Nature Notes

Midnight Snack

Perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay a gardener is to eat and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Farmers and hobbyists alike take delight in watching smiles manifest after someone bites into their fresh and flavorful produce. Unfortunately, here at the Arboretum Home Demonstration Gardens, we’ve been receiving ‘’compliments” from unwelcome visitors.

"Skelotonized" foliage on our Edelweiss grape vine
“Skelotonized” foliage on our Edelweiss grape vine

An obnoxiously familiar guest to many gardeners in the region, the Japanese Beetle hasn’t been as bad as in previous years—but they’re still very good at making their presence known. These pests thrive in our climate because they have no natural predators and an abundance of food (Japanese Beetles eat more than 200 different species of American plants) to which they shamelessly help themselves. It’s not hard to spot the destruction of these beetles as you stroll through the Gardens of Eatin’—they eat leaf material between the veins of the plant, leaving behind only a skeleton of what used to be.

Though we’re constantly battling the beetles, there are much more destructive creatures who like to scavenge in our plots. Raccoons are no doubt the derelicts of the Arb’s wildlife. Their tomfoolery continually causes devastation to our plants and cultivars. Foraging under the cover of night, these critters eat our sought-after produce. There’s little we can do to deter them and it’s obvious when they’ve paid us a visit. Half-eaten crabapples and smatterings of seed-pods serve as humbling reminders that humans aren’t the only ones who like to share in nature’s bounty.

Nearly clear-cut row of chickpea plants
Nearly clear-cut row of chickpea plants

Although nothing is off-limits to the crafty coons, they’ve quickly established their favorites among the Garden of Eatin’ collection: chickpeas and corn. Most recently, one of the masked bandits made off with a whole stalk of dent corn after making a mess of our garbanzo beans; a very starchy meal for such a little animal. Clearly these coons have ditched the low-carb fad.

Severed stalk of 'Stubbes Orange' dent corn
Severed stalk of ‘Strubbes Orange’ dent corn
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