Garden Update — June 2014
OK, confession time. I’ve been distracting you with all those flowers. Meanwhile, a battle has been raging in the backyard.
When last you saw the garden, there was a neat row of spinach, a messy row of lettuce and three baby potato plants. It was all looking so good.
Knowing who my neighbors are (deer, javelina, hares and rabbits), as soon as I saw sprouts, I began erecting the fence around the garden bed. I got the fencing all in place except for the gate. Not all of the posts were set in the ground (and they still aren’t, but I’m working on that), but at least the garden was — mostly — surrounded.
That night, someone ate all of the spinach. All of it. It looked like it had been clipped at ground level; the tiny stems were still there, but all of the leaves were gone.
I thought it was the cottontail from the front yard. Naturally, I immediately set the gate, and closed it. I kept working on setting posts for the fence.
Next, all the lettuce disappeared, along with a few new leaves on the spinach stems, plus one of the baby potato plants. The next to go were the tomato seedlings, which were outside the fence, then another of the potatoes.
Now because there is no way a cottontail could have gotten in, I’m beginning to suspect this guy: Harris’s antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii). In past years, I’ve seen these in the backyard by the dozens. I haven’t seen any at all this year, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve all moved on. They’re very quick, so it’s not surprising that one doesn’t see them, and they’re hard to photograph. This picture is from Wikipedia. Cute little guy, isn’t he? Please do not call this a chipmunk. There are no chipmunks in Arizona, as the Facebook gardening group will emphatically tell you if you make this mistake. Chipmunks have a definite mask instead of the white ring around the eyes, and have both dark and light stripes.
Anyway, there is a slight possibility that the antelope squirrels can get through the 1″ holes in the fence, so a more finely-meshed barrier is needed. So after all these losses I gave up and got more serious about the barrier. I got 1/2″ hardware cloth and set that around the inner edge of the bed.
Meanwhile, my planting schedule goes on, and I began planting green & wax beans around the first of April when the temperature started reaching the 80s: three plants per 10-day period. The first group went in next to the remaining potato, and they sprouted in a week. Yay! But I had planted them together, and it soon became obvious that they needed to be separated. Well, I had heard that bean plants don’t like to be transplanted (or moved), but as I mentioned, I’m not too good at following directions, so I separated them. They were indeed unhappy about that, and I have watched them slowly die.
Next planted was a group of wax beans at the other end of the bed. They also sprouted within a week. I planted these separated, so I wouldn’t have to traumatize them later. Then another group of 3 green beans on the other side of the potato. And yet another group of 4 wax beans at the north end, and then 3 more green beans east of the potato.
This brings us to about the end of May. The temperature is 100° or more every day. The garden is surrounded by a fence and the bed is surrounded by the metal mesh. At night, the bed is also covered by a net.
The potato turned into a monster. I’m extremely happy about that. It was so big that I think the whole bed could hold only six of them. It’s just as well they didn’t all survive, since I don’t think I would eat that many potatoes in a year, anyway.
The plant has gone a bit wilty, so I’ve tied it upright to keep it from falling all over the nearby green beans. It’s also starting to turn yellow underneath too, which is about on schedule since it was planted in the middle of February.
I also mostly keep the net over the one surviving lettuce plant during the day, hoping to keep it from bolting too soon. It seems to enjoy the shade.
That’s supposed to be head lettuce so I’m not sure that’s quite a success, but it should be edible anyway.
The original three green beans have died from being moved. The original three wax bean plants have disappeared(!). The next three green beans have survived in the shade of the potato:
I check the garden several times a day, while I’m out setting fence posts and moving rocks around the yard or taking pictures of flowers. One afternoon, I found one of the second group (of four) wax beans dug up and lying on its side. I replaced it in the dirt, but there wasn’t much hope it would survive, and it didn’t.
The mesh is undisturbed, and there isn’t room to get under it, so it has been a mystery who has been eating my plants. And there are no footprints! It does seem that once the plant reaches 3 or 4 inches high, it’s safe from whatever dastardly predator is finding them. Finally, there was a day when the third round of green beans just sprouted one morning and disappeared by afternoon when I just finally decided I needed to watch them all day to see what was going on.
So the other day, I planted about ten beans (of both types) and 3 peppers (the peppers have not been a success so far) and as I walked away, I saw my nemesis from the corner of my eye!
It’s a bird! Swooping in right behind me to dig up whatever I just planted!
So that settles it. The net will stay up all day until the beans start flowering or at least until they’re big enough that the birds won’t pull them up.