I’ve found a redeeming quality to the repulsive-looking, destructive garden pests that live in the soil of my raised beds. Instead of seeing them as existing only to destroy my plants, I now realize that they can hold the attention of even the most distractible toddler. Even my younger boy has fantastic bug-hunting skills that can be put to use in our garden.
We found dozens of these while digging in the beds, preparing to plant seeds last week:
I think they are some kind of beetle larvae, and I’ve been told they eat the roots of plants, so I don’t feel too badly that I let my boys make a corral for them and play with them till they expired in the sunlight (these grubs don’t last too long above ground). I saw a mockingbird having an absolute feast on them later after we’d gone back inside.
My older boy had taken great delight in helping me pick them out of the newly-turned soil, and it definitely made it less of a chore for me as we were working together.
These grubs – and most other garden pests – don’t bother me as badly as slugs, maybe because I’ve never seen them destroy a bunch of seedlings the way a couple of slugs can in one spring night. My boys love to slug hunt….we also hunt by turning over rocks and asking “Any buggy home?”
They love it — we find slugs, roly-polys, crickets, ants and the occasional big hairy spider. (One afternoon last month, they were supremely entertained when I went to pick up a cricket for them, but instead, when I opened up my hand for them to see, there was a large spider. I screamed and tossed it somewhere, then started thrashing about thinking I’d flung it up in my hair — ewww, shiver — I’m glad at least they thought it was funny).
I do feel kind of badly about squishing the slugs in front of the boys, and they’re not quite old enough to understand WHY exactly they’re bad for the garden, so usually I toss the slugs out in the road while the guys aren’t looking and let the heat of the asphalt and/or passing cars do the job for me.
Another great addition to our garden this spring is the low treehouse my husband and brother built right next to the raised beds. It’s in an old magnolia tree, and it’s not too high up, so they can get up and down fairly easily without us worrying about them tumbling out.
I also enlisted my older boy in planting some seeds indoors with me this afternoon. I tried using the little peat pellets, as they looked like something inviting for a 4-year old. Add water and watch them grow instantly!
How perfect….sure enough, he loved watering them and watching me plant seeds (the tomato, pepper, and especially the epazote seeds were too small for his fingers to handle — the beet and radish seeds are more his size, and later in the season he’ll be able to plant bigger seeds like squash, beans, and sunflowers).