By Phyllis Noble
I first met Doug a week ago, on evening Number 1 of the Gardening for Good summer program. Doug immediately impressed me as a friendly guy, and I was glad that we would be partners. “What would you like to plant?” someone asked. Doug was prepared with his answer — “Hot peppers! I like Jalapeno peppers!”
Rebecca, obviously primed with advance information, was ready for this. Doug and I were presented with three little pots of peppers, labeled “Purple Jalapeño,” “Bulgarian Carrot,” and “Poblano.” The “Bulgarian Carrot” was a bit of a worry until we were assured that it was really a pepper — a carrot-colored hot red pepper.
Doug and I took a little hand tool and went to work on our little raised bed, taking turns digging holes, tapping the plants out of their little plastic pots, setting them into the ground and then pushing loose soil back over the roots. This was not easy; Doug explained that certain things are hard for him to do. Digging holes was OK, but tapping the plant out of the pot was a tough one. So we each did what we could and before you know it, all three peppers were in the ground and looking perky. We had time to get some broccoli into another bed before it was time to head over to the long tables for snacks and a talk about the gardens.
“What did you plant?” each participant was asked. “I planted Jalapeños,” said Doug with considerable satisfaction. What a happy night, I thought. What a success!
That was a Thursday. On the following Monday I took an out-of-town guest on a stroll through Troy Gardens and stopped to show off our three peppers. No! No! Only the nubbins remained, little remnants of tiny green stems. Was it a bunny? Some smart little critter had chomped away on our dreams of home-made hot sauce.
What should I do about this? I considered buying pepper plants in the store and putting them in by myself. Doug would never know. But then… a) the bunny would no doubt come back for another feast, and b) an opportunity would be lost. Gardeners need to be aware of other hungry beings with an eye for a pretty pepper. But I didn’t want Doug to give up, to decide that gardening is a waste of time and no fun.
After a quick consultation with Rebecca, the next Thursday I stopped at Jung’s and bought three more peppers to bring to our gathering at the garden. They aren’t Jalapeños, alas, but their little tags say they are hot. Determined to outsmart Peter Rabbit, I also picked up some chicken wire at the hardware store.
Doug and I arrived at the garden at the same time. I took him to survey the damage.Rebecca pointed out that two of the devoured plants appeared to be sprouting tiny new leaves — they were alive! Doug and I planted the three new peppers. While I put up the chicken-wire fence, Doug thoroughly watered our pepper garden with the hose. We have high hopes and renewed expectations of a hot harvest at the end of the summer!