Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's bugging me

Okay, for a gardener the following pictures may be disturbing.

Here are the blasted caterpillars that have devastated what used to be nice cabbages; these two and about 3 dozen of their cousins.

And this is just too aggravating for words. The picture is of the blasted ants, which I have been fighting with borax and diacomatous earth and ant bait traps. I wouldn't be so aggressive if they didn't import or "farm" the aphids and the scale which coat entire plants. I have blasted them off time and time again, and the ants quickly bring the aphids back, repopulating every tender dahlia bud, rhubarb leaf, or lettuce. It's enough to drive me to .... well, I don't know what. The ants are everywhere. I know this is a very active time for them, but I sure can't wait for the rains to drown some of their population. Unfortunately, they have set up home in the greenhouse, which they love in the winter, incubating their young. I bait them again and again, but it's a losing battle.

On to other things. Woke up to a rainy morning (3/8-inch precipitation). Took a few pictures, two of a confused squash that came up from the compost. Now if I thought for one moment I could get a squash, I'd hand pollinate it. But I give the plant about 2 weeks before mildew has its way. The picture below is a female flower:

And this one is male:
Notice at the base, there isn't any fruit/squash forming. The most common reason why zuchini don't grow (and just drop the fruit) is because there weren't any male flowers open and ready when the female flowers are. I've observed that the plant will put a number of male flowers out before the females, but they usually fade before the female flowers are ready. I'm assuming that this is so the plant will cross with other plants nearby instead of self pollinating. I don't do seed saving for squash because they cross so easily (and the results can be disappointing) so I leave it to the experts and just buy a few seeds to sprout. But if I'm really anxious to get a few squash, I'll borrow a male blossom from another squash plant (even a compost sprout) to get the job done. Thank goodness they are so productive. What I might do is fry a few of these blossoms for lunch tomorrow. It would be a nice "off season" treat.


meg said...

Eeew, ick! I can deal w/caterpillars (don't like them, but can deal) but ants are the limit- I get the crawlies just thinking about them. And you're right- they are so hard to eliminate. Too funny about the squash- I have confused roses that bloom off-season from everyone else in town.

lisa said...

This is one of the many reasons I don't grow vegetables-everybody eats them but me! Bugs, deer, rabbits...even chipmunks! I caught one red-handed a couple years ago with a cherry tomato as I rounded the corner of the house! (The look on his face was ABSOLUTELY worth it!) So I just spray "Liquid Fence" on my flowers about 4x per season, and enjoy the flowers. As for veggies...luckily there are some retail "truck gardeners" around here where I can go buy a few bushels of whatever I want, then put it all up on the day that I have the time-I can't beat the convenience. Someday I may erect an 8 foot fence and plant my own veggies though....or nah!

C.C. said...

Yes, veggies are a challenge, but so worth it. I never have to worry about eating "bad spinach" or the like. I will be putting in some perennials this winter. I love the veggies but feel I need more flowers and foliage.

And ants didn't used to creep me out, but they are working hard at it. >Sigh<