Nine Days

It had been a week and two days since I’d been to the garden. The wedding preparation came to a fever pitch and then we were out of town for several days, so I knew that a time of separation was coming. I’d planned carefully so that I could minimize that separation.

No amount of preparation could’ve prepared me for what awaited me when I returned, however. Apparently nine days can amount to a lot of change when all of the conditions align.

The first thing that caught my attention was that everything had seemingly grown by leaps and bounds — including the weeds. If a hidden camera had been watching the scene, I’m sure the whites of my eyes were as big as dinner plates. The amount of growth was almost frightening.

The beans had completely overtaken their bed and were climbing up the trellising. Some of the vines had already nearly made it to the top! Nine days!! Gone are the times when I wondered if they’d all sprout or whether or not they’d take to the trellis I’d created! Wow!

IMG_0625The cucumber vines were still staging their new growth and recovery from the earlier cucumber beetle attack. But, when I examined them more closely I noticed baby cucumbers. Nine days!! We’ve still not had time to finish assembling the cucumber trellises. I’m wondering, now, when we’ll get to the point when it’s too late.

IMG_0635The pumpkins — like the beans — had completely overtaken their bed. The stems and leaves of the pumpkins are just massive and somehow savage in a prehistoric sort of way.

The sunflowers and zinnias were holding their own against the weeds that had emerged with vengeance in all of the steady rainfall and warm days that had come while I was away, but they were definitely in need of assistance.

The drama that was playing out in the cabbage & carrot beds had (in NINE DAYS) reached a very climatic turning point: the weeds were about to win. Seriously… in nine days the very obvious bed that was awaiting the first real signs of sprouts had turned into a veritable lawn. Squatting there before the besieged bed, I could see beneath the canopy of weeds that lots of little carrot sprouts had emerged and were now confused as to where the sun was located.

I set to work on the area almost immediately. On my hands and knees in the mud, it came to my mind that the act of weeding — if viewed from a distance — resembles very closely an act of supplication. Hopefully my weeding, then, served a dual purpose!

IMG_0636Weeding with delicate seedlings in such close quarters was tedious and frustrating. Some seedlings were sacrificed, unfortunately, because they simply were too entangled in the weed roots. By the end of my small window of work time, however, I’d managed to restore order to the carrot & cabbage beds.

Unfortunately, that left me very little time for weeding or tending much of anything else. I ran out of time, but the thing that distressed me most was the situation in the tomato beds. James and I noticed just before leaving that the plot bordering our plot was being decimated by some rogue, reddish-brown, slug-looking creatures. Quite a few of the plants in the plot were already reduced to very frightening-looking, leafless twigs! To the plants in our plot, it must’ve been the equivalent of watching a real-life zombie movie! We noted that a few of the creatures had already made their way into our plot. We quickly smashed them but I knew we were going to be invaded quickly because they were running out of food in the plot next door.

IMG_0632So, I returned 36 hours later and resumed my supplicatory stature! Weeds weeds weeds! Fortunately, another powerful rainstorm had come through and left the weeds vulnerable and unsuspecting. I was able to quickly remove lots of them from the lettuce bed which, by the way, is finally looking like a lettuce bed with more than one lettuce plant growing in it! The seedlings took forever to emerge! I will definitely try to start lettuce seedlings ahead of time, next year (note to self).

After that, I went to work on the tomatoes. One of our Speckled Roman tomato plants has definitely taken a hard hit from the red menace and may not recover. After doing some research, I’m pretty sure that we’re dealing with the larvae of the Colorado Potato Beetle. Don’t let their name fool you. They definitely eat more than potatoes and they don’t reside only in the state of Colorado! Nearly every tomato plant in our garden had at least three or four of the larvae and a few had signs of eggs. All of the larvae were killed and I smashed every sign of eggs that I could find. However, I did notice that one of the baby Silvery Fir tomatoes had been ruined by one of the larvae who’d severed it from the plant. I was sooo angry!

I spent the remainder of my time killing larvae. They’re very, um… fluid-filled. It was tremendously gory work. I even got bug guts on my glasses! In spite of creating tons of beetle larvae carnage, I had to leave the garden feeling like I was doomed. My hope of growing organic tomatoes seems to be in jeopardy since I’m unable to go to my garden every single morning and evening to smash larvae. We are considering a light treatment of a pesticide since the plot next to us has been completely demolished by the larvae and they’re rapidly setting upon our plot.

In my best Robert Stack voice: If you or anyone you know has any information about the Colorado Potato Beetle, please comment to this blog with tips. They were last seen crossing the border into Jason’s garden and are reported to be hungry and extremely dangerous. These beautiful baby tomatoes’ lives are in jeopardy. Do not be afraid… act now.


~ by Jason on June 22, 2010.

12 Responses to “Nine Days”

  1. Oh no! I am so sorry to hear this! I can’t believe how much can happen so quickly! I have been out in my garden daily, and have only found one cucumber beetle, and minor evidence of slugs. But I know with all of this rain things can happen quickly.

    In my Chicago garden I had used Sevin for the squash vine borers, but I am committed to using organic practices here. That stuff is awful.

    Anyway, I’m sorry that you are infested, I wish you luck and I will pray for healthy plants!


    • Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. It really does help me sleep at night when I know that larvae do not sleep, only eat. 🙂

      I’d love to be able to roll out of bed, before work, and check on things and then come home from work and do some weeding. Instead, I have to settle for coming every three days or so… it’s a pain!

      Fortunately, I realized after posting this that I’d already bought an organic pesticide that’s pretty potent and supposedly effective at fighting these pesky larvae. (Garden Dust by Bomide… active ingredient is rotenone) When I bought the pesticide about a month ago, I was confused about whether or not it was considered a natural pesticide because of all the stern warnings on the label. But, apparently it’s plant-derived and relatively safe. I’m going in for the kill, this afternoon, in fact. Wish me luck!!

  2. It’s looking wonderful out there! I can’t wait to see it in person. Also, I don’t know how you’ll eat all that produce, so just let me know if you need some help. I’m here for you, babe!

    • Thanks, April! We’ll have to arrange a field trip out there and you can help me tackle those persistent weeds while we’re at it!

      If we get one tomato for every three blossoms I see in the tomato beds, I’m sure we’ll have tons to share with you guys! Our goal was to be able to grow so many tomatoes that we have to can them and then can stop buying the canned tomatoes from the supermarket… we’ll see about that. 😐

  3. Ok, Jason, I’ve got a question for the expert…. My garden is looking SO GOOD – I’m so happy with it so far! I started everything from heirloom seed (except the basil, which I bought). I will post some pics on facebook.

    Anyway, I need some advice about my zucchini. I think I need to thin them out – they seem to be taking over my garden! I have 2 heirloom varieties – Zucchina Costata Romanesa, and Golden Bush Zucchini. The Italian variety is supposed to vine, but so far it isn’t! It is just sprawling. I have 4 plants growing right now, about 8″ apart. The golden bush zucchini is sprawling even more – I think I have about 6 plants about 8″ apart. Do you think I should thin them? It breaks my heart to do so, but if I don’t I think I’ll end up with stunted plants and/or they will take over my garden (and I will have enough zucchini to feed the neighborhood.). What do you think?

    I appreciate your expertise! Hope your lovely garden is growing well!


    • No no! I’m not an expert… this is my first garden! I’m just full o’ book learnin’, that’s all. Everything I “know” about gardening, so far, is from a stack of books… thus my “garden project” as opposed to FARM! 😀

      That preamble aside, though, if you average out the plant spaces suggested for zucchini in all of my sources, I’d say that your plants may be too close together. Most sources say they should be along the lines of 12″ apart (on all sides). The good news is that — since you have six plants — you can definitely afford to lose a few of them because zucchini is a famous over achiever. And — unless you know a great way for preserving zucchini — you may end up with enough zucchini to feed the neighborhood!

      My only experience with “vining” plants, so far, has taught me that they tend to do whatever their space will allow them to do. So, if your plants are too close together, the big ones are definitely going to beat up on the little ones and — rather than vining — they’re going to “annex” space. (my pumpkins are teaching me this every day)

  4. I actually will be canning & preserving, but this will be a LOT of zucchini pickles… I think you’re right, and I’ll thin a few tonight.

    I’m not an expert either, I am learning day by day!

    I just found some Japanese beetles (3 of them) eating the leaves on some basil, eggplant and peppers. Have you had those? They can do a lot of damage pretty quickly. I just yanked them off and smushed them. But we are going out of town for a week on Wednesday, and I hope I don’t come home to a skeleton of a garden! Have you dealt with them? It’s funny, I have found 1 squash beetle, 1 slug, and 3 Japanese beetles. I always thought bugs came in droves. Maybe there is more to come….

    Talk to you soon!

    • I’ve found probably 3 Japanese beetles, too. And they DO act quickly. Thankfully we’ve not really seen enough to cause me alarm, so far. I’ve just been doing what you mentioned: killing them immediately. There are probably some organic controls that are effective against them, but I’ve not yet looked into it since we’ve not had an onslaught of them, yet.

      So far, the only things we’ve had an “invasion” of have been cucumber beetles (which I still see, occasionally), Colorado potato beetles, a giant striped catepillar that I forgot to look up, and a couple of squash bugs. Since we’re in a giant, community garden area, it’s as though the bugs are part of a giant variety show that has several performing groups that come in every year at a scheduled time. With the potato beetles hopefully behind us, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering who/what the next act will be and what stress it will cause which plants. Anyone who thinks gardening is boring has never stared a beetle in the face. Quite intimidating.

  5. So, yep, I was thinking when you described the larvae before your i.d. that you had Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB). They are nasty, nasty, nasty. They have multiple generations per season (usually about three here in PA) so it’s best to get your ramparts in order for the next assault. So, here’s my “expert” advice, for what it’s worth: don’t use the Garden Dust (though you may have already) as it really is rather unpleasant for all the buggy types in your garden, including the good guys who you want to beef up (lady bugs, or rather their larvae, eat CPBs). Rather, I’d suggest using a “biopesticide” which contains a bacteria called “BT” (Bacillus thuringiensis). This bacteria should be sprayed onto the leaves of your plants on a nice sunny day above 75F. The little lumpy bastards will eat bacteria as they feed and then the bacteria will eat them (sorta)…from the inside out. M’wahahaha! The limitation here is that you need to apply the BT when the eggs are about to hatch or when the larvae are feeding heavily. And if it rains, you have to spray again. It doesn’t do anything to kill the adults so it’s good to keep squishing those any time you see them. Neem oil can deter the adults a bit, but it really doesn’t stop them when they’re desperate (but it probably would send them to another neighbor’s plot for awhile). Don’t be discouraged though; tomato plants that had gotten a good start (which I think yours did) can often revive after the attack is over, especially the indeterminate types. You’ll just get a later harvest, that’s all.

    Now, I’m curious about this giant striped caterpillar you mentioned…is it by any chance on carrots, parsley or fennel? If so, I’d say it’s a swallowtail butterfly. If it’s on something else, it might be a monarch butterfly. Don’t worry about them as they don’t do that much damage to your plants and it’s really just so cool to know your garden is a nursery for such beautiful creatures that you get to watch transform. I actually had some swallowtails find their way onto our very urban deck where I have one bronze fennel plant tucked in a corner. Sadly, the robbins living in the rafters of the deck quickly discovered them. Such is the circle of nature.

    🙂 You’re doing a great job!!!!

    • Drat! I did use the Garden Dust, already. 😦 Oh well… there are many many more days of summer to come and lots more pestillence ahead. I’m going to look into getting the biopesticide you recommend… I love the sneaky sneak attack it promises for the CPBs.

      About the caterpillar, I’ve been trying to find a picture on google of what I saw, but can’t seem to find one. Sheepishly, I have to confess that I didn’t take any chances and “relocated” it for fear of what my ignorance could cost me. It was on one of my pumpkin vines and the vine looked as though it wasn’t happy to be playing host. It was very fat (not one of those slim models), a kinda greyish white with black horizontal stripes and maybe some yellow here and there. I’d be happy to learn what it was, though, because I may see more and would like to know what to do with them!

    • As soon as I said I couldn’t find a picture, I managed to find one. Apparently, it WAS a swallowtail.

  6. As I was out in the garden just now, I found a caterpillar on my and I recalled this conversation on your blog. I looked it up and sure enough – swallowtail! I left him there – I’ll show the boys after they wake up from their nap, and we will watch it transform….

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