Thursday, May 10, 2012

the garden & chemical warfare

so my garden is moving along very nicely; the combination of the warm winter, being able to over-winter a few plants in a makeshift greenhouse, and some starts from the warehouse store gave us an aggressive start on this springs season. we have already dined on the first green tomatoes (fried greens baby!) and there must be 2+ dozen more fruit on the three already mature tomatoes. i have already made one harvest of Kung Pao peppers and the Datil peppers have fruit on the plants. about two weeks ago i notice some wilt on the large tomato vine. a few branches would turn pale yellow start to wilt, now i got seriously depressed because this will be our 3rd summer and it looked like our tomato crop would fail again. for two years we would watch the vine vigorously grow and almost get to fruiting stage and then the extra hot weather here or a swarm of insects would literally devastate them in 48hours. i can get good fruit from the local farming community but it is so satisfying to eat the produce you grow.

this past week i was tending the garden and i saw a cluster of orange-red six legged critters on the tomatoes, i wondered ifthese guys could be causing the wilting. after a couple of hours of digging, i discovered that they are the nymphs of to the leaf-footed plant bug. the adult Leptoglossus phyllopus have a flattened spot on their back legs that looks leaf like and are related to the common stink bug and ugly as sin. i immediately recognized the adults as the bastards that stripped 3 vines and desiccated the stems in the space of 36 hours two years ago. it was horrific how fast they could devastate a plant. sure enough upon my return to the plants later that day i found an adult and another cluster of nymphs.

i grabbed the adult and did a quick flattening of my own and quickly ran around looking for the other adults, but i could only find nymphs(small, pun intended) blessings. i picked and hosed off the buggers, but i was feeling conflicted because i really don't want to use a synthetic chemical/pesticide on the food plants. i followed up my reading about the species looking for alternatives. most sites immediately said that you can try a home-brew of natural soap and water, but it is a difficult pest to control. the soap (don't use a detergent!) breaks surface tension and essentially drowns the insect (i can live with it).

to concoct the brew, you combine about a tablespoon of natural soap (castille or animal) and optionally you can add a couple tablespoons of chili sauce as an irritant to dissuade the critters. i used sirracha because it also has garlic which is known for pest control too. the only castille soap i could get had peppermint in it, again peppermints are known to repel some critters. it has a odd aroma, but it is not a chemical pesticide in the Malathion sense of the word (though some people think it makes an awesome cocktail).

so far i am off work, summer class has been canceled) so i can do about a half dozen checks a day and spray the living hell out of the nymphs. i don't know with everything i need to do this summer if i can continue and i might need to do one or two sprays of the more intense stuff.

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