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The Reason Why There are Chopsticks and Tin Foil in My Garden This Year, and a Garden Roundup

Why is there aluminum foil and chopsticks in my garden this year, you ask? Have I started growing baby corn and bok choy, and turned it into a Chinese takeout farm? Nope. (Although hmmm…..) The real reason is that I’m just using some different methods to deal with garden pests.


Notice I used the term “different”, and not “better”. That’s because I know by now that everything in the garden is trial and error and I am one-hundred percent my garden’s bitch. (See? It has beaten me into submission.) Every year I foolishly eagerly plant my herbs and veggies thinking I’ve outsmarted last year’s pests, only to realize there is a whole new problem lurking in the soil just waiting to emerge  and deliver me a swift, garden-gloved bitch-slap.

For you Game of Thrones followers, let’s say I began my role of gardener as Theon Greyjoy, and am well on my way to becoming Reek (minus the whole episode with the…well, you know). And so this year, it’s fingers crossed, new methods, and lots of wishing.


I did not grow anything from seed. Ohhh you know I thought about it, but gave myself a free pass since I spent the better part of last year growing a little human from seed and while wonderful, that was enough pressure for me for a while, so I bought small transplants.

It also hit me this year that, since I spend a lot of time taking care of the garden organically and without pesticides, it didn’t make sense to buy plants that weren’t organic (duh), so I got my transplants from Windcrest Farm this year. They are a local farm here in NC (I wrote about them when  I did a farm tour a while back, here) and they have booths at both Atherton Mill Farmer’s Market and Matthews Farmers Market, if you are nearby.

If you are a regular here, you know I’ve had my share of pests in the garden, so you already probably guessed that I will NOT plant zucchini this year, because of those damn squash vine borers! Oh, but how I love those fried squash blossoms that the zucchini plants produce, the ones I stuffed with goat cheese and rolled in crispy panko breadcrumbs. Remember them?


I can live without them this year, right?

I will not plant zucchini this year.

I will not plant zucchini this year.

I will not plant zucchini this year.

I planted zucchini this year.

Ugh! It wasn’t my fault! A giant garden gnome barreled through my meditation and hijacked my thoughts with those fried squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese-y goodness. And, in my world, cheese always wins.

Back to the tinfoil and chopsticks. Mary, from Windcrest Farm, gave me hope and told me I can try wrapping the base of my zucchini plants in aluminum foil which *should* deter the vine borers from burrowing into the stems of my plants. Remember how ugly the damage is that they cause?


Blech. Mary also told me that placing chopsticks just beneath the soil will deter rabbits and cats from entering the garden and eating the plants/doing their “business”. She said the sticks make it uncomfortable for them and they don’t like the feel under their feet, so they’ll go elsewhere. If they are anything like my two indoor beasts prima donnas Maine coon cats, I believe in that statement. And so:

chopsticksFingers crossed. I also swapped beds between my peppers and zucchinis to hopefully eliminate the chance of pests.

Now, for the Roundup

I thought there would be no better way to kick off gardening season than with a roundup of garden-related posts. There are recipes, DIY, and some tips I’ve picked up while gardening over the past few years, which you can hopefully find useful for starting/maintaining your own garden. And, as usual, I am requesting your comments at the end with your own words of wisdom! Because clearly, I still need lots of help here. I’m my garden’s bitch, remember? On that note, here we go:

  • “Good Guys and Bad Guys: Top Seven Garden Pests and Garden Friends (and a Few Frenemies to keep your eye on) here
  • “Easy Weeknight Dinner: Summer Garden Pasta”, here
  • “Pepper Canning and Growing Garlic”, here (this one is for later in the season, but good to bookmark from now)
  • “Catnip in the Garden Does What?!” here
  • “How to Keep Those Wascally Wabbits Out of the Garden (and Some Gardening Tips), here
  • “Garden Veggie Frittata”, here
  • “DIY Vegetable Garden in 10 Easy Steps”, here
  • “Fried Squash Flowers: Fig, Goat Cheese, Honey, and Panko!” here
  • “Stuffed Peppers with Tempeh: Fajita-less Fajitas!” here
  • “Crispy Panko Poppers, Vegetarian Style” here
  • “Banana Pepper Tuna Sandwich”, here
  • “Middle-Easter Style Pickled Cucumbers”, here
  • “DIY Firepit for Neat Freaks”, here

That’s all I have to share at the moment. Now, what have you got for me?




Alessandra Macaluso is the author of What a Good Eater! , Lucy the Bee and the Healing Honey, and The Real-Deal Bridal Bible. She’s also a Qigong and Tai Chi instructor, and overall wellness advocate. Her work has been featured in several anthologies which can all be found on her Amazon author page, and she has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, TODAY Parents, and many other online publications.

Alessandra is a northerner-turned-southerner, enjoying the south with her children, Penelope and Ciro, and her husband, Greg.

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Hey Ali!

Funny you should post this on the very eve that I planted a few things myself (My thumb is so far from green that I might as well not even have that opposable digit)!

This year my garden may not be ready until the fall planting season as I’m having 4 raised pine beds made for me and the guys can’t get to it until July (though I may be able to get all the soil and compost laid down and get something going with that, we’ll see).

Anyway, one of the things I have always wanted is an herb garden and one that I have quick access to (which basically means a garden on my back deck…as you know wood doesn’t contain soil.) So this year I got a couple of these for the deck:

It’s pretty cool because it works like a raised bed and has a built in watering system, a mulch cover to keep pests and weeds out, and a screen on the bottom where you can stick in tomato cages and trellis’s. Anyway, I planted one cherry tomato seedling, two red bell seedlings, and 8 strawberry plants using seed all in one box. Let’s see what happens. I left the other box untouched because it did call for dolomite and fertilizer in addition to potting MIX which I didn’t have. I want to see if it works without those (though of course the directions say that potting mix is not sufficient – I’m all about breaking the rules baby!) – which is probably why my thumb turned black and fell off to begin with πŸ˜‰

Okay, so then in long rail planters I planted mint and chocolate mint seedlings (never heard of that before but sounds good to me!), in another I planted a row of basil from seed, in another I planted two cilantro seedlings, and in one small pot I planted one rosemary (but was told that I should move that to a large pot as rosemary grows big…is that right?).

Okay, that’s all my news for now, but I’m very eager to hear how the foil and especially the chopsticks work. I did do a garden two summers ago and had a lot of squash and similar problems though I was too lazy to do much about it. In a sense, I’m not only trying to grow plants, but also trying to see if I can grow back a thumb and then turn it green πŸ™‚

As always, great post Ali!

Rula, this is awesome!! I love those planters you got, and seriously? Watering system, mulch to keep pest away…They seem WAY better than my garden beds!! You got me thinking!! Yes, rosemary grows BIG….we have one in our front yard which I think we somehow managed to kill this year by accident, but has stayed strong since we bought the house four years ago with us doing literally nothing. I usually trim it back A LOT every year but this year I think the winter got to it with all that snow. Otherwise, they thrive and grow large. And, um….chocolate mint?! What are we having for dessert??!? πŸ˜‰

Oh and by the way…when you achieve success remember to save some of those fried cheesy-goodness squash blossoms for your dear sweet loveable friend and neighbor! πŸ˜€

Oh, you KNOW it!! Cheers to hoping you can keep your thumb this season….you and me both…LOL

Hi! Id like to know if this worked for you and also the one with the DIY organic pesticide… Thanks!

Hi Joyce! The tin foil worked very well for me. The chopsticks *seem* to have worked OK, because I didn’t notice any cats, although that may have been a coincidence. But the DIY organic pesticide was AWESOME. I swear by that stuff now. You just have to be diligent and spray it every few days, but it worked wonders for me. Good luck!!

Thank you so much! Cant wait to try it all!

No problem! Come back and let me know how it goes for you!

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