By in Gardening

A Time of Troubles in Tony's Backyard Garden

It was a time of troubles in Tony's backyard garden

Terrible Times indeed! Tony looked out the kitchen window and saw Squirrel no. 1 then Squirrel no. 2. They were having a good old time sniffing out what might be left from the acorns dropped in the Fall of 2016. Then Squirrel no. 1 slowly moved forward toward his target, Tony's only remaining green tomato on the vine. He headed out the front door and hoped he would be in time to stop no. 1 from getting at that tomato. Failure was realized when he looked and saw that that last tomato had been plucked off the plant and he became so furious at the squirrel not to mention a large black grackle that as right in front of the tomato plants and it flew away the moment he gave a loud shout, "Get the hell away from my tomatoes you stupid bird!"

He looked at the netting that was supposed to protect the plants, both the onions and the 5 tomatoes, and he ripped the framework piece by piece and then tore off the netting and wadded it all up in a large ball to put away until he figured what to do with it later if anything. Then while placing the frame poles against the storage house he saw that one green tomato. It had a big bite in it and it rested against the side of the metal shed, tossed aside for later by that squirrel. Tony picked up that green tomato, which would have been a nice large red one in a few more weeks, and tossed it as far as he could into the alley to make it harder for Squirrel no. 1 to find later.

The only thing at Tony's disposal were a gnome garden statue, a replica of a life size squirrel looking forward as if alert of what was in front of it and some aluminum foil. He placed the gnome statue right next to the tomato plant and the life size squirrel statue on top of the tray the gnome was holding, then wrapped up some rocks with foil and placed them each at the bottom of the tomato plants. Finally as an extra touch of artistic flair, Tony placed two very small garden angels at the base of two of those tomato plants, all devoid of any blooms or tomatoes, where a few weeks earlier, there were next to 2 dozen tomatoes.

The only recourse he had was to go back to square one. Take action against those squirrels. Too late now, though, since the tomato blooms had already done their job and that meant there would likely not be any new fresh tomatoes on those plants even if the summer were as long as it would be hot! The only tomato still with any fruit on it was the cherry. It had a dozen of them before the birds and the squirrels attacked!

Tony walked inside with mosquito bites on his right ankle. West Nile virus had been reported just that morning via e-mail link from the City. They sprayed for mosquitoes the night before in some areas and would spray again in subsequent other areas of the suburbs from sundown to past midnight. So, the day was a terrible one for Tony. He knew now that all efforts to save the tomatoes was in vain and to do any more tomato planting would be insane, due to the fact that it was now too late to plant them anyway. The next time, Tony figured, he would simply purchase a tomato cage or tent of some type to keep all forms of bird or 4 legged animal from attacking his garden plants.

Meantime, he thought about digging up the cherry tomato but realized those last 5 or 6 ones were still green and that was all he would have to eat from those. The thought of just yanking all those tomato plants up from the ground and grunting and groaning a bit might work off some frustration but thought better of it. There might be a small chance that the dumb squirrels might leave them alone if they were fooled into thinking that gnome or the plastic life sized squirrel statue resting on top of it's tray might come to life.

The thing Tony thought was, "Why bother? Those squirrels have adapted for thousands of years living in the same environment as humans. They are clever and resourceful. They might look for a minute at the gnome and figure it was just that, a dead statue that would not attack them or prevent them from having at those last few cherry tomatoes."

Did this make Tony give up on his Dallas backyard garden? Actually no. He still had time to plant some watermelons and cantaloupes even though they too would be eaten by the squirrels. But he never grew any before and wondered if he had a green thumb enough to make a good go at it.

The thing many people do when living in a city is just to buy tomatoes and melons from the grocery store or farmer's market. But Tony had a desire to grow his own and watch them grow from a seed or small plant to full maturity. It was a small passion. Tony grew up in a small Indiana town as a child and his mother grew plants in the backyard. They usually grew onions and squash. These were often dug up also but by a different type of 4 legged creature, their pet dog, a hound, called Apples.

Tony had once planted 2 peach trees. He managed to get several good and ripe Georgia peaches to let his wife make homemade cobbler and peach ice cream. But the next year the squirrels invaded the backyard. The old Pin Oak of over 70 years, was a squirrel's paradise. Due to this fact, when every Fall came and that old Oak tree dropped hundreds of acorns on the ground there were endless days of squirrel activity. They would try to get into the attic. They would live in the hollows of the dying Hack Berry tree in the alley next to the back fence. The next time there were fresh blooms on those peach trees, the hail storms would come and do terrible damage to the trees and cause them to loose over 90 % of their blooms from the storm's strong winds and falling hailstones.

Then there was one year that storm missed Dallas. The blooms were all full and produced many good green peaches, which one by one, were bitten by a squirrel and dropped to the ground until one morning, Tony looked out at the backyard lawn and saw literally dozens of fallen green peaches each with a distinct squirrel bite mark in them.

Tony grew to hate those squirrels, but he still had a moderate amount of compassion for them also. The squirrels were wild and they were eating to survive. Could Tony actually hate them for just wanting to survive? No. But he realized at some point that either he stop trying to grow fruits and vegetables in the back yard unless he came up with a green house or an enclosure of sorts one day, if he ever had enough money for materials and took time to build something that would more or less be functional.

Tony thought about just not putting out fresh water in those round planter drain bowls for the wild birds. The City continued to broadcast in the local news report that 'Standing Water contributes to the West Nile epidemic in Dallas and that residents of Dallas County would be fined if the Code enforcement people saw anything like standing water in a bucket, or bowl or bird bath and take pics of them and fine everyone for it.'

So it looked like that backyard was good for nothing but growing shrubs and blackberries that often became out of control and try to take too much space in the garden where Tony would prefer to have something nice to look at instead of a thorny vines that did only more to attract the wild birds until all the berries died or were bit off. Tony managed only a few handfuls of those ripe blackberries, not as large as the ones in the stores and one day while looking for some food to eat from the stock of refrigerated leftovers, a bowl containing all those ripe blackberries fell out and spilled them all over the floor.

Tony gathered them all up and threw them in the area where the blackberry vines were growing.

Foolish idiot, Tony thought to himself. I will never be able to grow a thing in that back yard. It looks as if there is only one thing left to do and that is, give up.

But after a good night's sleep, the next day, Tony told his wife that he would go to the store and buy some organic tomatoes, make BLT sandwiches, and buy some fresh organic blackberries and ask her to make a blackberry cobbler later in the week. As for the peaches, maybe he might just find a store that sold peach ice cream but that was very doubtful.

Sure, you can go to the store and buy them. But somehow, Tony had a desire to plant them and grown them and eat them after that. The whole process takes time and effort which Tony enjoyed wasting on the project as a whole. Somehow, just going out and purchasing food from another person's farm or garden was not as favorable a thing to do as to grow them on his own and see the results after all that work and all that time put into it, besides making a wild squirrel happy for one day.

A few days later, Tony looked up some squirrel houses he might buy to make it good for the squirrels but not necessarily so good for his plants. But they are all so expensive, he thought to himself, as if he had the money to spend extra on the same bad boys who ate half his tomato crop! Then after due consideration, Tony drank a second cup of very strong coffee, 'Black Silk' - the strongest one Folgers makes. So, there was another tomato plant getting attacked, even though he put the bird net all over it, and placed rocks on the ground around it. The only solution to save that one cherry tomato plant was to uproot it, place it in a large pot of dirt and move it to the front porch. It was done. That pot of tomato plant and dirt was over 50 pounds. OMG. That hernia was not liking it but Tony used his arms and his legs and knees to hoist it up to the porch without pulling a major stomach muscle. No pain, as it were, a lucky thing. Using string and some aluminum pipe to support it, having grown over 4 feet high since it was a little baby plant, it looked as though it would need time to adjust and Tony poured lots of cold tap water over the soil to give it a good gulp of much needed moisture. He would have to wait and see if that squirrel might try to gain access to the remaining 6 cherry tomatoes and new blooms coming out on the plant, and if possible shoo that terrible critter away before it did more damage. His wife told him that the squirrel might not bother plants on the front porch due to the heavy traffic in front of the house. That remained to be seen.

... to be continued. Happy Father's Day today, June 18, 2017, Sunday.

The difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes

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MegL wrote on June 16, 2017, 4:09 PM

Very disheartening to see all your crops ruined. My cousin had blueberry bushes in a tub. They had netting round them to keep birds from the berries but they were still disappearing. Then she saw a bird fly to the bush, fold its wings and slide down behind the netting, grab some berries and wriggle out the bottom!

lookatdesktop wrote on June 16, 2017, 7:32 PM

I may have to plant some cacti. At least they are heat tolerant and those nosy busy bodies won't like the thorns. Next year I may try just growing some house tomatoes that can live in the house. I had a blueberry plant and it dies from the heat of summer. They can't stand the intense Texas sun. But they sell them at the local garden centers in Dallas. This is funny because I think they would even sell a banana plant if they could get by with it. Imagine having a banana tree in the yard in Dallas. What a joke.

MegL wrote on June 17, 2017, 2:12 AM

That sounds like a good idea. Are there any prickly cactus plants that provide a fruit you could eat? Or even a ring of cacti around your tomato plants?

Last Edited: June 17, 2017, 2:13 AM

lookatdesktop wrote on June 19, 2017, 12:53 AM

I like this idea. Maybe it would keep those squirrels away. Good idea.