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Kip Anderson
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June: Fighting Nature's Villains

Kip gets poetic about the eternal struggle to protect the garden from Nature's sneakiest thieves
by Kip Anderson

For northern gardeners, early June is when the stage is set for the harvest that will play out in late summer and fall. If you have prepared well and are able to put everything in place by the first week of the month, then hopes for a bountiful yield later on stand the best chance of being fulfilled. Here in eastern Massachusetts (zone 5-6) timing is everything — the week before and the week after June 1 are generally the first and the last opportunity for getting most warm-weather crops in the ground: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash and melons.

Of course insects and microorganisms that cause plant disease are standing in the wings, waiting to take advantage of all your hard work. One must be vigilant, and persevere — and be prepared to suffer some ...

Growing Pains

"Let's grow some vegetables." It sounded good
at first, so we prepared the soil the way
the clothbound garden book advised we should,
then sowed our seeds and set out plants the day

and month they indicated on their chart.
The seeds emerged on schedule, all the plants
took root, and waiting seemed the hardest part ...
until one morning we observed by chance

the perforated leaves with here and there
a nibbled edge. "A dose of rotenone
will put a stop to that, so don't despair,"
our neighbor told us in a knowing tone,

and he was right. Around the end of June
the woodchucks found us, taking all the peas
and cabbages and carrots. None too soon
we set our traps, the kind designed to please

the staunchest bleeding-heart. We used as bait
plain peanut butter, finding that our apt
solution raised more issues. We could wait
until they starved to death where they were trapped

or ... you know what. It was illegal to
transport them, but we did it anyway,
since there was meager sport in shooting through
a cage. They'd spared the eggplants and toma-

toes, leaving us a little bit of hope,
but then we noticed that the leaves on all
the Better Boys were turning yellow, taupe,
and finally a shriveled brown. The call

we made to the Extension Service went
unanswered, but our neighbor helped us right
away, informing us, when he had bent
to take a look, "Too bad — a fungal blight."

If what you're looking for is to abate
your boredom or to sate an appetite
for existential pain, then cultivate
a garden: challenge Nature to a fight.

— C. B. Anderson

Nobody said it would be easy. The qualities that people admire in food crops are the very same that make these crops so attractive to insects and other marauders. Once the methods of control are mastered, however, the resultant harvest will taste all the sweeter.

Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.

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Published August 31, 2007