Setting Out

Well, this is it: you’ve started your seeds, you’ve grown them up, potted them out, hardened them off and now you’re ready to set them out in the garden.  What could go wrong now?

Just a couple of things: the biggest enemy of tiny seedlings is probably the cutworm.  This is the larva of a few types of night flying moths and like its name, it does exactly what it says it does–cut.  More precisely, it circles the stems of tiny seedlings and severs them.  You leave the garden one morning and all is fine.  You come back the next day and all you have on the ground are shriveled up, severed stems.  It’s pretty devastating, especially after you’ve nurtured your plants this far along.

There are lots of home-made solutions for this problem and you can google them as well as I can.  Probably two of the more popular consist of poking a toothpick down in the soil along the side of each seedling’s stem, and encircling the stem of each seedling with a tiny collar of cardboard or paper.  You won’t take this step until you’ve been wiped out by cutworms.  It hasn’t happened to me so I don’t do it.

I have, however, been wiped out by other more common garden critters digging to see what is under the plant I’ve just put in the garden, or better yet, digging up the plant I’ve just put it so it can bury its nut or acorn there.  Charming little critters.  I usually don’t take any precautions against this because I never know when or where it’s going to occur.  I just try to patrol the garden regularly and get the uprooted plants back in the ground.  They are rarely damaged by the squirrels or chipmunks but if left out in the burning sun all day while uprooted they will be.  So this sort of patrol has to be done last thing in the evening and ideally first thing in the morning again.  Occasionally I still lose some plants.  My yard is chipmunk heaven!

If you were so inclined you could sprinkle red pepper flakes around the newly planted plants.  That would probably help.  You’d need to re-sprinkle after every rain, however, so get a big, cheap container of the stuff.

Birds will also uproot plants if you’re growing something they like like sunflowers or corn so be aware of that.  If you plant sunflower seeds, they will almost never germinate in my yard–they squirrels will dig them up for food first.  I found I had to grow them up to about 12″ tall before they were left in peace.  And then once the sunflower heads formed seeds, they became little squirrel jungle gyms, with the squirrels climbing the stems and riding the heads of the flowers, eating the seeds.  It was pretty comical, but of course, not pretty, in the sense that the flowers were stripped of their seed before I or the birds got any.

And finally, if you are planting crops that need staking, set your stakes early and keep up with the staking.  It is so much easier to stake a tomato when it is young, than to try to pick up a mature tomato and try to mangle it onto a stake.  It tends to break, to coat you with that green tomato dust (or whatever it is you get covered in when working with tomatoes) and you lose an awful lot of your crop–if not your whole plant that way.

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