Tuesday, July 17, 2012

House Finches Like Kale, Too.

We grew two varieties of kale this year-- Dwarf Blue Curled and Red Russian.  The Red Russian has been pretty unimpressive I must say.  It looks limp and sad in the garden, even when well watered.  It goes limp the second it is picked--forget about putting it in the fridge!  But, I think its an unfair year to judge the variety.  Its been unseasonably hot and that variety is well adapted to cool temperatures (um, I guess like Russia, but that could be just a name).  We're going to plant more for a fall crop and we'll see if it performs better under those conditions.  The Dwarf Blue Curled on the other hand has been amazing.  Huge, perfect, delightfully curled leaves.  Hearty and crisp even after a week in the fridge.  Very filling and satisfying in the belly.  We are definitely growing it again.

Another issue we'd noted with the Red Russian kale was that it was being eaten.  None of the neighboring plants were being affected,  not even the neighboring alternate kale variety, but the Red Russian leaves were distinctly full of holes. It also wasn't from the edge the way most slugs and caterpillars tend to eat leaves.  We really didn't know who was helping themselves, but it seemed obvious that something was.
Well, I think we found the culprit yesterday.  A gorgeous male house finch...with an apparent taste for kale.  (According to my bird guide they most eat seeds, but can also eat fruits and buds, though they never specifically say fully developed leaves.  Maybe I'm all wrong in my analysis of the situation, but from my observation the finch eating kale seemed to be what was happening.)
I've always heard that birds can be garden pests, just as much as rabbits and slugs, but this is my first personal experience with such pesky bird behaviors.  Oh well, at least he liked the floppy, sad kale which I didn't like nearly as much as his other dining options.


  1. Buy a plastic snake cheaply in the toy department of something like Walmart. Toy store snakes will be outrageously priced.

    Or, make one from a length of garden hose, adding a head and eyes. I am sure you can google how to make a fake garden snake.

    My friend had a huge tomato garden--hundred plants or more. Every day he saw a black snake in the garden but he never had bird-pecked tomato or a rodent-eaten tomato. I have a fake snake from Walmart that scares everyone.

    Planting a little of this each year could keep birds from going after the plants that are working out for you.

    1. I've heard of this, but had forgotten. Matt actually has a rubber snake in his golf bag. We found in on the road once while walking and as his brother (and golf buddy) is terrified of snakes he put it in there with the intention of a practical joke. In the end though he decided it was mean. But the snake is still in there.

      The only potential problem I see is that I love to watch the birds (warblers, sparrows, finches, doves, crows, robins) in my garden and they've never caused mischief before. I'd hate to lose their company.

      I like the idea of using it as a bait plant so they leave everything else alone.

    2. Just put the snake where you don't want things eaten or where there is damage. Years ago, I had two tomato plants and had the snake between. However, the birds did sit on the fence near the snake. They were everywhere, just not pecking my tomatoes.

  2. I grew some red russian kale this winter and it was delicious. Much better once it freezes. I think it is hardy down to 5 below zero or something like that.

    1. I think you're right. It likes it cold, even really cold. I bet freezing would make the texture quite different. We'll be giving it a go later in the year.


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