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What a Rat’s Nest!

My intent for tonight was to write about starting seeds for my summer garden.  The weather is nice and warm now, days in the 70s, nights in the 50s, just perfect for starting seeds outdoors, which is my preferred way to do it.

I have a potting shed  – well, not really where I pot.  As it turns out,  other areas of the garden are better for potting.  Instead, I use the shed   to store hand tools and start seeds.  The roof is clear corrugated fiberglass and one side wall is a big old salvaged window, making for plenty of light and just enough air circulation.

For the past five or six years, I’ve tested vegetable, flower, and herb seeds for Organic Gardening magazine.  Each spring, I get an envelope filled with all kinds of seeds.  Some years, there are themes, like the year we tested six kinds of eggplants.   There are always plenty of tomatoes, a couple kinds of peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons, and flowers.  That’s how I re-discovered my love of zinnias.  Have you seen zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Lime?’  It makes a prolific display of the most unexpected bright green flowers.  The plants bloom all summer.  ‘Benary’s Giant Coral’ is another of my favorite zinnias – – and honestly, I had give up on annuals!

Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Lime'

Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’

I can’t tell you what I’m testing this year.  You’ll find out later by reading Organic Gardening.

But I digress.

This afternoon, I pulled out the year’s seeds, wrote out the labels, then went to the potting shed for planting containers.  Before I found the containers, though I found something amazing.  A rat’s nest.  Literally.

I haven’t been in that shed much in recent months, but clearly, someone else had.  The potting table was caked in  dried out red Eugenia berries surely put there for winter food storage.  When I was a kid, we’d pick the red berries to paint our faces.  These, however, looked more like dried cranberries than the plump juicy berries of my childhood.

The space beneath the potting bench was stuffed with pieces of mulch, leaves, shredded wood, and who-knew-what.

The big decision then, was whether to put off cleaning until another day, or go ahead and tackle it now.  I’d rather put it off, but where would I put my seeds to germinate? I needed the space, and I needed to make sure that the rats were no longer in that space.

So, gloves firmly in place, I went to work. The rats had pulled everything off the shelves, shredded it, and mixed it together  – hard plastic, string, jute, plastic bags, popsicle sticks used for plant labels, clothes pins that hold frost cloth, irrigation parts….  I pulled out a big funnel that  use to filter worm tea.  The rats had lined with shredded, dried sphagnum moss.  Quite honestly, it looked pretty cozy!

The rats pulled everything off the shelves to make their own brand of mulch

The rats pulled everything off the shelves to make their own brand of mulch

It was a stinky and messy job, but on the flip side, I cleaned out stuff shoved into the shed long ago.  There was a dried out 5-gallon can of wood preservative last used more than 10 years ago, I’m sure!    Old yogurt containers I use for scooping and storing stuff were brittle and crumbling.  They went into the recycling.  Out went broken plastic nursery containers and old green mesh strawberry baskets from a test I did years ago.  I turned the  baskets upside down over strawberry plants, then poked the developing berries up through the mesh.  That kept them off the ground and way from hungry slugs and sow bugs.

I was sad to find the rats had chewed up  the liner for an insulated seed starter kit that has a built in heat mat.  The brand label has long worn off but the heating element still works.  Maybe I’ll line it with heavy duty plastic now.

I filled one 30 gallon trash can and part of another.  By then it was dark and my husband was calling me for dinner.

Part way through cleaning

Part way through cleaning

Tomorrow, I’ll start my seeds.

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