Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Just Use Your Imagination

Even though Spring is here we are not yet truly into the full-fledged gardening season. But if your body can't garden all day yet, your mind certainly can. All you need is a little imagination and a small amount of inspiration. Like what I recently found in the Pest & Disease Guide section of the Gardens Alive! catalog - the latest issue of which fell through my mail slot just the other day.

Gardens Alive! offers a wide range of organic gardening products. Some of which, like lawn food and a compost bins, I have used.

But there are other items that I am just too terrified to have shipped to me for fear that the package will arrive damaged and I'll come home to find my front step under siege from either an army of "Grub-away" parasitic nematodes ($16.75 for a package of five million) or a thousand Chrysoperla carnea, the "best all-purpose predator".

Or worse yet, have a couple hundred thousand nematodes escape undetected in my house, establish a base camp, and attack....something. After all, these are not submissive little (and I do mean little) guys. These under-sized buggers are armed, dangerous, and spoiling for a fight.

According to Gardens Alive! "While other beneficial nematodes wait passively for their prey, ours move up to 10 times farther and much deeper into the soil. Grub-Away Nematodes also have a special "tooth" that burrows into their prey, allowing faster control of pests."

We keep our house clean and free (as far as we know) from things that would tick off a nematode. But I can just imagine the rush of testosterone that one million ready-for-combat nematodes, jam-packed into a tiny, all natural box can generate.

And the chaos and carnage that could result when they're dropped into the battle zone and can't find the enemy that they're looking for. Fortunately, while it doesn't specifically say so, I think they go about their jobs pretty quietly. (I mean how much noise can a nematode make?) So whatever bloodshed they wreak at least won't disturb our sleep.

But it isn't just the stuff they sell that attracts me to the Gardens Alive! catalog. It's the picture of the world they create with their product descriptions and lists. A tiny world fraught with danger and excitement. Underground hazards and dangers. Exotic, unseen (and virtually unseeable) killers and assassins. And mostly they do it with just names and minimal descriptions. The rest is up to us

For example, there is the Onion Thrip. "Thrips gather in large numbers on onion leaves, causing wrinkled or ribbony shoots to emerge in place of the expected smooth ones...Thrips are too small to be readily seen by the naked eye..." But we don't need to see them - their name tells it all - if you just listen to it and use your imagination.

We've all seen enough science fiction movies to picture for ourselves what a Thrip must look like - four long spindly legs, each leg fifty times longer than the only slightly fatter body, four eyes with barely a head to attach to below which is a crooked jack-o-lantern shaped mouth. They are silver colored - like onions. And mean - they make onions cry.

And what about the Cabbage Looper with its Spiderman-like lariats that shoot out from the ends of its twenty-four appendages to lasso and hog-tie even the most agile cabbage. They probably rush into the garden at daybreak like a band of Hell's Angels rodeo-ropers using the bright rays of the sun for cover as they encircle the half asleep cabbages hobbling, tying and branding them before the dew even has a chance to dry on their curly leaves. The poor vegetables never have a chance.

Or the Blister Beetle that seems like it should be fought with Clearasil instead of Pyola Insecticidal Spray. Enough said about that one.

But not all of the pest and disease names are off-putting. One in fact (other than the word virus in its name) sounds positively seductive - Cucurbits or the Squash Mosaic Virus.

Just picture the intricately placed, multi-hued pattern decorating the elephant-ear squash leaves as they provide shade and protection for a totally limp zucchini. This one might be worth getting - especially since a good portion of my squash turns up dead anyway.

They don't advertise the pests and diseases as being for sale but they must have loads of them in their test kitchens and I'm sure that they would make an exception for an old loyal customer. I mean, not all of us are fortunate enough to have such an exotic array of weapons of mass destruction in our very own backyards.

I could even use the "Instant Rebate Certificate" on the front cover - if I could work up the nerve to scratch and win. But truthfully I'm a little afraid to rub off the protective coating. With this catalog you never know what might be under it.

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