Monday, June 05, 2006

ATTACK OF THE KILLER (of) TOMATOES



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I strolled out to the garden to pick a tub of tomatoes, bell peppers, and mutant squash and found lots of bare stems and nibbled tomatoes. GOSHSNARGLEDANGRASPBERNASCENT DEER!!!
As I was cursing the deer, I happened to look down and notice that there were no deer tracks in the garden...hmmm.

A closer inspection of the plants revealed a bunch of tomato hornworms munching away on the leaves as well as the fruit. It's amazing how much damage even one of these huge caterpillars can do to a mature tomato plant. I have some BT in the barn, but had not used it yet this year...oops.
It's also a little amazing, in a biorobotic insectile way, how these caterpillars completely freeze at the first sign of nearby movement...namely me. The combination of good camo and freezing really makes them hard to spot.

I got low and poked through the tomato branches until I had a handfull.



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After collecting the nefarious nibblers, I walked over to the chicken/guinea combo cage and offered them a snack.


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The birds made short work of the hornworms and the tomato plants breathed a sigh of relief.

I went back to my picking (of veggies) and loaded up on peppers, tomatoes (the unchewed ones), and one giant squash which must have gotten overlooked earlier.

Right now, I'm going out to pick blueberries. We eat again in the morning you know, and I like fresh blueberries on my Oatmeal Crisp. Posted by Picasa

18 comments:

roger said...

mmmmmm, tomato hornworms. and blueberries. oatmeal crisp? you fry that oatmeal? my dad used to fry up yesterday's mush and serve it with maple syrup and butter.

we're in ashland, ore.

pablo said...

I don't suppose you can let the chickens into the garden to glean the caterpillars off the tomatoes, can you? Aren't guinea hens good for this?

(I've never had fried oatmeal, but I will probably try some soon.)

Floridacracker said...

Oatmeal Crisp Cereal you wacko's :)...the kind with almonds.

dpr,
I've been to Portland and Bend.

Pablo,
If they would obey my commands to work certain areas and not others, if they would not roost on the porch at night, if they didn't like blueberries and tomatoes...free ranging is not free.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Our first tomato is about the size of a pea right now. How envious I am of your veggies...worms and all.

Juli said...

I am biting my tongue because my tomatoes are not doing well. I planted a mere 6 plants. One flat out died. Two are currently curling and black. Two are yellowing in the leaves and one is a prized possession with a dozen babies that seem to be doing well. The tomato gods are not treating me well in my first attempt to garden. I WANT TOMATOES, MANY tomatoes!!

LauraHinNJ said...

Love that you fed 'em to the chickens - sure beats scrounging around under logs for bugs to feed them!

Mrs. S said...

I commend you for being able to touch those things. I used to hunt caterpillars when I was litle, but those you've got are HUGE - and the green/non-fuzzy ones always creep me out way more than the other varieties.

I don't think I could have picked 'em up - let alone gone looking for them - without tongs or something. Ewww - I'm getting a shudder just thinking about it.

Laura said...

It's blueberry season already? This year is going by too fast... it's June already!
Blueberries haven't hit the stores down here just yet. At least, I haven't seen the pints of fat blueberries on sale. Any day now, I'd imagine.
Do you have the wild blackberries growing on your property? We used to go "out back" to pick them in the summer, and they were just a little on the tart side. The girls and I would fill up buckets of them...ahh, good memories there.

Those tomato worms were awfully fat and healthy..(unfortunately!) I have ONE lone tomato plant this year which is giving me a nice side supply of tomatoes. So far, i've been lucky.

But I'll bet you they'll turn up now that I've read this post, since it's 06/06/06, after all.
;)

Wayne said...

FC - you probably already know this but if you find any with white cocoons on their backs just leave 'em there. That's the next generation of tiny parasitic wasps that will help control the next round of hornworms. And by the time they got those cocoons on them, the caterpillars aren't feeling good enough to be eating.

We put some of those infested hornworms into a baggie and within a day or two there were hundreds of tiny wasps trying to get out.

Floridacracker said...

Abandoned,
Don't worry. You'll be enjoying yours when mine are gone.

Girl,
I planted way early. Without spraying chemicals, Florida disease and fungus get our tomato plants as soon as it gets hot...like now. Mine are showing the signs. Cut off those yellow branches and fling them to Georgia.

Laurahinnj,
Welcome to Pure Florida! Yes, a bug must taste really good after days of the same chicken crumbles.

Mrs. S,
They do have a squirmy ickiness in the hand.

Laura,
Yeah, blueberry season in your old stomping grounds is almost over. I have a moderate crop this year, last year was a bumper.
I hope my tomato bad luck was not a bad OMEN ;)

Wayne,
I have an old K64 slide of that very thing somewhere...must find and digitize.

Betsy said...

Bluhuhhuhuhuhhhhhhhhh, CATERPILLARS! *shudder*

My grandmother told me how when she was a girl she would put the geese into the garden for pest control.

On the first pass, they would eat every bug. On the second pass, they would eat every plant. So she had to be sure to leave them in there for just the right length of time.

Deb said...

That's a nice looking chicken.

Juli said...

FC: Yeah, I'm removing the yellow branches. I read that hot roots may be causing the black and curling leaves. Any ideas? I covered the base of the plants with pine needles but it looks like it's too late. RIP Tomato Plants. *sigh*

Leslie said...

I'm with Mrs. S on this - you TOUCHED those?? Do you also touch slugs?

Debbie said...

I'm in the Florida panhandle and I'm picking ripe tomatoes every day. They are delicious! I grow mine in large pots on my deck and so far (knock on wood) I haven't had any problems with bugs. However, I do have to water them every morning and evening.

Likes2mtnbike said...

When I had my garden in Zephyrhills, I used human hair and Lifebuoy soap vs. The Deer Hunters. Put either (or both) in a nylon stocking and tie to a string runner. Read about it. No idea at all regarding the Lifebuoy but also read Irish Spring, so maybe it's the minty freshness. Worked for me. Of course, maybe there really weren't any deer at all...

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
Is that a hungry gleam in your homesteader eye? This old girl is ancient as chickens go, she just keeps ticking.

Girl,
I grew mine in pots of miraclegrow potting mix this year to avoid contact with my garden soil which has grown a lot of tomatoes and probably is full of pathogens. I also started them really early to avoid the punishing heat. Seems to have worked, but I was trimming yellow leaves the other day. At least we can try again in late summer with some fall 'maters.

Leslie,
If you search this blog, you'll find I definitely have touched slugs...I forget the post, but it's out there.

Debbie,
We're picking too, but the signs of decline are here. Mine are in pots too and watering them is a constant job in this heat. Glad to hear yours are doing so well.

Likes2mtnbike,
Thanks for the tip, I knew about the hair, but not the soap.

Floridacracker said...

Betsy,
I've always heard geese were good buggers and weeders, but I've never owned any.