Monday, June 1, 2009

Tales from the Trenches

From the bean of Green Bean.


It is early morning still. Fog slowly creeps back toward the ocean, withdrawing its tentacles one by one through the suburban streets and golden hills. I ease open the door, careful not to wake the boys. They are still asleep and my task is too serious for interruption or distraction.

Slipping on my flip flops, I tip toe out the door and heft my weapons of choice. A sturdy metal trowel. A yellow bucket drafted from the kids' "sand toy collection." It's needed for more important duties now.

Hoping that none of the neighbors spot me in my pajamas hunting gear, I look for the first trap. I breathe a sigh of relief. Success. The upturned apple is so full it is almost crawling through the dirt. Sure, some think they are cute. My kids sometimes try to adopt them as pets - mind you that I don't complain because it is at least a few less in the garden. But let's be clear about something. There is nothing cute about the devious and determined roly poly.

In small numbers, they aide decomposition. Turn leaves and sticks back into soil. But in large numbers, they are quite simply an army. Mowing over anything - particularly anything young, tender and sprouting - that stands in their way.

Not to be defeated - or pushed into pesticides - I've done my research. Late at night where the blue glow of the computer is the only light in the house, I've read, reviewed and pondered my next tactic. I've investigated in the dark, while all my neighbors sleep silently, safe and unaware of the threat. You can sometimes see the golden circle of my lone flashlight bobbing amongst the bean sprouts and besieged sunflower house, scouting enemies and bemoaning victims.

I've fallen prey to less than noble strategies. Indeed, I've even employed diatamaceous earth which, least you judge me, is technically "organic." My most potent weapon, however, has been the seemingly innocuous trap. A simple watermelon rind or apple slice, placed ever so benignly amongst the severed seedlings of my front yard.

On mornings like this one, that melon or apple writhes with life, swarmed with black beaded pill bugs and even the occasional slug. I tread gingerly amongst the borage and sage, tossing pieces of fruit into my bucket. I'll shake the predators off later. The bigger problem, however, are the ones that remain behind, lurking underneath the trap. For those, I employ my trowel, scooping and dumping the loose earth, filled with the insidious roly polies, rolled into tight little balls. That only makes them harder to catch by the way. But I am undeterred.

Once I've finished clearing off the roly poly infused soil, I "empty" the traps, replace them amongst the targeted sunflowers, beans and watermelon, and release the pillbugs to the compost bin - to eat in peace. Things that they are meant to eat. Moldy fruit. Brown leaves. Crushed eggshells.

And not my seedlings.

I return to the house to rest and recuperate. Certainly, the roly polies will call in reinforcements. The deer may return with a vengeance. The slugs might form a coalition with the snails. Or perhaps the baby earwigs will resurface.

Yet another battle won on the road to a Victory Garden.


11 comments:

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Green Bean - Do you have any books or websites about organic gardening/pest management that you'd recommend?

Green Bean said...

I don't Erin. I usually search the Internet when it comes to a particular pest. I love Gaia's Garden but the theory behind that is to mostly plant a big variety and plants and the plants will take care of themselves naturally. That works . . . sometimes.

JessTrev said...

Erin - I'd look in particular for a book that talks about companion planting. I find that to be a helpful concept.

Green Bean - LOVE the roly poly talk. As you know, my 2 year old loves em. We sing to them at bedtime. Glad to know I was bringing insidious little forces of destruction one step closer to my plants every time my kid brought one home from the playground!

Green Bean said...

Erin - Jess is right about the companion planting. We've got Carrots Love Tomatoes and also John Jeavon's How to Grow More Vegetables . . . has a section on companion planting. It hasn't worked for the roly poly problem but I have high hopes for big harvests.

June said...

I would love to hear what companion planting works well for others. I'm trying chamomile and cucumber this year and would love to get more ideas. Now I feel guilty for all the roly poly fun I had as a kid. I had no idea they were garden pests! Here in Maine we don't have many, and when I visit my mom's house in Missouri, I have nostalgic moments with my kids and the roly polies. Yikes.

JO said...

wow, i'm impressed...just learning about blogs...very interesting info! Thanks

Daisy said...

I agree: the roly polies are only cute in small doses.

Green Bean said...

June: I'm still experimenting and cannot yet say what works for me. I did make out a chart, this year, with everything I planted and then decided where to plant what based on companion planting principles. Knock on wood but a combination of Liquid Fence and interplanting with deer resistant plants seem to be keeping them out of my garden. Of course, now I've just jinxed myself. Who can say what the morning will bring.

JO: Thank you!

June: Definitely small doses.

Milkweed said...

This post is FABULOUS! Great info and a great story! I've heard rolypolies referred to as beneficials and wanted to pick that bone before, since I've seen them swarming seedlings in my garden.

Good to know there is at least one easy way to combat them. Your method reminds me of my friend who lives in an Airstream who feeds the ants outside to prevent them from coming in to look for food.

Glad to find the green phone booth thanks to your comment on my fava post...keep up the great writing!

Condo Blues said...

Now I know who ate my pansies - roly pollies! We have tons of them here. Now I don't feel bad about squishes the ones that come inside my house!

Green Bean said...

Milkweed: It is exactly like the Airstream thing! I've been putting my traps around all the seedlings they seem to target and for the most part it's working. It may be a little too late for our sunflower house this year though.

CondoBlues: Aha!!! The culprit has been identified. Squish away.

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