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Columns

June 28, 2008

Gardens, too, need protecting

I was planning to wait until harvest time to report on the results of my vegetable-gardening experiment.

I figured it was a simple before-and-after story, with nothing much to say during the in-between phase, when my plants would either be growing into real, live food-producing machines or shriveling up and turning brown.

What I didn't figure on was Chuck.

Things were going reasonably well. Seeds were sprouting, plants were getting taller, and the rain was helping me out. Then one morning, I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed that the garden suddenly looked sparse.

Where were those leafy-green broccoli plants in the front? They'd been my biggest success: the first vegetable plants I'd ever grown from seed, the biggest plants in the garden, a daily reason to hope that I might actually be growing a green thumb.

I walked outside for a closer look _ and discovered that all five plants had been hacked down. Every bit of every leaf was gone, and the stems were neatly clipped, as if with garden shears, to a few inches from the ground. There were no footprints or tracks that I could see, no half-eaten leaves, no evidence of any kind.

I briefly considered the possibility that my-sister-in-law, an avid gardener, might have stopped over and done me a favor. For all I knew, there was some time-tested broccoli protocol, widely known among experienced gardeners, of course, for cutting back the stalks just when they seemed to be thriving, to ensure a bumper crop.

That evening, I planted six cauliflower plants next to the fallen broccoli. Three days later, the cauliflower plants vanished, with the exact same MO.

I caught the thief in the act when I came out to make coffee the next morning. A big, fat woodchuck was standing up on his hind legs in the back of the garden, about to take a bite out of a butternut squash leaf.

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