Thursday, September 20, 2012


Our spring garden had been almost too perfect. Every single crop I planted grew beautifully. We had more produce than we could manage, no pests, and no weed problems. Enter summer garden. We traveled to Indiana when all my seedlings were only about an inch tall and not ready for transplant, but I had to plant them anyway because I knew they wouldn't survive in their trays with no watering. A few did manage to survive the heat and intense sun out in the garden beds while we were gone though. However, I had no trellis or support for those that did make it, so the garden quickly became an unmanageable tangle. The cucumber plants succumbed to powdery mildew and most of the small number of fruits that survived were eaten by worms. The okra was knocked over in a rainstorm. My purple basil was covered in tiny worms. Etc. Etc. Well I'd finally had enough. It was time to reclaim my garden! Last week I finally weeded out all the weak, dying, and diseased plants and set about nursing the survivors back to health. I discovered that my main problem is the caterpillar of a moth, commonly known as armyworm or cutworm.

These caterpillars were all over my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil, gnawing down the leaves to mere skeletons. I got so angry at those little suckers that I just began squishing them with my bare hands. It was so disgustingly satisfying. Disgusting to have lime green caterpillar guts squirting all over my hands, but so satisfying to pop the fat little bodies that were full of stolen food, my food. The garden almost instantly began to improve! So now, every morning and every evening, I grab a gardening glove (much better than the bare hand approach) and go caterpillar hunting. I don't stop until I've successfully squashed at least ten of them, turning over leaves, inspecting new chew marks, and keeping an eye out for any egg masses (which can contain 200-300 eggs!). The first few days I easily reached and surpassed my goal within minutes, but this manual removal seems to be doing the trick as it becomes increasingly more difficult each day to meet my squish quota, and the plants continue to look better and better.

With the infestation on the decline, I thought it would be safe to plant some seeds for the fall garden. I seeded two kales, two onions, a carrot, a leek, and spinach, all of which have sprouted already! I'm so looking forward to keeping the garden pest-free and enjoying some delicious fall greens!


Melissa said...

We must have the same garden. and the same techniques;)
Guess what!?!?
A beautiful long island cheese pumpkin is gracing our table. I can't but into it yet, because it's too pretty... yes, we only got one pumpkin, but we'll be saving the seeds from her to plant again next year... xoxo.

Sharon Telschow said...

As always Giz, beautiful methodology! What a crop bummer. I hope the survivors are thrivers.

Maggard said...

yeewww... I almost had to stop at "with my bare hands" but I didn't. definitely the times in organic farming school that I went and hid in the stacks of hay to read! I can't wait to see your fall garden... it's going to be so yummy!