OH HELLO THERE
Anyone ever heard of an eggplant flea beetle? A squash bug? A tomato hornworm? Or how about powdery mildew or infectious plant diseases?
Reader, I had not.
A warning: grisly plant death and mutilation images ahead.
A picture of Sister in front of our booming tomato plants and next to the towering sunflowers. This picture is not representative of this blog post, I am just lulling you into a false sense of security.
The garden is producing lots of wonderful things: colorful zinnias, tissue-paper-thin cosmos, meaty and delicious tomatoes, endless kale…but not all is well in Alex’s Garden.
I’d like to say I purposefully went organic…and it’s true that I am resistant to the idea of spraying everything in my garden with harmful pesticides (have you noticed that those words always go together? It’s a collocation!) and I have also been resistant to using things like Miracle-Gro. I’ve mostly fertilized with fish emulsion and worm castings and have occasionally branched out into diatomaceous earth and some bug spray.
But, like I said, while I would like to say that was an intentional move, it was partly intentional and partly just lazy. I kind of figured everything would be mostly ok! And you know…so far things have been mostly ok! But there are a few things that haven’t worked out and this post is all about them!
FIRST UP: SQUASH
“You can’t kill a squash plant.” –Everyone
My squash plants looked AMAZING. They were big and leafy and taking over half of the garden; there were vibrant yellow squash blossoms and miniature little zucchinis.
Deceptive! It looks like the bush beans and zucchini are thriving here, but UNSEEN plagues infect and squash bugs plot angrily.
But then, one day, I noticed there were horrific little alien creatures all over my plants. They mated! They laid eggs! They mated again! To be honest, there was a lot of mating and a lot of egg-laying going on.
Motel Squash Bug visible on left.
I looked them up in my garden books and identified them as SQUASH BUGS. The advice of the book was to spray with an organic insecticide (I did that), to handpick them and drown them in soapy water (EW I DID THAT TOO UGH), to remove the parts of the leaves with eggs on them (UGHHHHHHH YES I DID IT READER, I DID IT!).
But it was to no avail. The squash bugs–carrying disease and a strong proclivity for reproduction–killed my plants.
NEXT UP: EGGPLANT (or aubergine for the elegant and European among us)
The eggplant plants were attacked early on by the eggplant flea bug. It is a very, very tiny black insect that almost looks like a speck of dirt. They crawl all over and chew the leaves. I don’t know if I had almost no fruit because of those little guys or because the blossoms weren’t pollinated or maybe some kind of disease got to them.
One way or another, the leaves looked like this:
And the plants looked like this:
Notably fewer eggplants than expected.
AND THEN: BUSH BEANS
Honestly, I don’t even know what happened with the bush beans. They grew some bean pods and then…they never grew. They never got bigger or smaller or more alive or more dead; they just froze.
The equivalent to this picture is like if you had a teenage daughter and when you took your wallet out and proudly showed pictures of her to your friends, they were like, “But she looks like a newborn baby.” And then you would be kind of defensive but also embarrassed and then resentful of your own embarrassment because she’s your daughter whether she grew past baby clothing sizes or not.
AND THEN: CUCUMBERS!
Yes! My cucumbers have perished.
A sad, sad sight.
There were cucumber beetles buzzing around for weeks, with their little yellow and black, dotted and striped jackets. They are a good-looking insect, and you can tell that it has gone to their heads. I hope none of them are reading this right now because the last thing they need is for their ego to be more inflated than it already is and to go swarm someone else’s sweet, tender cucumber vines.
They aren’t that harmful in and of themselves, but they carry disease, and probably they carried powdery mildew right into my blossoms and the cucumbers ended up looking like sick yellow globes. No me gusta.
FINALLY: THE TOMATOES
I’ve saved the most horrifying for last. Meet the tomato hornworm.
What does this even become? GODZILLA?*
You know what is worse than the tomato hornworm? A tomato hornworm that has been inhabited by a predator wasp which has laid eggs inside its body and then those eggs burrow out through the segments while feeding on the still-living hornworm until such time as they hatch.
You’re like, “Alex, why are you subjecting me to these pictures?” And then I’m like, “JUST LOOK AT THEM. LOOK. LOOK. LOOK AT THEM RIGHT NOW. LOOK. please look.” And then I start sobbing.
LOATHSOME CREATURE BE GONE FROM MY PRESENCE
This is what it’s like to find one of these bad boys…you’re like, wandering through your fairy-like enchanted wonderland of a vegetable garden, flitting here, flitting there–when–LO–your head is suddenly mere inches from a FOUR INCH LONG FAT CATERPILLAR WITH WASP EGGS DANGLING FROM ITS BODY.
This is what my garden book helpfully pointed out. It is noticeably less horrifying in illustrated form than it is in person.
See how it says “don’t destroy cocoon-covered hormworms”?
HAHAHAHAHA. GOOD JOKE GARDEN BOOK.**
And that is a catalog of the garden disasters, such as they were. The rest of the garden is going GREAT and I need to get my act together and post some pictures of the beautiful peppers and tomatoes and carrots and beets and kale SO MUCH KALE!
Until next time!
*UPDATE: I JUST LOOKED IT UP AND IT TURNS INTO SOMETHING CALLED A HAWK MOTH. DO NOT CLICK ON THIS IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF MOTHS.
**I destroyed them.