Monday, August 27, 2007

garden pests

Is is just me, or are the aphids going bonkers this year? Not only in sheer numbers but in individual size too. And what about other mites and worms and stuff like that? I say this because it seems to me like everything is getting good and munched this year. In fact, talking to one of my neighbors this morning, I heard of the biggest pest of the year. The kind responsible for eating the corn that is just becoming ripe. Get this, it was a gigantic corn worm that topped out about 5 foot 7 inches and came complete with opposable thumbs. In my yard!

Back in April, I built a large cold frame in our front yard and sowed some seeds. After the seedlings were well established I started to remove the cover of the frame for incrementally longer times until I felt they were ready for our foggy nights in the low fifties near the bay. At this point some of the corn and a few 'maters were pressing against the top so it was definately time. The tomatoes were looking promising but only about half of the corn came up. The cucumbers, cantaloupe and zucchini were still wispy and in doubt. Anchoring the front I needed something that could withstand the occasional shot of dog urine, so I transplanted some rhubarb from the backyard for experiments sake. I felt that in celebration of the cover being off, I should take my first picture. It was the summer solstice.

Just two short weeks later everything seemed like it was enjoying the full sun. The rhubarb filled nearly the entire front spot (and wasn't being watered by canines) and the corn was no longer looking like upright crab grass. The zuke were beginning to fill in and I was worried for a while that the majority of the corn would start being shaded out. Still. I started drooling at the prospect of fresh corn. Last years experiment resulted in stalks about a foot high with ears looking something like the earliest corn, only having some 8 to 12 kernals, so this year came loaded with hope.

Two more weeks later and I had confidence the corn would be just fine. The cold frame was almost completely obscured by greenery, except for a glimpse of the front panel afforded by me hacking out two large rhubarb leaves that were infested with enormous patches of aphids. After seeing the front panel in the picture, I started looking up how I could try managing the pests with a home remedy because I was sure cutting off leaves is only a temporary solution. In our back yard, we had begun harvesting some sungold cherry tomatoes and the early girls were looking a bit orange. Out front the tomato blooms were going mad and I started dreaming of tomato sauce.

{static} Uh, roger that Houston, we have tassels. Over.

The rhubarb is straight up nuts. The squash is blossoming rather profusely and the cucumber and cantaloupe (that I had nearly forgotten about by now) is working its way out into my neighbors yard to get out from under the corn and squash. The first zukes are being harvested and the corn is showing promise of having ears longer than the lilliputian kind, maybe even approximately the right size. We'd begun picking a few romas and loads of cherry tomatoes were being set. The first brandywine are looking good and few have been sampled.

Although some of the veggies are being used on nearly a daily basis, we are still eagerly awaiting an ear of corn. Well, truthfully, what I mean is an ear for boiling, as last week the older monkey and I ate one raw. And dare I say, holy crap it was good. Sweet, white, but a tad under ripe. After another week the first few should be just right.
This morning while going out on an early morning walk, I noticed that the couple ears I have been eyeing as just about ready have been being eyed by another and are now gone. Some rat bastard, two legged, opposabled thumbed, mammalian corn worm, with a bag and child in tow came and swiped them. My neighbor, bless her heart, witnessed the event and assumed that I had given permission to the lady due to her level of preparedness, casualness and sense of family. Hell no. I mean, the folks who do have permission do so when I'm around. I'm trying to give this person the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are horribly misled and think that this is a community garden of sorts. It is. But it's for my family. We live on one income, things are always tight and I really don't appreciate folks taking the harvest of my hard work. It's a small garden, unfenced and out in the open. My sister warned me. She said folks would steal whatever I planted out front. Especially corn.

Why can't they steal the zucchini? Or a few cherry tomatoes? I mean, these are prolific enough that with careful attention to time of day, I'd hardly notice they were gone. But the corn? Damn! And teaching your children that this act of theivery is ok. Shame on you. Shame, shame, shame. With any hope they got the ears home, boiled some water, shucked the corn and discovered that the choicest parts were infested with aphids and ants.

All of which makes me ponder the meaning of cornholio. I've wondered where the term came from but now I have a clear idea. It's the spot on a person you aim for with your slingshot or bb gun when yer home and witness them yankin' produce from your yard.

Not to brag, more like a warning: I'm a good shot with just about any high velocity pest deterrent. Stay out of my garden or your ass is mine.......


Sam said...

would you send me your address - you know the postal one - please to email becks dot posh at gmail dotty com


pretty please

K & S said...

That is totally rude! In Hawaii though, a lot of Polynesian cultures have a thing about what's yours is also theirs, no asking, just taking. Still, I think they should have at least asked before taking.

Joanna said...


sugarcreekfarm said...

Holy crap! That's harsh.

cookiecrumb said...

Next year, plant exploding corn.

mimi said...

Pretty garden. A block away from where I live a neighbor has a stupendous front yard veggie/fruit/flower garden. During the peak growing season, it is awesome. It is not too bad in winter. He put up a low picket fence. I think that gives the message that you shouldn't walk right in. I know you rent like me so you are probably reluctant to do something like that, but if you have a good enough relationship with your landlord maybe your landlord might help out?

When I was a kid there was a neighbor across the street who had eight(!) kids. Every inch of the whole back yard was a vegetable garden. There was a little square patch of dirt in an atrium by the doorway that I'm sure was meant for ornamental plants which they grew a patch of strawberries on instead. One day a couple of the neighborhood four year olds came and started stuffing berries into their mouths. They got busted big time! I remember one of the poor munchkins bawling his eyes out while the homeowner patiently explained that the kid was taking food out of his own kids mouths by stealing. I don't think that kid ever took anything without permission again! So there you go. If you catch that woman ripping you off again, bring the monkeys out to stare at her with their big sad eyes and then guilt her to death!

Anonymous said...

I think a big, simple sign stating "Taking these vegetables is taking food from my family" could work. Or maybe a sign stating "Bioengineered vegetables doused in pesticide", to deter organic food thieves. But, in order for people to pay attention, it will have to be in neon. And five feet across. Inside a ring of fire. With audible sound bites. The good news is that they didn't sit on all of them, or pee on them (remember my strawberries). Man, people can be disappointing.


Callipygia said...

I am so sorry monkeywrangler. The pics of your garden are glorious and the anticipation, heartbreaking. My old neighbor had his entire persimmon tree looted in a night. Front yard too- sigh.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Thank you everyone for your kindness and stories to put things into perspective. The fence and sign ideas will be more in place in a few months as things die back and there is room for new construction. I have not witnessed anymore theft, but the remaining corn is so hammered by aphids and ants, I'm not sure anyone will go near enough to harvest. I am going to go clean off ALL the ripe tomatoes this morning and work on some sauce this weekend.

Once again, thank you.