Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

My wife harvested a bunch of cucumbers yesterday... No - that's not a setup for a joke - she really did.  I mention it only because I want to explain that this massive harvest we picked today came on the heels of the fact that she already picked everything else that was ripe yesterday!!!

The good:

Yep - about 20 cucumbers, 1 eggplant and 1 green pepper.  I made three more batches of pickles, trying a new recipe for some half-sours, but the cucumbers are piling up.  Pretty soon I'll have to go on Craigslist and see if I can barter for something else.  Have: cucumbers.  Want: Ipad.
Now, the bad: my tomato plants fell over while I was away this weekend,

and then my cucumber plants did the same thing.  It wouldn't be a problem for the cukes except they fell onto the eggplants.  No damage done though, like the tomatoes (fixed by Mrs. Dynamite in my absence) I propped them back up and pounded wooden stakes inside the cages for additional support.

Finally, the ugly.  This morning I got out to the garden for the first time since Thursday and saw the telltale signs of tomato hornworm damage.  After a few seconds, I spotted two of these monsters.  One is easy to see in this picture, the other is a little harder:

These monsters are voracious. They love tomato plants like a fat kid loves cake.  You can tell you have them on your plants somewhere because it looks like a weedwhacker came and chopped the tips off all your branches.  I spent 20 minutes looking for another one, knowing he was there because I saw piles of worm poop, along with snipped stems, before I finally found him, and then 15 more like him.  These things have friggin' FANGS, and they turn on you like a cobra if you try to grab them!  Sources on the interwebs say that they don't bite, but I'm now taking any chances - yes - I'm a worm pussy ok? 

I put my hand in the picture for size context.  Let me put it this way - when I stepped on the bigger ones, tomato worm guts shot all the way up onto my shorts.  Big, juicy, tomato plant eating monsters.  These worms are so big that, I kid you not, you can find them by LISTENING to them chew!  Yes - you can actually hear them eat your tomato plants.   Here's a different one:

As I was taking this picture, my wife asked me, "why do you have callouses on your hand?"  (I actually have basically one callus, which is under the worm's head, and thus hidden).  "Because I labor in the garden without gloves like a REAL MAN!"  I thrust my chest out, but she wasn't impressed, probably on account of me jumping like a scared rabbit when the worm turned to take a bite out of my hand.  Finally, here's the first pile of tomato worms I made:

Mmmmm. Juicy.

My wife has declared war on the other key enemy of the moment: green cabbage worms, attempting to nip their life cycle at the source: the white moths that fly around and lay the eggs. She bought a butterfly net (Amazon Prime, of course) and goes out there to frantically chase the moths every few hours. I can only imagine our neighbors observing this ritual, thinking, "ahhh, those city folk - so whimsical..."

Here's a question for the readers:  We have a PLETHORA of small brown butterflies in the garden. Not moths, butterflies (is there even a difference?).  These things are currently really loving the mint plant, but also congregate on the broccoli and anything that's flowering.  Will they eventually lay some sort of evil larvae that will eat my garden veggies?

Second question, while I'm at it:  Broccoli  - if I want to grow fall season broccoli, do I have to plant all new plants? Or can I prune back my current plants and induce them to bloom again?



raeganc said...

Time for gaspacho! Let me know if you need a good recipe.

Peter said...

You have nothing to be ashamed of. Tomato hornworms -- so perfectly color-camouflaged -- still gross me out after too many years of picking them off tomato plants. Try pressing a collar made from a cut-up quart or half-gallon milk jug into the soil around each plant once they're 18" tall. Works like a charm.

Anonymous said...

You should eat the hornworms a la Man vs. Wild. Lots of good protein.

Kid Dynamite said...

Peter - i put a little collar (dixie cup, actually) around the tomato plants when i plant them - but that's to prevent hookworms from snipping them off on the ground when they are little.

i don't see how that would prevent hornworms - they hatch from eggs laid by flying moths, right?

Kid Dynamite said...

sorry - i meant cutworms when i said hookworms

Anonymous said...

To differentiate moths from butterflies, check out the antennae. Butterflies have straight antennae and moths have feathery antennae.

Peter said...

I stand corrected. Collars shouldn't protect against hornworms; a little Googling shows that the (lovely) moths lay their eggs right on the foliage. We haven't had any hornworms since we started collaring our plants some years back, but I guess it's just been luck.

Humidity's finally come down today, so it's time to do the first basil harvest and make a mess of pesto tonight.

Anonymous said...

We used to kill gypsy-moth caterpillars -- nasty, hairy, ugly, and massively destructive to trees -- by picking them off with chopsticks and dropping them into a big jar of gasoline to drown them. (Googling tells me that soapy water supposedly also works to kill them.) Might want to try the same thing with your tomato worms -- use the long Chinese-style chopsticks, and burn them after you're done using them.