Monday, July 23, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I am at war with my garden. Mother Nature can be wonderful-- giving us warm sun and rain to make the garden grow, but then she can be mean with all the bugs and weeds that threaten to eat and choke my hard work. I have spent the last week or so, on my hands and knees, looking for tomato hornworms* (caterpillars). They are vile and evil looking things. Their color perfectly matches the color of the tomato stems and green tomatoes, that the only way I can spot them is to look for fresh droppings. Yes, caterpillar poop. I am on my hands and knees looking for caterpillar poop. When I see a bunch of black spots, I know there must be a caterpillar in the tomato plant somewhere. I search and turn over every leaf until I finally spot it, a long green caterpillar, with a spike for a tail and stripes along the body. If left unchecked, they grow the length of your middle finger, fat and disgusting (the caterpillar, not your finger). So far, all the ones I have found are still relatively small-- the size of a pen cap.I pulled off 8 last night and dropped them into a bucket of water. I don't touch 'em-- ewww! No, no.. I use an old water bottle with the bottom cut off and scrape the caterpillar off. It drops into the bottle and then I drop it into the bucket of water. I am a bare hands gardener and find it irritating to use gloves while I garden. Hubby gets after me for that, but there is nothing like getting my hands dirty, digging into the dirt and pulling weeds. Besides that, I have large hands and even the ladies size XL gloves are still a little snug on me. The men's size small are too big! What's a girl to do? But I digress. After a night of soaking caterpillars in a bucket of water, they drown and I dump 'em out in the far corner of the garden. I pulled off 4 more this afternoon and took a picture for you to see. See?While I am protecting my tomato plants from evil, green tomato caterpillars, I also have to fend off groundhogs and deer. Some of my lovely corn stalks have been chewed off by deer and while walking to the garden today, I scared off the groundhog. I found several half-eaten green tomatoes pulled off the vines, thanks to Mr. Groundhog. Did I mention we also have moles?? Now my garden is under attack from underground!! Last year, I planted carrots and radishes, and not a single one grew to harvest size because of the mole(s?). I didn't bother with the carrots and radishes this year. They're cheap enough to buy at the food store anyway, though they don't compare in taste.

Gardening is all about trial and error. Finding what works and figuring out what doesn't. At the old house, I had no problems with tomato caterpillars-- in fact, I never heard of or saw one before, until we moved up here. Last year, when I first saw the caterpillars, they were at the full grown size, and I nearly peed my pants! I knocked one off to show my mom and she never saw one before, either. I wanted her to kill it for me and she wouldn't. I didn't want to step on it-- eww! Just imagine all the green guts on the bottom of my shoe! So I did the next easiest thing-- tossed it on the road and let the cars going by do the work for me. Then I let hubby take the caterpillars and toss 'em into the fire pit while he burns leaves and twigs. I am little more brave this year and drown 'em. Call me cruel, but I don't want to share my tomatoes with a bunch of caterpillars.

The rest of the garden is faring well so far. My corn stalks are taller than me and just about ready to eat. Watermelon and cantaloupe are about the size of golf balls and I am dreaming of biting into their juicy goodness! Something keeps eating my snow peas so I have yet to eat any, when by now, I should have had 30 or 40 pods. But my biggest success is the tomatoes-- 25 plants thriving! I look forward to canning them come harvest time.

Speaking of canning, I made and canned my last two batches of blackberry jam yesterday. There are still plenty of berries to make more jam, but I am tired of the squeezing stage of making jam and I have enough to last a year, for us and for gifts. I'll pick more berries for desserts and on top of ice cream and then the birds can have the rest. * For more info on tomato hornworms, feel free to check out this website:


LaRonda said...

Never saw a tomato caterpillar before. They look alien!

~ LaRonda

Lisa C. said...

I have never seen them before either. They look delicious.

BOSSY said...

Bossy's war with her garden is sort of like the War in Iraq: Pointless.

jenny said...

Laronda and Lisa-- First time I saw them was last year. I was better prepared this year and have been on the warpath for a while now with them!! You can look up Tomato hornworms on the internet for more info if you'd like to know more about them.

Bossy-- I couldn't agree with you more about the war in Iraq!!

D-HOR said...

My mom accidently got a tomato worm in a giant batch of greens that she cooked up one night. Ew - it ended up on her plate and she about jumped out of her chair.

I don't think we had greens agian for a couple of weeks.

Great pictures by the way! :) And good luck with those beotches.

jenny said...

Lindy-- ICK!! Good thing I wasn't snacking while I read your comment or I'd have lost it! They are nasty little buggers aren't they?! Havent been out to the garden yet today, but I'm sure I'll find a couple more. Wanna help?? :o)

The Good Woman said...

Now those are awful - and I have seen awful beasties before. You're one brave woman, Jenny!

MIKE said...

You can kill it with natural BT dust (Bacillus Thuringiensis). It is not chemical, but natural germ that kills tomato hornworms. It is effective insectide. I did that last year since I got too many hornworms in my tomato garden.

You could ask for BT at garden stores, they should have it.

jenny said...

Good Woman-- You mean these are more worse than your "pimple flies"??? I don't know about that! But I admit, these are pretty gross.

Mike, Thanks for the tip! i'll look into it, but I don't mind hand-picking them off.. gives me a little break from the girls while I'm in the garden!