There are grubs in my radishes, teeming in tiny multitudes at the roots every time I push back the leaves. I tried to convince myself at first that this was coincidental. The high incidence of grubs in the earth right next to my radishes was only correlation. Not causality. They had no real interest in my radishes.
The first bunch of radishes I pulled had rough spots on their skin, like someone had run over them with a grater. I thought at first perhaps I burnt them somehow when I washed them off, that the water was too hot. Then that some corrosive substance in the bottom of the sink ate away at their skin.
Then I pulled one out of the ground that was eaten away in an interesting cut pattern, revealing the white inside. So there is no denying that the grubs are eating my radishes. The rough skin is the cumulative effect of tiny grub bites against that hard surface, the collective effort of many small, grub mouths. Eventually, I will pull one out of the ground and there will be nothing left at all.
I was involved once in trying to plan and manage a community garden on a college campus. We had an enthusiastic student as an intern. We debated rules and contracts, sizes and costs.
“What will we put in the spaces between the plots?” he asked once. “Maybe mulch? Or wood chips?”
“Why do we need anything in the spaces between the plots?” I asked.
“If there’s nothing there, people’s feet will get muddy when it rains.”
It was around that time I decided that helping to manage a community garden was probably not for me.
I have books on gardening. And the whole vast knowledge of the internet. I could Google “grubs in radishes.” I could do it right now.
Almost every year, our tomatoes get the wilt. The eggplant barely survive the onset of flea beetles. The peppers one year were covered in potato bugs. At some point, the squash shrivel up and die. The corn produces stunted little ears. The groundhogs eat most of the one watermelon that comes close to being ready to eat.
My solution to almost every plant problem is to wait and see. Give it some water and hope it makes it through. If things become desperate, cut back the hell out of it. If that doesn’t work, it wasn’t meant to live.
A partial list of plants I have killed: tomatoes (many), rhubarb, eggplant, kumquat, bay tree, basil, hyacinth, tulips, hydrangea, butterfly bush, roses, balloon flower.
This spring, we ordered a nectarine tree from a nursery. It arrived as a straight stick, three feet long, with a few roots dangling off the end. The FedEx woman delivered it at eight o’clock at night. The instructions said to soak the roots for 4-6 hours before planting. But no more than 24. I could have stayed up until midnight to plant the tree. I considered it. I’ve never planted a fruit tree before. Following the directions seemed important.
I didn’t. I got up in the morning and stuck the stick in the ground. There seemed little chance to me that it would ever become anything other than a stick.
I watched it closely for the next week. I thought I could see movement. A kind of pushing out at the buds. Then finally, leaves. The damn thing lived. For now. Someday, there might be nectarines.
None of us know what we’re doing. Some of us know more than others. Some of us know less. When it comes to gardening, this difference may not matter. Perhaps this difference does not matter at all.
My mother planted her radishes weeks after I planted mine but hers were still ready earlier. Was it the grubs? If it were, what would I do about it?
What I know is that the grubs are eating my radishes, but the greens are edible, too. And that so far, nothing’s eating them.