My vegetable garden and the uninvited guest

I wonder whether you ever tried to grow a vegetable garden in your backyard. If you haven’t, I like to share my story with you. It was a decision we made last year, and after much deliberation decided to grow tomatoes and eggplants for a start. When we visited the local garden centre for advice, the staff provided us with the necessary information, the choice of seedlings, soil, manure, vegetation, etc. We bought a few seedlings for our pilot project.

Most of our backyard is cemented, except for a few yards along the fence which was overgrown with weeds. My husband cleared the bush and prepared the soil for tomato and eggplant seedlings. It took him a few days for the clean-up and afterward, with the help of his friend, laid a water pipeline along the fence for the vegetable garden.

Our backyard fence is in an elevated position about two feet above the ground level. The tomato and eggplant seedlings were planted at the appropriate distance apart with plenty of sunlight. Watering at regular intervals, with the automated pipeline system made all the difference to the smooth and steady growth of the seedlings. The eggplants flowered, drooped and fell to the ground without any fruits. After a few weeks, we saw the fruiting of flowers in the tomato plants. As the tomatoes grew bigger, my early morning routine was to count the tomatoes. My headcount was eight on a particular day, and I was delighted with a big lush red tomato which was ripe and ready to eat.

I told my girls that I would harvest the tomatoes the next day. Temptation running high, I looked at the red lush tomato that night to make sure it was there. Next day, I woke up very early in the morning with the excitement of harvesting tomatoes from my own garden. I reached for the big ripe tomato, but alas it wasn’t there. My husband and children said they hadn’t been near the plant. Walking across the garden I noticed a half-eaten red tomato and few green tomatoes on the ground. I knew at once who the culprit was. A friend, in the neighbourhood, had a complaint before that possums ate all her rose petals and vegetables in the garden.

I was disappointed and said that I had to find a way to deal with the possum in the garden.

“Mum, you can’t get rid of the possum”, said my daughter. “Besides, a possum will not be able to go to the market to buy tomatoes. Let him enjoy the fruit and leave him alone”.

After an hour I plucked the remaining tomatoes and put them in a prominent spot for the possum to eat if he decided to return the next day. The possum never returned to taste the tomatoes I laid on the ground. Perhaps, he thought the tomatoes were poisoned. A week later, a heavy downpour washed off everything.

Soon after one night as we returned home by car, something dashed across our car towards a tree. I looked at my daughter and said that I have never seen a big rat in my life. She said that it was not a rat, but a possum. Two big eyes sparkled right into the headlight and the agile possum climbed the tree in a flash. It was complete darkness and my visibility was limited to the car headlight, but the possum being nocturnal animal scaled the entire horizon ahead.

Some Facts about Possums:

Possum is one of the iconic faunas in Australia. It is illegal to relocate or kill a possum. Possums are territorial and it’s not easy to relocate them. Even if they are relocated, new possums will move into the vacant territory. The old possum may return to its original territory or may die in a new territory.

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