right.

My garden is always overcrowded because I’m too lazy and nervous about thinning out the weaker plants. What if I pick out the strongest one by accident? Or pick out a plant instead of a weed? My brother also likes to go with the “let’s just see what happens” method of gardening. Well, I’ve learned that this practice can lead to disease as well as overgrowth of weeds that can choke out other plants so I’ve had to learn how to practice tough love.  I can always replant more seeds if I pulled up something I shouldn’t have.  Tough love!

The garden post weeding and harvesting June 3rd

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