I Don’t Want These Suckers!

One of my loves is gardening, and I am delighted to be in a home with a well-established garden. Those who came before me did a great job, and in spite of the drought and precious little watering over the past months, my garden has faithfully continued to fill my life with colour. Certain vegetables, too, have continued producing, some quite out of season, so I have eaten quite comfortably from the patch behind the house.

The drought notwithstanding, my garden fills my life with colour
The drought notwithstanding, my garden fills my life with colour



I have always had a desire to be self-sufficient, and so I find it very fulfilling being able to pick my meal most days. I even had a cauliflower last week – whoever heard of a ‘cauli’ in the heat of February! Broccoli too. It doesn’t look great, but it’s sweet and I have no doubt full of goodness. Then I have green beans, aubergines, green peppers, and for the first time I am picking tomatoes! My garden would do a Master Chef pantry proud!

Many years ago I decided to go with organic gardening as much as I could – there is a good argument for companion planting, and the less poison we use, the more birds we attract. It’s a hard transition to make, and you have to be quite hard-hearted in allowing certain plants to die. I remember feeling a little desperate one day as a treasured tea bush succumbed to ants. A few minutes later I watched bronze manikins neatly removing aphids from my cabbage plants – it is worth losing a few exotics to establish balance, and a healthy ecology, I decided.

I am blessed to have always lived where there is a plethora of birds. This morning I sent out a recording to friends and family of the Heuglin Robins greeting the day. Their song was underpinned by the tinny tweet of the Sunbirds as they drew nectar from the Honeysuckle. A quick flash of yellow, and the masked weavers are cutting some more of the bronze pennesetum grass heads for their nests. The fly catchers and other insect eating birds do a pretty fine job of devouring crickets, cutworms and the like.

Don’t, however, leave your strawberries exposed because they’ll willingly help themselves to more than their fair share of them.

There are, however, two pests that I have not discovered predators for: shongololos and snails. For those not of this continent, a shongololo is a millipede. Now I’ve always quite liked them. they’re seem quite friendly and have a fun way of curling themselves into a ball if you touch them. I never realised how much damage they cause until I inherited this wonderful garden, where they abound, in the house, outside, they seem to be everywhere.

My first crop of broccoli was great. I cut the main head, and left the plant to produce secondary florets – I’m not fussy about appearance when I am feeding myself alone. I wanted to be ill a couple of days later when I found about eight of these shiny carapaced worms, heads buried into the succulent cut stem of my broccoli plant. It was revolting. I have quite a strong stomach but there was something obscene about the way they were buried into the stem. I am separated from the main road to the nearest town by a wall, so I pulled the offending suckers off my plant and hurled them over the wall – flying lessons.

War had been declared. I don’t know how many have flown across the wall, but I have pulled them out of bean plants, off the aubergines, cabbages, as well as from the flower beds. I have blamed them for every blemish I’ve found on vegetable and bloom. Until today, when I discovered that the little round holes on the tomatoes are in fact caused by the snails! So a couple of them went flying over the wall, until I remembered my daughter-in-law telling me they are equipped with radar and always come home!

He looks so sweet, but he messes up my vegies - gggrrrr
The drought notwithstanding, my garden fills my life with colour


Filled with black thoughts, I wandered back to my desk muttering about suckers, which led me to wondering where the term “sucker” comes from. Onto the internet, one site the author had to close down because the majority of comments left were somewhat blue. Shongololos and snails certainly do not evoke any lustful emotions in me, so onto the next site – ah, this is more like it!

A number of definitions from un-weaned children to lollipops. One of the more interesting definitions was to do with plants, an unwanted shoot that comes from the base. It is recommended that this sucker be removed because it saps the energy of the plant. How very apt. The next definition was a more derogatory interpretation of the word, where I discovered that the slang term used to portray a person who is easily deceived, traces to a fish in America that is easily caught during its annual migrations.

There are about fourteen different meanings for sucker, but the one that made me laugh was tacked onto the end of the list:

Also the old name of inhabitants of Illinois.

I wonder if that tells us something about the importance of that state in the American elections?

Talking of elections, anyone listening to Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last night, could be forgiven for thinking they had tuned in to the wrong station, his speech was so muted. I was amused to hear Pieter Mulder’s description afterwards: The gas is out of the bottle. Poor JZ really was quite deflated.

If my sons were here, they would be asking how on earth I got from shongololos in my garden to the American elections and Jacob Zuma?

I have no idea, but I do think it’s fun to have illogical thought sequences sometimes, isn’t it?

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