Chipmunk Gardening (and June Update)
June crept in with little fanfare here at Willow Greens Farm, bringing incremental growth, some truly outstanding weather, and its share of setbacks and successes.
The raised beds continue to prove their worth, as we’ve had virtually no weeding and complete protection from marauding rabbits (it helps that we started with yards of locally produced, commercial compost.) The carrot bed is thriving with mounds of healthy greens over the top of (we hope) a good crop of roots. We broadcast these seeds in one-half of a bed to avoid mid-season thinning and the resulting invasion of carrot fly. All seems well, but after our beet fiasco, we won’t rest easy until we see a bit of orange. Alongside are the offending beets, now thinned, that actually seem to be bulking up.
Lettuces of all kinds are thriving, but we’ve had mixed success with the parsnips. The Javelins are great, but the Albions have had around a 30% germination rate. We’ll have a second sowing and you can bet the misbehaving strain will go in cheek-by-jowl to salvage some harvest. Parsnips are the best, and along with potatoes and leeks, they could be my whole garden.
The tomatoes look strong and brave and true, but are being quite miserly in their fruit production (lots of flowers, so who knows.) Conversely, several miserable little pots, gasping for water and on their way to the compost pile, are pushing fruit like there’s no tomorrow. It’s funny how a plant will react under stress. Cantaloupes and butternut squash are all transplanted, but I’m having a bit of trouble with the birdhouse gourds.
However, even if we were to spend all this time in the garden and it ended with no harvest, it would still be time well spent. Seeing the Pheobes (Sayornis phoebe) nest, watching the vultures catch a thermal, or hearing the meadowlarks makes it all worthwhile. I imagine that is called “perspective.”
Things also look good for the 100+ saplings I’m nurturing for the re-wilding portion of the property. They’ve doubled in size and I’m busy thinking about the ways I can protect them from deer and provide the water they will need for the first few years. I hope to supplement these with another batch next spring. This comes on the heels of a quasi-permanent decision to avoid livestock farming. Depending on your perspective, seven acres is either a vast expanse or a tiny patch, and once you start running fence lines for sheep, the aesthetics quickly become compromised. So more trees it is.
Now I believe chipmunks represent all that is good and right in the world, and far be it from me to question their motives. So as I found scores of new seedlings popping up around the White Garden, particularly in areas of new planting, they were way down my list of suspects. I always assumed that as they Hoovered up seeds on the terrace they were storing them in some underground Aladdin’s Cave providing them with a cushy life in the winter months. But alas, further inspection of these little food forests reveals that they are masses of young sunflowers or miniature fields of corn—both of which come from our bird feeders. Whether they find gardening a relaxing hobby, have been taking some bad advice, or are just a bunch of fatheads is anyone’s guess. All I know is that I have one more weekly task (razing chipmunk gardens) than I had before. Oddly, Laura seems to be throwing the phrase “Own Goal” around quite a bit these days.