Snails in my garden,
eating all the new plant leaves.
Slimy little thieves.
It would be wrong of me to let yesterday’s post, celebrating the first beans harvested from my garden, imply that I am some sort of naturally green-thumbed songwriter, turned farmer.
As I approach middle age, it is true that I have planted my fair share of vegetables over the years ~ but mostly between small suburban back-yard furows or within crowded community gardens. However, this year’s plot is the largest and the most challenging one I have even attempted. Perhaps that is why this week’s beans were such cause of celebration and reflection.
The truth be known ~ it has been a daily struggle to even keep alive what vegetables have sprouted over the past month and a half. My veggie patch has been more like a intensive care unite for legumes than a place of cultivation and life. As of lately, I have nicknamed my garden “Kabristan” (Urdu for “grave yard”). Each day I joke with family and friends saying, “Well, I am on my way to see who I must honour with funeral prayers today.” First it was the romaine lettuce, then the spinach, then the carrots…. Mr. Asparagus never even bothered to even pop out a sprout – cheeky little brat.
My estimation of time for gardening, based on the size of land tilled, was about 30 minutes per day of weeding in wet weather and about 30 minutes every-other-day during dry spells.
So far though, I’ve realized I would need to put in upwards of 2-3 hours every day ~ rain or shine ~ to keep things alive. I’ve managed to save some peas, beans, beets and a few tomato plants….with the cauliflower hanging on by just prayers and threads of roots. In fact, part of why I have been so irregular about posting on this blog lately is due to my excessive work load, trying to juggle music related production with house chores and my garden! There is just so little time to sit and write!
When dealing with nature’s ways, blame for things not going our way can never be placed on one particular source. In the case of my garden ~ both Creation and I have been in a one month tug-o-war, each trying to assert who is in control, with the result that we are both to blame for poor helpless vegetables being stunted beneath our feet. “We plan and God plans” ~ as has been written over centuries.
As far as I can deduce, the reasons for my struggles are:
1. My tardiness in planting. I was almost 2 months late in preparing my soil and getting my seeds in the ground due to a late return from America and the completion of a music related project that had me locked in my studio day and night for many weeks. Note to self: a man only gets so many harvests in his life…never let frivolous tasks or excuses jeopardize the planting of seeds.
2. My decision to use seeds for all the plants (especially so late in the season) when I should have used saplings. Foolish pride had me determined to grow everything independently. Since I was unable to grow saplings due to travel and hell bent on not paying money for saplings started in a nursery, I ended up planting late with seeds…. for disastrous results. Note to self: get over ego and seek help when necessary.
3. My furrows were too deep and I didn’t use compost to fertilize the soil. I was rushing like a goofy chicken to get the seeds in and when asked by several people if I’d churned compost into the soil, I just kept saying “It’ll be fine.”. Notes to self: Slow down… get over ego and take good advice when offered.
4. The field I tilled was of poor quality for vegetables. It had only ever been covered with grass, weeds and mustard plants and had never been properly tilled for a garden. Though I turned the soil as deeply as possible without a plough, my effort was nothing compared to the power of the weeds I tried to bury. That, combined with…
5. Late planting, on the doorstep of monsoon season, meant that the garden was flooded with rain almost daily/nightly for a good 10 days straight – giving weeds plenty of water to suck away from sprouting seeds.
6. Heavy rains also caused very bad soil erosion, exposing the roots and demanding me to painstakingly transplant almost all my baby carrots, spinach, beets and cauliflower sprouts. With each night of rain, more transplanting was often needed the next day. The shock of such an effort, regardless of how carefully I attempted to transplant, took the lives of many little plants.
7. My garden plot is located in a very moist area inhabited by tens of thousands of hungry snails. One evening of rain and those little gaffers party like there will be no tomorrow ~ devouring whatever they can get their munching mouths on.
I’ve had advice that a few bowls of beer set near the garden will attract the snails and keep them from attacking the plants, but alas, beer is not “officially sold” here in Pakistan and thus not possible for me to use on the pretty pests. The option of trying to secure some beer through the black market does exist, but to inquire would pose great suspicion on me as a new-comer to the area. Even asking about where to get my hands on a few bottles would start gigantic rumour mills ~ as nobody would ever believe that I wanted the brew for my garden snails, regardless of how I’d try to make my case for being an abstainer from the beverage myself. Funny how booze is such a taboo in some communities, but gossip runs rampant, intoxicating people with it’s suspicions.
If anybody has another suggestion for the snail problem – I’d be much obliged.
…So with spade and hoe, onward I go,
to fight for my veggies ~ day after day.
Chasing the snails, braving rains and gales,
just a waterlogged Don Quixote.