Gardening observations: PESTS

Just a few weeks ago, the garden was lush and manageable and green. And so far, most of the garden is growing well. The beds are starting to burst and it’s only early July. The goods news: the garden is growing and this year so far I’ve been able to harvest a ton of lettuce and herbs and today I was able to harvest a couple first cherry tomatoes and a zucchini.

The sugar snap peas are pretty much at their peak and will likely be cut down next week. They are in the same bed with the zucchini, cucumbers and corn, and they need the space because they are getting bushy.

And now here’s the bad news: the pests are back. There’s nothing worse that by this time in the summer, the magic of my garden starts to feel less than magic when the pests start to arrive.

It probably doesn’t make sense that for someone who enjoys gardening, I really hate bugs and insects and worms. I completely respect the ecosystem but dealing with pests are, for me, the worse part of gardening. And by at this time of the summer, it’s all about maintenance to keep pests at bay. Because it seems that for every plant out there there is an insect created to destroy it.

I know it sounds harsh, but there’s nothing worse for the hopes of a new gardener to see a cabbageworm completely decimate a Brussels sprout plant. I learned that the hard way a few years ago by planting a Brussels sprout plant in the garden not even knowing what I was getting myself into. As soon as I saw its first green worm, I knew I was in trouble! After that I learned all about the plant and what to do about the pests that have plagued the plant for any amateur, or even pro, gardener.

This is a cabbageworm, eating on my collard greens. It’s the larvae of the white butterfly that flies around the garden during the day. I’ve never planted collard greens and what I learned this year about this crop is that it is in the same family called, Brassica, which includes cauliflower, broccoli, and, you guessed it, Brussels sprouts.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of bug, insect and worms, so dealing with these cabbageworms is my least part of having my garden. Because not to mention, I have cabbageworms and I also saw cabbage loopers, which is basically a small version of the cabbageworm. Either way, they decimate plants and if I don’t do anything about them I might as well pull them all up and call it quits.

There is some good news that makes me not call it quits yet. Of course I could get a pesticide but I’m trying to keep the garden pesticide free. One thing I learned from my companion planting book is to plant the Brassica plants next to particular herbs that may try to disguise the smell, therefore tricking the butterfly. In my attempt, I moved my oregano plant right next to the collard greens:

Obviously it didn’t completely work, but I don’t have a full infestation so maybe the oregano did work. It’s hard to tell.

The other thing I could use is a natural spray called Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt. I used it before when I tried to save my Brussels Sprouts. But it requires regular spraying for it to work.

The last thing I can think of is to just diligently look at the plants daily, and literally remove the worms by hand before they completely devour the leaves. For now, this is what I’m doing to combat it. It’s an easy solution because my greens are in the raised garden bed right outside my backyard door.

The other pest giving my attention this week in the garden was the raspberry plants. About a week ago, I noticed that the raspberries were at the peak of perfection. I’ve had raspberry plants in my garden for several years and there’s nothing like a warm, sugary raspberry eaten right off the vine. Excited to eat the first raspberry of the garden this year, I picked a couple, kept them cupped in my hand and then all of the sudden I saw something moving inside of the raspberry. Upon closer inspection, I saw a tiny, tiny worm-like pest coming out the raspberry. {{sign}}

Have I mentioned that I don’t like bug, insects and worms? Not in my garden, not on my skin and definitely not in my mouth. Just to double check that this little guy was maybe a fluke, I picked about 20 or so raspberries, left them in a shoebox and carefully looked to see if there were any worms in them. Well, there were a handful that came out, enough for me to make the executive decision to not eat the raspberries. For now, they are a treat for the birds and next week I’m getting rid of them. It’s a little disheartening because it’s the first time I’ve ever had a pest in the raspberries, but it’s live and learn I suppose.

If anyone has any creative ideas to share about preventing cabbageworms and what to do about worms in raspberries, please let me know! I’m sure this is just the beginning of my garden woes this year, but I still have lots of hopes for a delicious year.

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