The squirrel is avoiding my garden, the birds have nested elsewhere — and now the wasps have invaded. Every year, I get a new foe to battle against in the garden.
I have a mini-potager on my balcony, which measures some 40 square feet. I grow herbs, tomatoes, peppers and a tiny crop of snacking vegies like radishes and carrots. When I started pot-gardening, I was the only one in my complex who grew plants in this way. The most other renters did was plant a couple of begonias or geraniums in a window box or hanging basket.
Now, a number of my neighbors have tomatoes, peppers, herbs and even an apple tree in a pot. The railings on many units are lined with bright flowers and long, waving vines. It makes our complex into a little, old-fashioned neighborhood.
But I have something unique in my garden. In addition to the plants, I also grow an adventure — because every year, I face off against a foe determined to get to the harvest before I do. My supervillains come from a rotating roster — squirrels, then birds, then squirrels.
Some years, the birds will try to eat everything before I can even begin to harvest the crop, often taking one bite to sample the vegie, then leaving it for another vegie they like better. In alternate years, the squirrels shimmy up the wall, slip through the railing and fixate on one particular type of plant to be added to their diet. Last year, the squirrels ate tomatoes — and I’m not referring to the fruit. A squirrel literally ate a six-foot tall Cherokee Purple tomato down to the dirt, fruit, leaves, vine and all. Two years earlier, they ate every thyme plant I put in, and on their previous visit, they found the onions absolutely irresistible.
The birds moved on, of their own choosing. They’re now nesting in the open spaces in the brickwork outside the storage units on each floor, and while they do pull some threads from my coir basketliners, and peck the occasional tomato, they now leave my plants alone. There are enough bird feeders in our complex that the birds no longer lack food.
The squirrels are held at bay by a pungent ‘small rodent’ repellent that is, as far as I can tell, at least 90% capsicum. That’s pepper, extremely hot pepper, like, Ghost Pepper hot. I spray it on the bricks, and the bushy-tailed rodents will climb partway up, stop and scrunch up their noses in disgust, then turn and scurry away.
I thought I would be free to garden this year. However, I’ve been graced with something new — wasps. Big, black, nasty, aggressive, ready to sting me if I so much as put my nose out the doors. I’ve resorted to watering at night (just came back inside from doing that) because they’re not buzzing around my head at midnight.
They’re persistent, I’ll give them that. They started late in May by building a little nest in the far corner of the storage unit. I knocked it down, and sprayed the site with repellent. I didn’t really want to use the heavy sprays, but my friends come over with their children and I don’t want the rugrats to be stung. Two days later, I stepped out, was buzzed and looked up to find another nest being built in a different corner of the storage unit. So I sprayed again.
And found a pattern. I knock down a nest — and the wasps build another, closer to the patio door. As I’m writing this the nest is literally outside the door, just off the edge of the door frame.
Which is annoying, because my plants are really taking off now, and I’d like to go out and get some pictures to post. I picked up these interesting cherry and grape tomatoes — Tumbling Tom and Window Box. Tom is a tiny plant — the height doesn’t get much more than six inches tall, but the plants spread, and trail down, and last year I got sick of cherry tomatoes long before the plants stopped producing. Window Box is new, and thus far seems to be taller and leggier. Still, it’s getting a respectable crop of tomatoes as well. My other tomatoes are growing nicely, and my peppers, with one exception, are finally taking hold. The miniature red bell pepper died — not sure why, but the second coming of the Flood may have had something to do with it. It’s literally rained 24 out of 30 days this June, and peppers just love the sun and hate excess rain. I had to move the pots back from the railing and into the shade to keep the plants from drowning.
Other than watering, I can’t really go outside to do any serious gardening, take pictures, or just enjoy my balcony, until the wasps are gone. Which is why I’m getting up early, to have the apartment just take out the bugs. I checked with the neighbors — and no one else is being bothered by them. Something about me, my balcony or my plant selection seems to have them focused on me.
Hopefully, though, by tomorrow they’ll be gone, and I’ll be able to take some pictures. Meanwhile, I’m occupying myself with making a to-do list — which is now up to seven pages. I’m going to be busy this summer.