On every stem, on every leaf … and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
It was an innocent mistake, but I was pissed.
On a day over 18 years ago, my husband demolished beds of marigolds, Impatiens and petunias with one swoop of a poisonous wand. Despite his best intentions, the 40 mph Kansas gusts skipped over the weeds and carried Roundup to every little petaled friend I’d planted in the last 3 months.
I was livid…and 6 months pregnant.
Even in my angered state, I knew there had to be something more constructive than to hunt him down with a garden hoe and rat poison. After I lowered my weapons, I push-mowed the entire three acres with a scowl on my face and penned an article in my head.
I felt better once it was down on paper and buried in a drawer along with the Irish-German temper that has gotten me in trouble before. It was a first lesson in Midwest wind-carry as well as one in channeling unproductive and undeserved blame. Thus began the rich, compost cultivation toward a long, happy and *floriferous marriage.
My husband has endured 23 years of gardening whims, projects and pouting during late May frosts. I would never consider eliminating my beloved BD because he’s the only one who can move the big boulders, chase away wasps and endure the twice daily inspections I make him take with me during harvest and blooming season.
I rewrote the draft last week (from the wrinkled paper still buried in a drawer) and decided to scrap everything midway through. I had composed the original story with a voice that was sarcastic, immature and not very funny. The rewrite of this article comes from a gentler, kinder more grateful place with the sole intent of providing you chuckles and a reminder that the beauty of gardening is not just in the petals but of the people who live among them.
Eliminating Husbands and Other Garden Variety Pests
A gardener’s flower beds and vegetable rows bear a tribute to hours of hard labor, careful planning and dedication required to build a beautiful conservatory or plush hiding place from the world.
For years, I struggled to get anything to grow. Most of my gardening blunders were due to lack of experience and clumsy, novice mistakes. After a few years of practice, I got better and actually had a handful of leaves and tendrils of bloom to prove that my black thumb was turning a pale green. These humble trophies represented the hardy few who were triumphant enough to thrive in spite of ignorance, extreme weather and a helpful husband.
It’s the latter of the three that may prove your biggest “pest”control problem as well. Gardeners can spray bugs, pick off beetles and prevent fungus but there are not many legal options when it comes to exterminating a spouse who might also be the father of your children and love of your life.
These husband creatures are unassuming, devious and sometimes downright cute or handsome (dependent upon the level of maturity and/or stage of life). Some even lure you into producing offspring and can mount entire armies that will trample gardens for generations to come. In situations like these, science provides the most objective and factual
entertaining piece of information for pest control.
Cultivar: Sam, Rick, Honey, BD
Characteristics: Even with the most advanced removal techniques, this guy lives right under your nose and shares your bed. Natural habitats include: greasy garages, dark man caves and bathrooms.
MO: These inconspicuous giants start subtly by tossing Spring seed and shrubbery catalogs or unobtrusively picking a “weed” that resembles the Clematis you planted last Fall. Don’t be fooled by their seemingly innocent and humble ploys to assuage your anger. After a few lectures, they tend to back off and may even warn their friends about the “wife’s flowers.”
This quiet lull is almost always a planning period. A trained eye will notice them in the shed sharpening lawn mower blades, replacing weed whacker string and filling gallon jugs with toxic concoctions meant to kill weeds along with your herbivorous dreams. In one short afternoon, this monster can mow down an entire orchard of newly planted peach trees, demolish forsythia with a “little trim” and annihilate fledgling roses.
They never admit, own up or disclose that they were even in the vicinity. Instead, they’ll hang their head, mumble and hide in the shed until it’s time for dinner.
Plants at risk: Anything grown in the shade or sun. Basic or acidic soil beds are especially at risk along with those plants that are drought-tolerant or water-loving varieties. Particularly watch those plants that impede the path of a 500-horse lawn mower or itty bitty tiller.
Limit food supply
- Threaten to hide the remote
- Sell anything with a motor or blades
- Employ fellow gardeners who won’t talk and will help hide the evidence
Note: I’m happy to inform you that I successfully used a lesser known technique called ‘reverse psychology.’ Better known as letting him think that anything he’s doing outside is his idea and not yours. Shhhh….it’s still working and the efficacy will weaken if he finds out before I talk him into a flock of chickens.
That said, I don’t have him fully trained (note the expert placement among my seedlings):
If you can address the spousal issue of pest control, half the battle is won. However, there is one often overlooked varmint which can prove to be the most complicated and destructive destroyer of all. The techniques above pale in comparison to the mind and soul control tactics innocently employed by the following culprit.
Cultivar: Tanna, Dane, Mitch, Cade
MO: This cute little organism picks every flower, bud, or rose within in reach of their chubby little hands and will lay the specimen like a prize at your feet. They trample through freshly planted corn rows, dig trenches with heavy metal yellow toys and pee on the tender plants when the bathroom isn’t close enough. Often times they employ assistance from four-legged furry creatures making the duos virtually indestructible.
Control Methods: There are no methods proven to effectively prevent these little bugs from invading your garden scape. Diversion with food or soap bubbles may provide brief reprieve, but it won’t be long before they find another corner of the yard needing extra TLC in the form of flower and fruit plucking.
However, there is good news and a silver lining coloring your gardening woes.
Like beneficial snakes and spiders, you find organic ways to cohabitate with a husband, children and pets within the outdoor rooms made up of ivy, blooms and vegetation. In fact, you might even find ways to appreciate the landscape they lovingly infuse into your garden surroundings. My garden might not win any contests, but the people (and creatures) in it make it the most beautiful place on earth.
*floriferous: to flower profusely. Master Gardeners use this term when they want to sound smart.