Whoever said gardening was boring was sadly mistaken. This week, two plant mysteries needed to be solved. First, I present the mystery of the half-eaten strawberries that littered the walkways, edges of empty plots, just outside the garden, and even on top of the garden gate. See exhibit A below.
Some gardeners noticed missing berries, and some found rotten berries at the edges of their plots. Our demonstration plot is near a gate that leads to a compost pile, and that’s where most of the discarded berries were found. We’ve had many wildlife sightings just outside of the gate, but the garden is secured by plastic netting with metal wire at the top. Scaling it would take some effort, but it’s not impossible. I present, exhibits B and C:
This family of at least three groundhogs have taken up residence in the compost pile near the garden gate, and may be partially behind the strawberry mystery. No one has seen the groundhogs inside the fence, but as you can see in the picture on the right, they have no problem scaling trees and shrubs. After further investigation, the garden steering committee believes that the squirrels are responsible for the strawberry theft, and the groundhogs are just snacking on what the squirrels drop on the ground. What do you think would cause the berry damage pictured at the top of the page?
Our next mystery is the appearance of several small eggs on the underside of our broccoli leaves. Fortunately, this one is a bit easier to solve thanks to several Virginia Cooperative Extension publications on common garden pests.
According to this publication on common pests of cole crops, that tiny egg on the back of a broccoli plant is a diamondback moth egg and can be found on broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, brussels sprouts, mustard, turnip and kale. I’ve found them on some of our kale previously, and have been picking them off as I see them. Once they hatch, the larva will eat away at the leaves and stems of the plant, causing stress and damage. Mystery solved.
To close, here’s our individual plant progress this week. From left to right, the giant sunflower has grown several inches this week. In the middle, see if you can find a bloom on our squash plant. And on the right, our butternut squash has spread significantly. Happy gardening!