Garden Pests, gardening, gardening and inspiration

Friend or Foe? Stay off the Poblano!

Heat  not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself.
-William Shakespeare

Yesterday, in the Garden I finally decided to transplant my Poblano Seedlings into the grow box. I waited a long time to plant them due to my looming fears that the tiny tender seedlings would be devoured in one night by a slug, snail, or caterpillar. Of course, being root bond in an eggshell for a month and half is not productive so I took the plunge and planted the Poblano Peppers in good faith that they will be unharmed.

20130606-151901.jpg [As a side note, they were planted at ground level. Don’t try burying their stems the way I did with tomatoes. Tomato stems grow roots when buried, pepper stems rot when buried.]

Today, I set out to trim up my wild and crazy Lemon Balm Bush. Similar to it’s minty cousins, the Lemon Balm grows as prolifically as a weed and I’m sure the roots have already filled the container and dry very quickly. Even after long bouts of rain and living in a container with a self-watering reservoir, it only takes about 2-3 days without water for the Lemon Balm to look parched while the rest of the plants on my balcony look content. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, my Lemon Balm endured stress this week and needed refreshment. I thoroughly watered and gave it a couple of days to recover, then this morning I grabbed the garden shears and went to work trimming it liberally. I filled a bowl with fresh Lemon Balm leaves to sift through, took them to the kitchen, started creating lemony ice cubes as I did in a previous post, then started placing all the nice looking leaves in the dehydrator so that I could have tea with them later on. As I was separating the leaves, my eyes suddenly were met with two black eyes on a bright red head staring back at me. I jumped and let out a small squeak in surprise at instantly encountering a very fuzzy, squirming thing with long antennae on my Lemon Balm.

DSC03041At first I thought the yellow dots where eggs from a predatory bug (some lay their eggs on a host pest) but upon closer inspection I realized that these where patches of thick hair. The fuzz around the sides was hair and even the antennae were full of hair. I considered whether this was larvae that would become a gorgeous butterfly or if it was a moth. I wondered if it only left minor nibbles on plants or if it could do significant damage and needed to be eradicated. I was uncertain so I placed it with it’s host leaves into a mason jar with a bit of water until I could research it.  Image [Notice the bite mark in the background? I watched it munch that spot in less than a minute.]

20130606-151648.jpg20130606-151702.jpgI couldn’t help but consider as it munched on leaves that, it has to eat too. I didn’t want to kill it, but I also knew that if this was the sort of crawler that could devour my poblanos or stunt my tomatoes, it needed to go.

After doing some research I concluded that this is a White Marked Tussock Moth. (Click on the link to find out more). It will turn into a standard looking grey moth, but as a caterpillar it’s quite unique. I see no benefit for my garden coming from this critter, but I also don’t see significant enough harm to eradicate it. It will be released a good distance from my balcony just to be on the safe side.

Soon I was back in the kitchen making my Lemon Balm Tea Spice and contemplating relocation plans for the caterpillar when I realized I needed something in the living room. As I made my way back to the kitchen, I noticed something black with eight legs and a white stripe crawling on my wall. It was a spider; one that I could not identify. I could embellish the story by describing it’s great size but the truth is it was not much bigger than my pinky finger nail. Yet, there was something dreadful about the sight of this creepy crawler. In reference to garden pests, spiders are generally considered one of the good guys because they eat bad bugs. Here was my problem. It was in my house and I couldn’t identify what type of spider it was; plus, venom doesn’t make anybody a good guy. Quick decision. There was a magazine and a jar on the shelf near by. To smash or to catch? That was the question. At that moment, I didn’t want to clean him off my wall so I caught him with the jar and slid the magazine over the covering. It instantly started jumping all around the jar and I felt shivers around my shoulders.

I went out my back door and lunged the jar forward sending the spider flying off my balcony! I breathed a cliché sigh of relief.

With great irony, it was only minutes later that I stepped out my front door to retrieve citronella clippings that I’m going to propagate more plants from in an effort to control mosquito pests when suddenly there was a mosquito on my arm. I moved quickly and the mosquito landed on the wall by my door. I did a push kick right at the wall and squashed him causing blood to drip down the wall. Yuck. I’ll say it again. Yuck! I grabbed a napkin to wipe the blood off the wall and not knowing whose blood it was, I immediately ran into the kitchen to wash my hands.

As I was washing my hands, a mosquito flew right in front of me and without a moment’s hesitation I slapped my wet hands together squashing another mosquito. (Deep Sigh). I washed my hands again.

Here is the lesson for today. In the garden, bugs are inevitable. In a humid, subtropical location, bugs are inevitable. To have problems and solutions in your garden, bugs are inevitable. To some extent, you should embrace them. To another extent, you should be fearless when conquering them. Some bugs foes who will harm your plants, others are friends who will save them from the devourers. It’s all about balance. A variety of plants will attract beneficial insects and birds who then eat the pests. If you can get a new plant established and healthy, it will be less susceptible to pests and diseases and you won’t have to worry about a bug getting a munch now and again. My only concern for now? Keeping the bugs off the Poblanos!

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