Garden Pests

If you've been following my gardening adventures, you may have noticed that I've been using the word was (as in past tense) in describing how things were going with it.  There's a really good reason for this.  You see, as I was experiencing the excitement that I was growing all kinds of yummy stuff, unbeknown to me, critters were plotting the demise of my garden.

I definitely anticipated that the garden would be visited by some sort of worm or other leaf eating insect.  I was mentally prepared for that.  What I was not prepared for was this.

Carmen next to the RE-planted garden.

Yup, that is what a dog (Carmen) looks like after she's spent the afternoon destroying three months of my hard work and anticipation.  She's lucky I love her so much or she may have been homeless after this.  I came home one afternoon and happened to glance over at the garden.  I noticed that one of the tomato plants seemed to be dangling horizontally, and the tall basil plants were no where to be seen.  I stepped closer and peered over the little fence and almost fainted!  The garden was about 85% d-e-s-t-r-o-y-e-d.  My first thought was raccoons or squirrels, of which there are plenty.  But when I noticed the ripped out fencing in the corner of the garden and paw prints all over the place, and it quickly became very clear what happened.  Damn dogs!!

I stomped over to the patio, glaring at them and pointing at the garden demanding, "WHO did this?  Huh? Who did this?"  They laid there lazily pretending they had nooooo idea who this crazy lady losing her mind was.  Well, all of them except Ms. Carmen who happened to have an awful lot of dried dirt all over her front paws and nose.  And she wouldn't even turn her head in my direction.  She stared far into the distance in the opposite direction blinking 100 times a minute (dog body language for "I know I'm in big trouble").  "The very least you could have done was clean off your paws and try to look innocent!" I scolded.  All Carmen could respond was "blink-blink-blink-blink-blink-blink."

So frustrating considering we have this ginormous yard for them to dig and do what they want with, but NO, they had to take my one little corner of the yard and obliterate it!  My theory is that nearly every morning I spend at least half an hour in the garden.  I'm always really happy and peaceful there (as my friend Miranda says "Gardening is the best therapy") and so I think they can sense that and they wanted to be in the peaceful place too.  Ok, maybe a lame theory but it at least helps me make some sense of things :)

I replanted what I could but I lost quite a bit and my tomato plants were pretty traumatized.  I put another layer of chicken wire around the entire garden , but needless to say, over the next 3 weeks, not only her, but the rest of the pack starting infiltrating the garden while we were gone.  I repaired, replanted and tried to patch up the fence but they just kept finding new ways to bust through 2 layers of chicken wire.  I even put barb wire around and when that didn't keep them out (these Costa Rican dogs are tough!!), I really started to lose hope that I could have dogs AND a garden.  Then the hubby came to save the day!!!  He purchased and wrapped the entire garden with this strong, thick metal trellis type stuff.  It's been a month and they have been unable to get back in so I feel confident that I can go ahead and try again.  

I'm kind of right back at the beginning as far as the garden bed goes.  I still have some jicama in the back and 5 very tall cherry tomato plants, but everything else that was planted in the bed is gone.

I still had seeds left for more basil, cilantro, broccoli, snap peas and 3 types of yellow tomatoes (hello salsa!!) so I started over from the seed trays. 



Garden Update

Despite my best intentions at writing more consistently, nearly 3 months have passed since I've written any updates about my gardening endeavors.  Luckily, I'm diligent about taking photos of things to refer back to and recollect my thoughts.  If only I could get myself to be that diligent about the written word, eh?

Things were going really well with the garden.  By October, everything had been in the bed for about 2 months.  The arugula, Swiss chard, jicama, basil, jalapeno, and cherry tomato plants looked awesome!

cherry tomato (left), arugula (first row), Swiss chard (second row), marigold (center), basil (back left), jicama (last row)

The cherry tomato plants just kept getting taller and taller -- hitting the roof and flowering like crazy.    

This is definitely a good sign!

And within a week or so of the flowers appearing, all four plants were full of green tomatoes.  Yay!!

At this point I was patting myself on the back because I actually g-r-e-w something -- I really did it!  I thought this was all pretty exciting considering all of these grew from seeds I saved from table scraps. 

They changed from green to RIPE quickly which is good because I was way too excited to taste them.  I loooove tomatoes!! 

At the same time, the arugula and Swiss chard were really filling out.  I always buy arugula at the market and so I kept waiting for my leaves to grow as large as the store bought version.  But they'd get to a certain size and then wither within a week or so.  In a moment of sheer **ahem** brilliance, it occurred to me that perhaps the type of arugula I'm growing doesn't grow as large as the type that I buy.  So I decided to harvest it as it was and see what happened.



Apparently I was right.  They were not meant to be larger because after trimming all of the leaves off, they regrew.  Makes me wonder how many harvests I missed by waiting for them to get bigger.  Oh well, I'm learning.

I also trimmed up all the Swiss chard and to be honest, it tasted like earth.  I'm all for healthy greens, but they gotta taste good -- and my Swiss chard did not.  

Of course the next logical step was to combine the arugula and tomatoes (and lots of other yummy stuff) and make salad!  My favorite salad is a fine chopped mixture of arugula (check!), tomatoes (check!), raw broccoli, raw carrot, bell pepper, fresh made garbanzo and white beans, avocado, Swiss chard (that doesn't taste like dirt!), shredded red/green cabbage, and hemp seeds tossed with my homemade balsamic vinegar pear dressing.  Oh and I'm really treating myself right, it even has some goat's milk feta cheese from Rancho Avellanas.  DELISH!!

Oh. My. Gosh.  People, seriously, I cannot tell you how tasty these tomatoes were!  Sometimes cherry tomatoes can be on the sweet side, which is not my favorite, but these were just the right mix of sweet and tangy (more on the tangy side).  And the arugula (mouth is watering!) was so crisp, nutty and with just the right amount of that peppery taste.  The end result was definitely super encouraging!  Putting lots of love and energy into something and then having it give back to you in such a tasty way!  

At the same time, the rest of the garden was definitely on it's way to producing other goodies for us to eat.  The jicama leaves were creeping up the trellis reassuring me that somewhere deep below the soil a yummy, crispy root was forming.  The basil was getting larger and taller and was so fragrant you could smell it from outside the gated garden area.  The peppers were producing more leaves and tiny flowers.  I was feeling pretty optimistic about the whole garden thing and looking forward to planting my next batch of seeds.

But that's whole other post which I p-r-o-m-i-s-e to write in the next few days.  Promise.