I’ve been fortunate enough these past few days to have a little more time on my hands than usual…so much so that I can actually spend time puttering about in the garden, as you can see from my previous post.

A friend started too many tomato plants from seed (despite my warnings that there was something about NJ that makes tomatoes thrive!), and now she’s been giving away her surplus plants. Good news for me, since I’ve been spending all my money at the nursery buying sweet woodruff and tansy and pennyroyal because I’m a big herb geek. As a result, my herb collection is growing nicely, but my vegetable garden is somewhat lacking. These new tomato plants make up for that.

You may be wondering about the red stuff under the plants: that’s red mulch, and it’s supposed to reflect red light back to the plants, which apparently makes the plant produce more tomatoes. I’ve never used the stuff before, so we’ll see…I did need some mulch, though, because weeds in my garden are vicious! And while I was buying tomato ladders, I figured I’d try some of this stuff and see how it works out.

I haven’t been completely negligent with the vegetables; I did buy some Boston lettuce to fill out my little kitchen herb garden outside the back door. I figured that was a good place to put it because if I ever felt the hankering for a salad, all I’d have to do was walk five steps out the door and satisfy my urge for roughage. However, as I was tending to my plants this morning, I noticed that someone…or something…had pilfered my lettuce!

At first, I thought it might have been another mistake by the overzealous weed-wacking lawn guy who destroyed my herb garden last year, but he’s the whole reason I put the little white fence up. Surely, I thought, even he would think twice before going inside a clearly designated growing area before laying waste to all things leafy and green.

And then I took a closer look. This looked to be the work of a smaller animal, perhaps one with a certain amount of intelligence and strength, but not a very good capacity for jumping over fences, because as you can see from the picture (if you click on the pic, you can get a closer view), the fence has been pulled out of the ground, and clearly with a certain amount of force, since Ray and I made sure those things were good and stuck in the ground.

Could it be one of the cats? Somehow I highly doubt it. Squirrels? They are pests, and omnivores to boot, but why wouldn’t they just jump over the fence instead of picking it up? An opossum? They, too, are pests, but I think they would rather just root through garbage or eat leftover cat food rather than go through the trouble of pulling up the fence. Besides, I’m not sure they’re smart enough or strong enough to pull up the fence.

My guess? A groundhog. We do have a resident groundhog in our neighborhood; Ray and I call it the “ground chuck” because I keep confusing the name groundhog with woodchuck (they both refer to the same animal, by the way, and yes, I realize that ground chuck is something one usually finds at the supermarket). Our Ground Chuck has been known to munch on the dandelions in our yard, which certainly has endeared him (or her?) to us. I know they do eat snails and grubs and insects, too, though, so they’re still beneficial animals to my garden, and I’m not inclined to go on the offensive with this guy.

I guess my only option is to either plant a whole lot of lettuce and hope there will be some left for me (doubtful) or just not plant lettuce and let Ground Chuck feast on the dandelions. We have plenty of those, for sure.

The Case of the Missing Lettuce
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