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  • Don't mess with my lettuce

  • First, let's establish the fact that my favorite lettuce is Buttercrunch head lettuce.
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  • First, let's establish the fact that my favorite lettuce is Buttercrunch head lettuce.
    I lovingly plant and protect these smallish, tender heads in the spring and enjoy it until the hot Rogue Valley summers threaten to make it bolt. That's not a very long season, so don't mess with my Buttercrunch.
    But a couple of weeks ago, while on my routine garden patrol, I noticed that one of the heads was badly wilted. In addition, another of my precious collection was missing. As I moved the wilted head, it was obvious that it had been sliced off at ground level. Not only that, there were teeth marks on the stem!
    "Gopher!" was my first thought, as I'd had a gopher in that bed last year until my teenage grandson trapped him and sent him on to his reward. But there were no mounds, the usual hallmark of gophers. I knew it was not a mole, as they eat only insects and worms. No indication of voles or ground squirrels, either.
    Then I noticed a little dirt mound in a depression in the soil. As I dug into it, there was my other missing head of lettuce! The rascal had tried to pull it down into his tunnel, but apparently it was too big for him.
    By the next morning, two of my Romaine had disappeared also, along with a few leaf-lettuce plants. Although no new mounds showed outside, some relative of last year's culprit had found a way to get food with less work — he just used the old tunnel instead of having to dig a new one.
    First, I harvested the remaining heads of Buttercrunch. Then Gopher War was declared!
    I was leaving town for a few days, but I needed to deal with this promptly or there would be no lettuce left. So, once again, I called on my grandson's trapping expertise to rescue me and my lettuce. He likes Buttercrunch, too, and loves trapping gophers, so the task was laden with motivation.
    Not everyone, I'm sure, would be happy to receive a text message on their cellphone at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, but I was delighted the next day to read the only two words it contained, "Got him!"
    While many of you have your own favorite methods of dealing with gophers, I've found that trapping is the most effective. I learned how to do it from my older brother, who was very successful at it. I don't like poisons near my food supply, and many home remedies used to drive the pests away are only temporary at best.
    But how were we going to keep the rest of the gopher relatives away? Although it would have been ideal to remove the soil from that raised bed and line it with quarter-inch hardware cloth, that was not practical in this case. So we dug down about 6 inches, laid the hardware cloth in place and put the soil back. As with all aspects of gardening, we'll see if it works. I just won't be able to plant deep-rooted vegetables, such as carrots, there. Oh, well. All the more room for Buttercrunch.
    Coming up: Drew Matthew from Grange Co-op will discuss growing ferns, many of them native to the Rogue Valley, from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, July 9, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road. Matthew will discuss how ferns differ from other plants and how to choose appropriate ones for your location. The cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 for information.
    Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at diggit1225@gmail.com.
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