Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gentle Week of Gardening

This has been a nice week of gardening. The plants are growing well. In fact, they are thriving. The zucchini and cucumbers are offering up their fruit at a leisurely pace, and you can almost watch the acorn squash and melon vines grow. We've had just the right mixture of sunshine and rain. Perhaps best of all, even though I've been carefully inspecting the tomato plants daily for signs of the evil tomato hornworm, I have yet to come across one, or any other pests that need to be dealt with. Everything is growing, blooming, and producing, but at a gentle pace. We are still a few weeks away from the day when bushels of tomatoes and beans will demand to be picked and dealt with now--or else!

Today I saw a toad near the garden, and also a young praying mantis, both natural forms of pest control, and both welcome in our yard. We have always been fortunate to have a steady supply of mantids around the house. We even have pictures from when the girls were small of them posing with mantids on their shirts or heads. There really is something very fascinating about mantids, and while they are deadly to other insects, they are gentle to people, never biting or stinging. Once, a few years ago, I was walking through some tall grass and disturbed a group of mantids. I was surprised as they started rising up and flying through the air on both sides of me. As they rose above the ground, they were nearly vertical and with their large fluttering wings they reminded me of the tiny fairies I've seen illustrated in storybooks. I had to wonder if it was an experience like this that inspired someone to write the first fairy stories years ago.

I also recently came across a garter snake while weeding the flower garden. It startled me, but only because it was in a hurry to get away from me and into the shade of the crabapple tree. I genuinely hate snakes, but Nick reminded me that they, too, are a natural form of pest control. Well, OK, but it had better leave my toads alone.

Our dog Toby would like to be a natural form of pest control, if only I would let him. I have rescued more than one baby rabbit from his jaws and scolded him in the process. Now I realize, sadly, that this has been a misguided effort. Only this week a group of rogue rabbits ate my new yellow rose bush down to a stump. I have heard friends complain of rabbits gnawing on their rose bushes, but we have never had this happen with our other roses. It seems I need to learn to let Toby do his job, and try to look the other way.

Here's hoping you, too, are enjoying a week of sunshine and gentle gardening, free of pests and worry.

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