Tis the season to be anxious about weeds, garden pests, drought, flood — you name it. In my part of the world, the growth spurt in July is almost indecent, and unless the weather is just right, overgrown plants are suffering from too much or too little water, or from a host of beasties preying upon so much succulent growth.
But I’m not going to talk about any of that. In my garden, two frightening garden pests appeared within weeks of each other: a New Zealand flatworm, a pest which eats earthworms and may presage soil death, and my first garden gnome, a pest which offends good taste and many presage meerkats dressed like Chelsea pensioners.
Is that a flatworm or a potato peel?
A few weeks ago, I moved a trug near the place where I was digging out an apple tree. Curled up where the trug had been was a snotty little circle of flat slime, like a pressed slug. I washed and poked it under the tap — it looked almost exactly like an old peel from a potato or sweet potato, but I suspected from the texture of it that it was something alive. I left it on a plastic lid near the tap, and a few moments later, it was squirming about with its pointy little nose, horrifying me. Yes, it was a New Zealand flatworm.
The best resource I found was this flatworm info website from Northern Ireland, and if you find one in your garden in Scotland, do report it to flatworm expert Dr. Brian Boag, who isn’t currently collecting samples but is mapping its spread. You can also contact his colleagues for England and Wales flatworm sightings.
I put out some black sheeting to try to catch any others, but I have only found the one. When I was digging out the apple tree, I had remarked on the relative lack of earthworms there; there are some observations that earthworms in parts of Scotland have reached an equilibrium with the flatworms, and are not wiped out; we shall see. Ground beetles are thought to predate flatworms, fortunately.
Why is there a gnome in my garden?
My sister-in-law gave each child a garden gnome in their party bag for her girl’s fifth birthday, and my daughter brought hers home and jubilantly placed it in the garden, someplace “he wouldn’t get wet”.
He’s what you might expect: round, hatted, smiling. Now here’s the mystery: why doesn’t he bother me? I’ve been working on making sure the garden isn’t only my place — with the aid of some very wise readers like Carolyn, I let my kids plant literally anything they wanted into their barrel gardens this year, quashing my micromanagement instinct — but still, I would have thought I’d be horrified at gnome creep in my garden.
I’m not. He’s lovely. And after our little dog died earlier this month, my daughter put the gnome on top of Lizzy’s grave. We’re all pretty devastated by losing Lizzy, and I’m glad she has a bit of company. And maybe it will scare off the flatworms.
(Actually I picked up the gnome the other day and what fell out? A ground beetle. Mother Nature is a cunning one.)