Bug-free vegetable garden


Yes, you read it correctly. Our raised bed vegetable garden is now a bug-free zone. How? I simply used tape.

Although extremely useful in securing your annoying little brother to a tree, I’m not talking about gray duct tape. I used 30 feet of copper tape. The entire garden is now shielded by an electrical charge. It’s one giant bug zapper! Don’t believe I electrified our raised bed garden over the weekend? Just read on, Dear Reader; this is one shocking story.

My battle with bugs didn’t start last weekend in our backyard. It starts where so many stories do: a long, long time ago on an old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

For those seven magical years we lived there, Dad had a garden in the backyard directly in front of the swamp. He said whenever the swamp flooded the receding waters left a fine layer of black silt. Over the years it turned into the best garden dirt on all of Flamingo.

The swamp was also where the monster-sized, flying, stinging, biting bugs lived. A swarm emerged anytime my three brothers, The Sister, and I or anyone who lived on our street dared to venture too close to the murky water’s edge.

Dad’s garden came at a price: countless bites and stings. Each year Dad’s garden yield was unmatched by any other gardener who lived on Flamingo, and each year the number of insect bites and stings we five kids received was also unmatched. He said anything could grow in that dirt. Guess that’s why the bugs that came crawling and flying out of the swamp were so big.

For seven years my three brothers and I tried everything to keep from being bitten or stung, but nothing seemed to work. We also tried just about everything to make the itching stop. For example, Older Brother Richard said a thick layer of swamp mud spread over exposed skin would prevent the flying insects from stinging. Twin Brother Mark and I tried it.

That entire first summer we walked around the backyard covered in mud and were dirtier than Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic strip. Not only were we covered in mud, by the end of the day we were covered in bugs. Since they were born in the swamp mud, they were attracted to it.

The next year it was Big Brother James’s idea spreading garlic over exposed skin would keep the bugs away. He said he saw a National Geographic special and that bugs hated the smell. Who was I to argue with National Geo? Besides, if garlic kept vampires away, surely mosquitos would have no chance.

For the first half of the summer, Mark and I spread garlic on all exposed skin. It didn’t work. Then James said we needed to eat it every morning so it would get into our blood stream and make our blood taste bad. We still got bitten that year, but considered the garlic treatment a success. Neither one of us got bitten by a vampire. We also tried deodorant, mom’s perfume from France, hanging dirty socks around our necks, and lemon juice. Nothing worked.

Our treatments for bites were also unsuccessful. I can truthfully say a soaked rag full of paint thinner rubbed on bites is a really bad idea. Ice, peanut butter, butter, olive oil, salt, or black shoe polish also don’t work. And, to relieve the itching from insect bites on the arm, it is a terrible idea to remove the light bulb from a lamp, then lick and stick your finger in the empty socket while your brother switches the lamp on.

Fifty years later, I now know two things that will keep bugs from stinging or biting: an insect spray that includes the chemical DEET or just staying inside the entire summer watching TV as your kids, or grandkids, weed and pick the garden.

Back on Flamingo while us kids were battling our bug problem, Dad was in an insect war of his own. He kept a sock filled with Sevin dust in the garden tool shed. After each rain, he’d walk up and down the rows pounding the sock between his hands and making sure all the plants were covered in a white cloud. He also gave each of us a filled sock and made us help.

Luckily for us, Sevin dust is non-toxic for kids who decide pounding each other with socks full of the stuff is more fun than dusting garden plants. Unfortunately, Dad never found an effective way to keep slugs out of his garden. But he never tried electricity. Which bring us all the way back to my electrified raised bed, bug-free, garden.

A two-inch-wide strip of copper tape around the top of the frame is all it takes to keep slugs and other crawling bugs out. Seems the copper has a slight electric charge flowing through it, and a slug’s wet body can’t cross the tape.

This year I will enjoy teaching our two granddaughters all about gardening and giving them bug-free memories that they can pass down to their children one day, but I wonder. Back on Flamingo Street, if twin brother Mark and I wrapped each other in copper tape, would that have kept us from getting bitten and stung?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]