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uninvited greenhouse visitors

July 22, 2011

in addition to a lot harvesting for the csa, i have been busy over the past month and a half sowing the our summer and fall plantings in the greenhouse — a whole range of brassicas (kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi…) i sowed in june are waiting to be transplanted now, and more successions of beets, lettuce, cucumbers, summer squash and basil will be ready soon.

the mass of 70+ flats of brassicas i sowed in mid-june germinated without a hitch, but when the summer squash was due to come up, i noticed some flats looked unusual — some cells had seedlings germinating normally, but in other cells it looked like the seeds had been removed. the next day some of the germinated seeds had been pulled out of the soil, radicles out in air, and others were chewed off at the stem. looking under the bench, i saw little piles of squash seeds and hulls, and confirmed that mice were at work.

in just 48 hours they managed to pull out more than three quarters of the 150 zucchini seeds, though they left most of the yellow squash alone. as soon as i discovered the source of the problem, i set out 2 traps, and caught one mouse the first night.

a few days later, i sowed 1700 bean seeds in flats, after two successions of beans we direct sowed in the field failed to thrive. i also sowed 3 new flats of zucchini to replace the earlier planting, and covered them to try to keep the mice off. the beans and new zucchini seemed to come up better than the first round of squash, although there was still some suspicious disturbance to the soil here and there. i kept the traps out just in case, and i did catch one another mouse, but since then there have been no more.

all this is really just lead up to what happened after i got rid of the mice. as i was watering the flats of brassicas and beets over the next two weeks, i started noticing some out of place cotyledons among the otherwise homogeneous flats. every day, a few more big broad squash and bean leaves would appear, all over the greenhouse.

as it turns out, the mice probably ate very few of the seeds. instead, they took them out of the flats where i sowed them, and distributed the seeds to other, nearly identical flats, where they buried them again. soon after, the seeds germinated as rogue plants, randomly scattered amongst the seedlings that were intended to be there.

i cannot really fathom the mouse logic behind those long nights of work, moving seeds from one little pocket of soil to another. why exactly is it better to have these seeds buried all over the place than in one concentrated stash? whatever the reason, i smile a little each time i find yet another bean or squash plant that has found a home amongst the broccoli, basil or kohlrabi. i may have ended their time in the greenhouse, but the mice still had the last word.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. cindy permalink
    July 22, 2011 12:34 pm

    how funny!
    Are you melting there?

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