The votes are in on this magnificent summer. Everywhere you go, people are adamant that this summer has thus far been 100% better than last summer. The sun has been splittin’ the rocks as each week rolls by, every day heating up to more than 20⁰C, even in the rain and wind! This is good news for every person who watched their gardens struggle all last summer. Crops and flowers are in bloom, local strawberries are already showing up in the grocery stores, and farmer’s markets are in full swing. With this bounty, however, come pests that will tear holes through your leaves, suck your plants dry, and even run or fly off with a tasty morsel if you let them alone. This month’s Twig is all about those nasty pests that tyrannize your gardens.
One of the most troublesome invaders is the hedge sparrow (Passerella iliaca), or indeed, any kind of sparrow. If you haven’t protected your crops with some kind of cover, they may eat your seeds or even seedlings. Other names for this sparrow are bobby-rooter, foxy tom, foxy rogue, foxy ruler, fox-coloured sparrow, and rusty tom rooter.
Other birds that can harrish you and your garden include biffs (Calcarius lapponicus), or Lapland Longspurs, that will dig out your seed as soon as you turn your back. Silken jays (Northern Blue Jays) can be quite noisy and brazen but they really are full of character and interesting to watch, as long as you can keep them out of the garden.
Goats, also known as poor man’s cows, can also be nuisances in the garden. While they are lovely to have around and are quite useful, they can wreak havoc in the garden if not properly contained. One solution to this problem is to use a yoke. Another way to keep these animals out of the garden is to use a spancel or you could spancel the hens since this word can be used as a noun or a verb. These methods might seem a bit cruel, but when you count on your crops to get you and your family through the long winter and spring months, every bit counts.
In open meadows and fields, you’ll undoubtedly have rats and mice to deal with. If you’re really unlucky, you’ll have to contend with rabbits as well. Snares, or slips, are a popular choice for catching rabbits. In fact, Newfoundlanders sometimes make rabbit gardens or a rabbit run. These are small cleared enclosures with browse, or shoots, twigs, and bark placed around the garden to lure the rabbits. Slips are placed around the rabbit run in order to catch the rabbits.
If you have yesses, or earthworms,in your garden, you can leave them in the ground. They can help your soil and provide bait if you want to try your hand at fishing. Lassy-bugs (lady-bugs) eat aphids so they are normally welcome in the garden. Other insects are not so beneficial; earwigs and hairy palmers can hurt your plants if you don’t keep them under control.
One of the most destructive slimy puddles of joy is the beaver thorn, or the garden snail, which is also known as a snagle, snarly or wrinkle. They can suck the life out of fully grown trees, let alone your cabbage and hostas. There are many ways to combat these awful creatures, including pesticides, broken glass or shells in the soil, cups around the base of plants, strategically placed beer, etc. Chances are, though, that they’ll still show up in your garden.