Got worms?

22 06 2013

I got worms… but not the kind you might expect

It seems as though there are too many garden pests these days. Aphids, stink bugs, cabbage loopers, and now even some of the larger garden pots have ants crawling through them. How do I control these pests without blowing up the yard, killing the neighbors dog, or destroying the last surviving bee hive on the planet?

It’s time that I gave nematodes a try. Nema what? Nematodes. Pronounced “NEEM-uh-toads”.

Oh… you mean like these?

Not at all. In fact nematode aren’t toads at all. They are microscopic worms that go after garden pests. But aren’t nematodes a bad thing? Wasn’t there an article somewhere talking about how much damage they cause to crops?

Well, think of nematodes as your neighbors. There are the good ones that invite you to a party or bake you a pie. There are the bad ones that lock people up in the attic for years. For our example, we’ll assume they are not one and the same. I don’t want to wake up after eating a slice of cherry pie, wearing nothing but my birthday suit and shackled to the wall. I learned my lesson the last time… What a lousy attic party… Eh, too soon…

Back to the worms. Yes, there are nematodes that attack crops. We will avoid those. In a plot twist that would make the best mystery writer proud, parasitic nematodes are actually beneficial. They are wonderful little assassins, with an interesting method of dispatching their victims. Apparently, they enter the target through various orifices (take your pick), then proceed to release a toxic bacteria that kills the target pest and turns it into a great food source and great place for the nematode to reproduce. “My oh my, Mrs Nema, I’ve heard that the dead grub school district is a great place to raise kids.”

I decided to try the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes, as they can get rid of the ant queens residing in my planters. The package I ordered was intended to cover 1600 square feet. The package that arrived was a plastic container the size of a small deck of cards. It looked like it contained several clumps of sawdust.nematode2

I followed the directions and applied them to my garden beds and planters. Actually, I sort of followed the directions. I did not mix them enough, I did not use a sprayer, I applied the entire package over less than 200 square feet. Let’s say that enthusiasm got the best of me.

I think I know the question you want answered- Did they work? They jury is out, but the results look promising. I will provide periodic updates on the pest population in my garden.

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Overwintering Peppers Part 2- The Musical

5 01 2013

I’m crazy for this little lady I’m freaking for my little baby ‘Cause she makes me feel good She’s so fine

She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa. She’s a lady. Talkin’ about that little lady, and the lady is mine.

Lenny Kravitz? Tom Jones? Am I turning into a living karaoke machine? Let’s hope not. The last time I sang karaoke was after drinking several mugs of “liquid stupid”. It wasn’t pretty. Have you ever heard the song The Mighty Quinn? This performance was back before smart phones and pocket video cameras were widely available. It’s a good thing there was no video taken. It would have gone viral. By viral I mean it would have made millions of people violently ill. Anyway, we’re getting a little off topic.

Oops. Looks like somebody heard my singing

Oops. Looks like somebody heard my singing

But first, special thanks goes out to cmmarcum for the tip of using a hair dryer to remove aphids. I was getting ready to swipe borrow my wife’s hair dryer when I saw a sweet young thing in the kitchen. Dressed in red. Crawling on the ceiling.

That’s right folks, it’s that time of winter when ladybugs start to appear in the house. Remember option number 4 to eliminate aphids? I don’t want my house to be infested of course, but if I have a choice between banishing a ladybug or using it as a convenient aphid assassin, let the slaughter begin.

The ladybug is blurry but beautiful

The ladybug is blurry but beautiful

I wanna take you home I won’t do you no harm, no You’ve got to be all mine, all mine Ooh, foxy lady

Time to play some Jimi Hendrix while watching the ladybug go to town on the garden pests. Let’s come up with a name for our little friend. First question: Is our guest a boy or a girl? That’s a very good question. Despite the name, ladybugs are not unisex. Apparently you need a microscope and a PhD to tell the difference. Either that or get a bunch of ladybugs in the room, set up your own ladybug pickup joint, and catch the couples in the act. I’m no insect voyeur, so let’s just say our critter’s gender is undetermined.

Another lady joins the party

Another lady joins the party

How about the name Lola, L-O-L-A Lola, Lo lo lo lo lola.

This insect sure has me singing. (For bonus points, name the group that sang the above lyrics)

For added excitement, I found three more in the house. There’s a full garden party taking place on the peppers. After giving them a few days to feast, it appears that the aphids have disappeared. Here’s hoping that they will remain gone.

Quick edit: I had a fever when writing this post, and now I’m returning to view what I actually wrote. Two things of note. First, fevers must make me musical. Second, and more importantly, is to keep an eye on any ladybugs you place on your plants. Some critters in the ladybug family, or that look like they belong to the ladybug family, may actually be other insects that will snack on your plants. Now back to my karaoke, I mean, my beer; er, I mean, wholesome gardening.