Garden Diary of the Doomed
By Pat Neal
Gardening can be a challenge that’s made even more difficult when something miraculously pops out of the ground. From then on, it’s a question of eternal vigilance to protect the garden from enemies both foreign and domestic. The first thing to sprout in the garden this spring was of course a weed. That made sense.
Our weeds are specially adapted to outgrow anything edible in a wet, cold spring. Weeds are one thing but these aggressive intruders were like the endless sequels of a horror movie called, “Revenge of the Blackberries,” featuring the invasive weed that refused to die. Even if you dig them out to the tiniest root, what is left will shoot out of the ground at the first opportunity looking like you just did it a favor. You did. With all that fancy top soil, mulch, fertilizer, water and not to mention blood, sweat, and tears you put in the garden, you just made a blackberry paradise.
Once the blackberries were vanquished yet another even more sinister threat to a secure food supply reared its ugly head. Only they didn’t have a head. They didn’t even have brains so when I tried to outsmart them it didn’t work.
They were ravenous, cunning masters of stealth and camouflage. Preferring to do their dirty work in the dark of a rainy night retreating to their hidden refuge before the light of day. Evidence of their passing however was plain to see. The plants were ragged and covered with slime. The first casualty was the basil. A staple in so many recipes, basil is an aromatic herb that served as ground zero for a garden variety Armageddon.
The basil seeds refused to sprout so I cheated and planted some store-bought seedlings. Only to watch them slowly stripped of their leaves in a nightly feast of destruction. Standing guard on the basil outside at night in the rain with a flashlight, I spotted the mysterious reason for my gardening heartbreak, slugs.
It’s hard to imagine a more sinister disgusting critter. The big slugs are the most noticeable. Trailing a thin layer of slime and piles of dung as they crawl along the ground, but they have so many other amazing skills. Slugs are great tree climbers. They like to lay their eggs in the moss that blankets the trees of the rainforest.
This little-known fact was news to the cast of a certain reality TV show filmed in Forks a few years ago. The star of the show thought it was a good idea to gather moss from trees and squeeze the water out of it for a cool drink. This was a bad idea. Even if the moss wasn’t full of baby slugs. Some of the cast and crew got sick trying this wilderness trick. That’s entertainment!
But the fact is slugs are seldom entertaining. Except for the time a fellow camper in the rainforest decided to sleep out under the stars next to the campfire. Morning found our camper sleeping late. With a large banana slug crawling across his forehead.
There’s nothing funny about having slugs in the garden. It was a daily battle that the slugs were winning. I tried squishing the slugs. They only seemed to multiply. I tried setting out little slug traps made with saucers full of beer. The slugs were supposed to drink the beer, get sloshed, and drown. Just my luck, these slugs didn’t drink.
Eventually, I discovered a surefire slug strategy that allowed me to sleep at night. I gave up and went to the store and bought some basil.