Friday, September 1, 2017
Late Summer is a common time for pests to make their presence known in the garden. Plants have been taxed near to death by their own cycles of growth and reproduction compounded by long weeks of drought and heat. This cumulative stress of relentless physiology and environmental extremes leaves the garden depleted and vulnerable to opportunistic predation, parasitism, and physical damage. Here are a few of the more persistent and serious late-season pests in my own experience. I don't have any advice or wisdom to help deal with these, they just suck. Sorry. If you'd read my book, maybe you wouldn't be in this position. If I'd followed my own advice, maybe I wouldn't be.
1.) Children – There's a lot of nonsense out there about encouraging kids to get out in the garden. It's supposed to be good for their development, self-esteem, health, etc.. That's great for the kids—I'm sure the proverbial bull loves tearing around that china shop, too—but this kind of feel-good outdoor activity does not make the garden feel good. My daughter is old enough to largely limit her destruction to the tearing off of random leaves for doll's bedding, pulling five-too-many carrots in search of the perfect snack, and repeatedly throwing Frisbees into tomato plants. Catch, tomato! My son, on the other hand, thinks the fragile young Fall and Winter seedlings are things to be hatched rather than grown and plays his part by sitting on as many of them as possible. He also has developed a taste for unripe strawberries and plant tags.
2.) Hoses – This is the time of year when months of early-morning hose-wranglings, kinks, leaks, and dawn-wrought (but otherwise unrelated) existential angst culminate in spasms of blind rage. Spasms of blind rage are not inherently destructive to the garden, but when said spasms are transferred to the long, heavy, irrigating whip inevitably in hand this time of year, innocent plants are battered, lashed, decapitated, and generally smote more often than not. So-called "hose guards" are a laughable defense. The hose can be guarded-against, the livid gardener flailing the hose cannot be.
3.) Apathy – Since it is ultimately by the will of the gardener that the garden thrives, when that will falls like unpicked fruit to shrivel and rot on the ground, the garden understandably suffers. The growing season is like a marathon, or, rather, like I imagine a marathon might be if I were ever to participate in one: halfway through I'm wondering what I got myself into, 3/4 through I'm eating leftover pizza and thinking about fantasy football. Don't judge me, gardening is hard!
Look for the first signs of apathy about when powdery mildew and blossom end-rot show up. Or don't. By that point you may already not care.
Those are the three big, late season pests. Together they should just about be enough to make you consider next year paving over the garden in favor of a world-class hopscotch course.
Uh, the hopscotch thing is my idea. Nobody else do that.