It is awfully early in the gardening year to be facing discouragement. I leave flats of perfectly beautiful seedlings sitting here and there. They await the possibility that I have a moment to get them into the beds. Finally, I painstakingly divide and transplant, crawling along on my aging knees. Almost without exception that very night something eats them. I think it may be flea beetles. There are tiny holes in every leaf. This has been going on for weeks — cabbages, kale, collards, artichokes, and even a very early planting of green beans. It is difficult to see the holes in the beans because a rabbit, I believe, has eaten most of the baby leaves. I think he actually lives in the fenced-in plot.
I have heard that flea beetles live in cool soil and are not a problem in summer. However, I did see a white cabbage moth yesterday. I imagine they will take over dining any minute.
I mixed some kaolin clay into a watering can and sloshed it about. Supposedly, the clay dries on the plant, creating a coating that the pests dislike. Yeah, right! We’ll see.
Next, I have voles. These are adorable little critters that are driving me crazy. They burrow into the mulch hay looking for the tender roots of plants. They are especially fond of grass roots. Often mistaken for moles, they are vegetarian. Moles and skunks will ruin a lawn searching for grubs. Then you pay big bucks to control the grubs.
The voles cannot be poisoned. I’ve tried. They seem to avoid traps, also tried. My garden is located some distance from home, out of range for my outdoor cats. The cats have performed an invaluable service over the years ridding my own property of rats, mice, rabbits, moles, voles and big bugs. I’m on my own at the new plot. I’m taking calls and letters with suggestions. Marie has ordered the vibration sticks to place here and there. Will be trying them out as soon as they arrive.
In an attempt to change to a more upbeat note, I’ve noticed several tree peonies in bloom. They only last a few minutes in the big picture, but are so breathtaking they are worth the investment.
How about the wisteria at the bottom of the Edgartown Road? It has almost reached the roofline of the three-story house. I love them — even the fake one at Calico Sue’s.
Marie and I each ate a couple of peas. The plants are beginning to flower and we found a few actual peas about an inch long. Nothing else has eaten them for a change.
We put in some peppers and tomatoes. I’m almost completely confident that we have passed the possibility of frost here in Vineyard Haven. Luckily it was rainy and cloudy during the full moon. Those clear nights in May during the full moon can be iffy. There is all that radiational cooling. I do have Reemay and my coal miner’s lamp at the ready if a freeze is threatening. It’s hard to know — the weather is so unsettled. Look at those poor folks in Joplin, Missouri.
Recognition is a big factor in the perennial beds. I have tons of reseeds everywhere. Rose campion, feverfew, verbena bonariensis, opium poppies, lady’s mantle and agastache are covering the ground. I move some around, give many away, and weed out the majority. Most form a carpet which will not grow properly. The purple Grandpa Ott’s morning glory will reliably reseed. It has a different leaf structure than the heavenly blue variety. Never trust the blues — they are probably reseeded as the heinous pink wild vine which can never be removed from your garden and will strangle other plantings. If you have it and mugwort, save yourself the aggravation and sell the property!
In 1966, I got my first “real” job. It was during a summer vacation from college. I was a junior caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare in Bradford, Pa. The experience formed my lifelong opinion concerning social safety nets. I saw how people were given such a bare minimum that they really became stuck in that system. They had no opportunity to better themselves. I saw that as no fault of their own, but of the system.
As luck would have it, it was the same year LBJ used his renowned bully pulpit to pass Medicare. A portion of my pay went towards my eventual health insurance. Here it is 45 years later and I finally signed up.
Now the same Republicans who fought so hard against the original passage want to dismantle the program. Many of my parents’ generation who paid into Medicare for only 20 years have reaped the benefits for a couple of decades. They, you guessed it, will vote the GOP party line every time.
I started this column with a spirit of discouragement and certainly have it now in terms of politics and my overall worldview.