Jelly Jelly, full of belly, how does your garden grow?

Basset hound sniffing at the kale in chicken-wire cages

Within the few days since my last post, our flourishing garden is now bursting at the seams. In addition to our radish sprouts, our yellow and green zucchini, beets, beans, green onions, and lettuce have all made appearances. When they say 5-7 days on those seed packets, they really mean it. Any day now, we expect to see the beginnings of our herbs as well. Potatoes are hopefully taking root in our expensive new soil–growing vegetables ain’t cheap, at least in the first year–and our eggplant and strawberry plants are thriving.

One thing we’ve learned about gardening is that fellow aficionados are generous. In the past, even without a garden, we’ve received their overflow, but this year, they’ve donated the lush benefits of their hydroponics operations as well. Heirloom tomatoes grown from seed, kale for our salads and soups, even nutrient-rich soil from our friends’ garden if we need it.

Now we somehow have to protect our plants from pests small and large. First there are the bad insects, which we have banished thus far with the help of good insects, companion planting–even plants have besties–and soil coverage. Our studious kale plants are reading the newspaper as we speak.

Then there are the squirrels, which are cute from afar, but not in our garden. I have nothing against squirrels, but we are overrun with them thanks to a neighbour who generously keeps them in peanuts. They bury their cache in our yard, digging up plants in the process. Then they forget their hiding spots, often foraging in the wrong places. My keen observations suggest that squirrels are not very bright.

Finally, there is the peskiest pest of all: the beloved dog. I’ve sometimes wondered whether Jelly has iron-deficiency anemia because of her affection for greens. When we leave our grocery bags in our entranceway following a big shop, Jelly systematically pokes her head into each one scouting for greens, pillaging any leaf within reach. When we deign to store those greens on the bottom shelf of our fridge, Jelly materializes whenever the fridge opens in search of a healthy snack. Kale seems to be her favourite. Don’t worry, we wash our greens, especially before we serve them to company.

So why did I make the egregious error of placing our two donated kale plants within our easy reach, completely forgetting that Jelly would then have access to them too? (Remember, folks, I’m a novice, barely a preschooler, at this gardening stuff.) After a few drive bys–there goes a leaf faster than you can say, “Stop! Thief!”–and several more surreptitious attempts to score a snack, our generous friends loaned us chicken-wire cages to protect our kale from The Predator. Jelly still eyes the plants longingly but can’t seem to figure out how to knock the cages out of the way. It’s only a matter of time.

If Jelly does manage to break through the kale cages, our friends have promised a larger chicken-wire contraption to contain the dog. That’s a creative gardening solution. They must have gardening Ph.D.’s.

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