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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 3 (June 1, 1935)

Giddy Gardening

page 14

Giddy Gardening

Putting Garden Gangsters on the Spot.

Things are quiet in the garden just now. It is the period of pause when the turnips cease from turning and the radish takes a rest. With the exception of the somnolent drip of a winter leak or the muffled throb of a stymied beetroot, there is practically nothing doing in the vegetable world.

But is the go-getter gardener resting on his laurels and lettuces? Is he idly ensconced in the inglenook, dreaming of pumpkins so swelled that they have to be handled by a breakdown gang, and cabbages calculated to put a band rotunda to the blush? No sir! He is planning his winter campaign against the forces of insecticidal disorder among the rows and ridges of the ancestral acres. For, according to such authorities as Ho On and Un Yun, “You catchum sluggie to-day—you savem cabbagee to-mollow,” which is one of those inscrutable wisecracks of the East, so bursting with poetic thought yet stagnant with age-old truth. For how true it is that the lone earwig of today produces the crowded auditorium of to-morrow. And so the gardener who is “au fait” with his onions, and allied fruits, lies in wait behind the parsley to slug the slug, get the wood on the wood-bug, and generally waylay the gastronomical gangsters of the garden, before they can select soulmates and produce bed-loads of bugs and slugs for the spring offensive.

Science plays many parts, and research has not been idle in the realms of the rhubarb. To you, dear reader, whose gardening is confined to the idle petting of the potted petunia, it may seem simple to slug a slug or bag a bug; but the Men of Garlic know that there is a right and a wrong way of making the world safe for celery. And so one should study the lives and loves of the garden gobblers. You may imagine that one simply hits a slug a dong on the dome and leaves it for dead.

A Cure for Sluggishness.

But it is difficult to know where a slug's dome is domiciled, for it is practically all dome. Thus the scientific method is to make a noise like a sprig of young parsley behind a selected slug and, while it is looking over its shoulder, to fling a lighted match in its path; the slug walks into the flame and is burnt to death. This method is hard on matches, but, after all, matches are easier to borrow than cabbages.

Nail that Snail!

Snails demand a somewhat different technique because, whereas the slug is an all-out snail, the snail can be in and out at the same time—like a bad tenant when the rent collector calls. So the snail-stalker is advised to rap smartly on the back door of the snail's house and then run round to the front door and chalk “to let” on it. When the snail returns to the front and sees “to let” on the door he naturally concludes that he is in the wrong house, and immediately vacates. The snail hunter then seals the shell with chewing gum and leaves the snail to perish from exposure.

Whiskers and Earwigs.

When the gardener goes earwigging he changes his tactics. No doubt, perspicacious reader, you have noticed that an earwig moves with the swift grace of a homing hippo, or a policeman who has heard an acid drop in a lolly shop at midnight; also that it has that faraway look in its eyes common to dwellers in the great open spaces. In short, it depends more on its ears than on its eyes for protection. Thus the knowing gardener strews his week's whisker clippings in its path, and lies at the extreme end of his garden with his ear to the ground, exposed to the delighted gaze of the homing earwig which, hurrying towards its natural habitat, hits the whiskers head on and breaks its neck.

The Way of a Wireworm.

Wireworms demand a more subtle system of insecticide. Wireworms, as their name implies, have their own telegraphic code of inter-communication. They are too wiry to be readily destroyed even by wireless, so the
One of those inscrutable wisecracks of the East

One of those inscrutable wisecracks of the East

page 15 scientific gardener resorts to ruse to rid his ridges of these telegraph boys of the insect world. He simply digs a tunnel under the fence and tacks a telegram above it, reading, “Come at once. Mother sick.” The wire-worms, obeying their age-old instinct of maternal obedience, dash through the tunnel into the neighbour's garden and, if he is scientific too, he passes them on until they either perish in the Sahara Desert or die of exhaustion en route.

Getting the Wood on the Wood Bug.

Wood bugs are easy prey for the astute rhubarb raiser. As you know, patient reader, wood bugs spend their existence running up and down pieces of wood. This is their fatal mistake; the wood-bug hunter obtains a bundle of chair legs and sticks them in the ground at suitable intervals. The wood-bugs run up the chair legs, naturally assuming that where there are chair legs there must be chairs; but when they reach the top and sit down for a breather—well, this is where the gardener gets the wood on the wood-bug.

A Cent for Centipedes!

Centipedes present a problem which can be solved by psychology. Everybody knows that a centipede has a hundred legs and the same number of feet—unless it is deficient in understanding. Contrary to natural supposition, it does not perambulate with super-celerity, because it takes a good deal of thought to manipulate a hundred feet in consecutive rythm; it has to count its footsteps to see that every foot does its duty. Thus it is easily caught; after which the gardener ties two of its legs together and releases it. When it moves off again it counts up to ninety-nine and, when it puts down the hundredth leg which isn't there it misses its step and takes the count.

“The earwig hurries to his natural habitat.”

“The earwig hurries to his natural habitat.”

Turf Notes.

So much for the garden plot. Let us now turn to the lawn. A lawn is a plot (almost a conspiracy, in fact) which grows grass in the winter when nobody wants to sit on it, and withers up in the summer when the lawn-sitting season is in full swing. The common worm (or sward-swallower) delights to cover a nice smooth lawn with earth-moulds, until it resembles the floor of a conference room at a convention of chewing-gum salesmen in U.Say.. Of course worms are useful for perforating the pericardium of the greensward to admit oxygen from the air and beneficial juices from the upper reaches. A worm's life, in fact, is just one good turn after another. When it comes to turning, a worm is capable of making Dick Whittington look like Lot's wife. It fills itself with mud, worms its way to the height of its ambition, holes out in one, and returns for more—and so on, “add spinfinitum.” From this habit arises the adage, “Every worm has his turn.”

Turning the Worm.

But when too many worms turn simultaneously in the precincts of the paspalum they are liable to make a lawn's sylph-like skin look like an air view of the Tibetian border. The only way to take the wind out of the worm's spinaker is to creep out and turn the lawn over while it is asleep, thus confusing the worm's ups-and-downs so that, when it thinks it is coming up it is really going down; the worm thereafter keeps on going until it strikes rock-bottom and dies of shingles or gravel rash. This rids the lawn of worms until the next annual migration arrives from Wormwood Scrubs.

Science and Celery.

Briefly put, the gardener who refuses to adopt scientific measures is nothing more nor less than a boarding-house keeper for bugs. But,

Should he crave for crops prolific,
He must always be scientific;
He must think of ways and means
Of preserving beet and beans
From the raiders who despoil
Little seedlings in the soil.
He must sprinkle traps in glue garb,
Round the radish and the rhubarb;
He must use his ingenuity,
If he hopes for continuity
In the growth of roots and greens
From the cradle to their ‘teens.
What with all the seedling-snatchers
Who make merry in his patches
With resulting pain terrific,
He must be like I —