Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Growing a garden in the temperamental conditions of my back yard is challenging. There are the slugs and snails, of course. They invaded with a vengeance this year eating the tops off my carrots then boring holes through them as well. The holey carrots were the last straw. I am anti chemicals in general and especially won't use pesticides on the food I intend to eat, so I searched for and found a slug and snail bait made from natural ingredients that works. After several applications I've reduced the slug and snail population in my garden to a manageable few. When I picked my first spinach of the season Sunday afternoon only a few of the robust leaves had small holes in them.

Another crop flourishing in my yard this spring is potatoes. I have 5 different varieties planted and each one is growing faster than the next. The Yukon Golds are organic potatoes that I bought from Ocean Air Farms at the farmers market last fall. I bought more than we could possibly eat and they started to get soft and sprout eyes. I cut them in quarters and tossed them in a trench I dug. I covered the potatoes with some straw then dirt mixed with compost. The straw is supposed to make digging them out easier andndash; a trick I read somewhere. I was concerned about the dogs trampling-or worse, peeing-on my potatoes so we rigged up a little fence using bamboo sticks and string that seems to do the trick.

Like my newly-discovered relaxation hobby yoga, I ponder the same question about my beautiful birthday greenhouse: why didn't I do this 30 years ago? The greenhouse plants are growing like weeds! I sought advice from The Dutch Gardener and was warnandshy;ed that fruit would not set if it gets much over 82 degrees. On sunny days I open the door or the roof vent of the greenhouse to keep the tomato plants happy. I'm being rewarded by tall healthy plants with lots of yellow blooms.

The birds ate my first ripe strawberries-the ones I watched turn from pink to nearly red to gone. The biggest one was only half eaten so I cut the salvageable part off and shared it with Rick. It was the sweetest strawberry! Rick went right out and bought bird netting and some PVC pipe to hold it across the raised bed to keep our feathered friends out. The bird feeders and bird bath are close by so hopefully the birds won't mind too much. I love them dearly but I'm not sharing a single strawberry if I can help it.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at mthomasandshy;@tripandshy;licate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.