At this point I am thrilled to be working on the market garden by adding a layer of compost. The next thing to do will be to add a mulch topper. This method of gardening comes from several sources, but the most inspiring to me is an article in Mother Earth News magazine that talks about preparing your soil in layers for the best growing conditions for your vegetables. Since I’m starting from scratch, I had to find my layers. The compost? No problem. There is a wonderful place just 10 minutes away that has the most beautiful mixture of compost and decomposed horse manure I’d ever seen – and smelled.
Like a mystical place, the mounds look inviting and intriguing, and tell you to “come hither”. And so I did as I began to spread the goodness across the freshly tilled soil beneath. I want to start with two sections that will grow a small amount of winter veggies and garlic for next season. This is much more than I expected to do this year… and so I am more than ecstatic. I honestly thought (by first looking at it) that this was going to take forever to get up and running. But it’s really coming along nicely.
See how good it looks… look how… uh oh… wait a minute. Let’s take a closer look.
What’s that on the left? Rabbit tracks? And on the right? Gopher mounds? AND IN THE MIDDLE?! DEER TRACKS?! Well golly gee, there you go. The three evils converged – right in the middle of my garden. Great. I began to look around the rest of the property to find more clues. I figure the hunt should start with the gophers since I want to plant this month. As I walk the perimeter of the market garden, I see a few more mounds and I think I have an idea of how large their compound is. Seems manageable to the naked eye. I begin to walk toward a planter box that my niece filled with flowers and looked like this:
She did such a great job and now I have to show her this:
This is just unreal. My mouth is wide open and doesn’t close for a long, long time. I then walk closer to the kitchen garden where I have peppers (hot and bell), basil and a roma tomato planted in a raised bed:
Deer eat peppers. Hot ones. I did not know that. I knew they ate tomatoes:
Sigh. I know I have a lot to look forward to with the garden plot I share with my sister, but this is a shame. I was so looking forward to having a few veggies here at my new home. The very next morning at 5:00 am I take another walk; my senses are heightened and my eyes are searching for the slightest bit of movement. What do I see? Two rabbits. One deer. A whole mess of ground squirrels. Fresh gopher mounds. And birds (looked like a thousand) bouncing around from tree to tree. After feeling so defeated I turn around and head back inside to go back to bed.
An hour passes by and I get back up. I go back outside and look around. This time I look at the plum tree, the chicken coop the hubby started building, and my tractor. I look at the house and swimming pool with the vision I have in mind for remodeling them. I look at the hubby’s future shop and think about all the great things he has planned. And then I walk out behind the backyard and stop. Right outside the fence is a little tree that stands alone. We had no idea what type of fruit it produced, because it was so neglected it looked as if it wouldn’t make it. But on this day I looked up and saw two little pears.
And then I cried. In all it’s strife it still produced something for us. It didn’t give up and neither will I. So off with the kid gloves… this means war!
Here’s one for the birds. These funny-looking blow-up balls will be the eyes in the back of my head. I hope they like it.
Supposedly these sprinklers work wonders. Like a battery of machine guns, they’ll be on the lookout for anything above ground. (But I’ll let you know if I have to resort to fencing* or not.)
As far as the gophers go, I read blog after blog, message board post after post, and all the experts’ articles on how to deal with the little critters, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that I will always have this battle with them. Nothing sounds easy or 100% effective. And since their burrow system is already there, no attempt to get rid of them is permanent because a new gopher clan can just move in later.
This is a solar-powered, sonic pulse device made to annoy the heck out of gophers and ground squirrels. I read the reviews on Amazon.com that the radius is much smaller than it states, but that it does work. So we put two in the ground about 15 feet apart and if it looks like the gopher activity is slowing down any, we’ll add more.
We also used a few gassers which works as long as you find and gas most of the tunnels and hope that the gophers are in the immediate area. But there is one very interesting idea that surfaced only a few times and probably because it is time-consuming and expensive. The idea is to shut them out with underground fencing. Sounds cool. The burrows for getting around and grabbing food only go so deep, so if you dig a 3 foot trench around the perimeter of your garden and insert gopher wire, then you can just shut them out. The gophers that get trapped in will then be easier to trap or exterminate. This sounds like an investment worth looking into and I’ll definitely keep it in mind.
I have to say that I am ashamed that the thought of defeat and giving up even entered my head. The ground wants to grow plants. Plants want to produce something. Who gains from it is the only variable in this equation.
*Update: Indeed we did install fencing. I found that the sprinklers work just fine as long as I use them in a smaller space and keep a large stock of batteries on hand.
Since I’m so ambitious in starting out with a 1/4 acre market garden, it only made sense to switch to the fence. I suppose we can surround the entire property with it someday..?