Gardens Ablaze

A Gardening Blether
Monthly Column by Patrick Vickery
August, 2003

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A Critter Blether


There's a man in Alabama - 'Alabama Man' - with a large garden where he grows tomatoes, corn, peppers, green beans, turnips and various other vegetables. He's a design engineer by trade, retired, and one of the people who designed the moon buggy for the astronauts during their extraterrestrial travels. I remember that buggy well. Don't we all?

Now 'Alabama Man' has 'critters' in his garden, and these 'critters' are particularly fond of his green beans. In other words he has a 'critter' problem.

The first summer planting went well, apparently, with little or no damage to speak of, but subsequent plantings went entirely to the 'critters'. They discovered that green beans were very tasty, you see, and also discovered that his garden was a good source of supply.

What sort of 'critters' were they?

Chipmunks of course; yes, chipmunks in the garden. An unusual problem, that, although obviously not unusual in some parts of Alabama. Not the sort of thing, however, that I've come across in Scotland before. Deer damage, yes; chipmunks, no.

Now the solution to this problem was simple (no, he didn't enlist the help of his former NASA colleagues to dispatch them to the moon).

Trap them, catch them and then transport them down the road to a peaceful little valley devoid of vegetables. A humane solution.

Now this reminds me of a mouse problem that we had a couple of years ago. We were redecorating the bedroom at the time, you see, and removed ourselves to the front room for a couple of nights ("a mattress on the floor beside the Christmas tree" sort of thing) while the heady 'tang' of "fresh paint on bedroom wall" dissipated into the atmosphere, when we became aware of nocturnal rustlings in the vicinity of the Christmas tree. Mice, you see, and not just a few of them either, eating chocolate decorations off the tree. And to think that we'd blamed the dog. Silver paper on the floor - evidence of a chocolate-guzzling dog, obviously, obviously. We'd even put him on a strict diet on account of this. Poor dog. Quite clearly a miscarriage of justice.

Now there's a saying in these parts:

"There's mooses loose in the hoose." Or, "In the hoose, there's mooses loose."

But that aside, something had to be done. So we trapped them - just as 'Alabama Man' had done - using humane traps borrowed from the local school's biology department and whisked them off to a neighbouring village some two miles away. Another humane solution to a 'critter' problem.

Incidentally I asked 'Alabama Man' if the astronauts took vegetables with them to the moon (or any other gardening produce for that matter), the sort of question that instantly springs to mind, isn't it, when you have an interest in all things horticultural. Apparently they'd taken freeze-dried vegetables with them, he said, in plastic pouches.

So I wondered - as you do - whether these pouches had a label stuck on the back, something along the lines of:

"To taste in orbit, simply add moisture"

Now there's an interesting thought.

(Dedicated to the late Claude Green ('Alabama Man') Huntsville, Alabama, USA.   As well as NASA scientist and gardener - and a 'chipmunk- friendly' gardener to boot - a nice man with a well-developed sense of humour)

 (Copyright: Patrick Vickery)


A Tomato Blether - January, 2002

A Tree Blether - February, 2002

A Hare Blether - March, 2002

A Surreal Blether - April, 2002

A Slug Blether - May, 2002

A Goat Blether - June, 2002

A Half-Man, Half-Garden Blether - July, 2002

A Blaze Blether - August, 2002

An Inanimate Object Blether - September, 2002

A Notable Quotable Blether - October, 2002

A Plant Blether - November, 2002

A Compost Blether - December, 2002

A Copper Beech Blether (or a chainsaw pruning!) - January, 2003

A Heron Blether - February, 2003

A Bergenia Blether - March, 2003

A Rose Blether - April, 2003

Blether Home

Patrick Vickery is a garden writer who lives in the Scottish Highlands.  He runs a small perennial plant nursery and has one book published to date: 'In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden' (Capall Bann Publishers. ISBN: 186163 1480), a 'How To' book about the propagation of hardy perennial plants in an environmentally friendly way, and how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways for both expert and gardening enthusiasts alike - at minimum cost and in an innovative and exciting way.  And - of course - how to sell the plants you grow (should you wish to) to raise money (not a fortune) for yourself or a particular charity or cause. 


Patrick is married with three children, lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world, uses a raised bed system of propagation and has two dogs, a cat and two goats. His second book - 'Gardening Tales - Blethers and Grunts' - a collection of anecdotal tales concentrating on the more humorous side of gardening (particularly the things that go wrong!) has recently been completed.


Patrick's book can be bought from an absolutely fascinating website full of gardening, herbal, mystical, and magical books that one would never find anywhere else.  The address is

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