Low Tech Tomato Worm Solution

This is the time of year for these guys, the Tomato Horn Worm:

Tomato Horn Worm

Anyone who raises tomatoes will eventually have to deal with these pests.

I know some of you are chuckling to yourselves because you have already guessed the low tech solution to the tomato Horn Worm problem. We have, I don’t know… maybe 80 to100 tomato plants in our garden beds. We just use the old hunt, pick,and stomp method of worm control.

The caterpillars are sometimes hard to see because they are the same color of the tomato plant. So just check your plants for bare stems with no leaves.

Bare tomato stems When you see this, the Horn Worms are close by. Usually, they feed toward the top of the plant, but not always.

When you find them,just pick them off and stomp on them. They make a satisfying sound when stepped on that is just too difficult to describe in words.

If you are too squeamish to step on them, you can use a very high tech method employing specially bred bacteria to infect them with their own brand of the Black Plague.

The bacteria (Bacillus thurengensis or BT for short) is quite harmless to people and pets. Heck, it won’t even kill other bugs, but it is deadly to caterpillars of all kinds.

The mid-tech control is to just spray an insecticide to kill them. I never use that method, seems to me to be over-kill (yes, pun intended).

Sometimes, mother nature steps in and sends in her own worm killers, if you see a Horn Worm with small egg-shaped objects on its back, don’t kill it. These egg-shaped things are the pupal cocoons of the Braconid Wasp, a parasite of Horn Worms.

From each one of those cocoons another wasp will emerge. So, instead of one worm hunter, you now have dozens doing your dirty work. Ain’t nature grand?

Braconid Wasp Cocoonson Horn Worm

photo: Clemson University

So if the Horn Worm is a caterpillar, it must turn into a moth or butterfly right? Yep, it turns into a type of “humming bird” moth (also known as a Sphinx moth). The Horn Worm moths only fly at night. There are other species of “humming bird” moths that fly during the day.
Horn Worm Adult

photo: W.S. Cranshaw

That’s the “skinny” on a fat worm. Good Hunting!
Bob

Computer Problems

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a decrease in the frequency of posts lately.

We have been having some computer problems here at home where we write our blog, so the postings have been sparse.

Thanks to our son, Joseph,we are now up and running once more!

So, please check back, we have a lot of fun things to share with you.

Bob

Dragon’s Blood

We have a flower bed that is right next to a concrete slab. It gets full sun all day and reflected sun from a white wall. It also does not get watered as much as it should.

Because of the hot, dry conditions, we had problems getting plants to grow there.

The solution to our problem was to plant sedum, in this case the variety “Dragon’s Blood”. It is a low growing (3″-4″ tall), sprawling plant that has reddish foliage, hence the name “Dragon’s Blood”.

As the branches grow, they tend to root themselves at that point. Once they are established, they can withstand very dry conditions.

As an additional bonus, they will also flower. Here is a photo I took last week of our Dragon’s Blood sedum blossoming:

Dragon's Blood Sedum

As you can see, the sedum densely covers the space, effectively choking out any weeds. It’s a great plant for a difficult area.
Bob

New Threat to our Michigan Trees

Michigan is reaping the harvest from “globalization” once again. In addition to losing our Ash trees and automotive industry, we can now add to the list our pine trees.

On July 6th, an individual Sirex Woodwasp was collected from an insect trap in Macomb County. These pests were first found in New York back in 2004. Agricultural scientists have been monitoring their traps for this woodwasp ever since. They came into our country via wooden crates made with infested wood.

So it’s official, Michigan is now on the list of areas having this problem, joining New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario.

We have our own Woodwasps but they only attack weak and dying trees. The Sirex, on the other hand attacks all pine trees that have two or three needles per bud. These include Austrian, Jack, Red and Scotch Pines. Even the most vigorously growing trees are not immune to destruction.

Here is a photo of the culprit:

Female Sirex Woodwasp

Photo: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

The female uses its stinger to “sting” the tree and lay its eggs inside.
Sometimes the female dies after laying the eggs and can be found dead but still stuck to the bark:

Dead Female Sirex

Photo: Paula Klasmer, Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria, Bugwood.org

The eggs hatch and the larvae (worms) tunnel under the bark and kill the tree:

Sirex Larvae
Photo: William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org

The oozing sap is a symptom of Sirex Woodwasp infestation…

Oozing pine sap

Photo: Dennis Haugen, Bugwood.org

Let’s hope that our Agriculture officials are right and this pest will pose no threat to our forest industry.

Bob

Harvesting Garlic

I believe if you looked back and counted, you will find that I have posted more entries on the subject of Garlic than any other topic.

Well, here is another chapter in the garlic story…harvest time.

The garlic tops have mostly turned yellow and fallen over. That’s the signal. It’s time to dig the garlic. Many people suggest that you knock over all of the plants at this time and let them dry further in the garden. We don’t do that because we have overhead irrigation and the combination of water and garden soil tends to stain the outside skin of the garlic bulb. Staining doesn’t hurt them, but they just don’t look as nice.

Garlic ready to dig

We just loosen up the soil near each garlic plant with a garden fork to help us lift them from the bed.

After digging, they get a quick rinse from the garden hose.

Washing garlic

Then they are laid out on a table in a shady spot to air dry and cure for several days.

It is during this curing period that the individual cloves form their papery skin. I used a bulb of garlic yesterday and the cloves were surrounded by a skin but it was still white and soft making it a little hard to peel.

Once the garlic has cured, the tops may be cut off and the bulbs stored in the fridge until use.

“Soft neck” garlic tops may braided to form a “rope” of garlic. This makes a very nice gift for your cooking friends.

We harvested somewhere between 400 and 500 bulbs of garlic from our 6 beds this week. Most will have their tops cut off and be given away to our garlic loving friends.

Bob

Oregano

Oregano is one of my favorite things to grow and harvest. Since it is a perennial, I don’t have to worry about planting it every year and it grows so vigorously that it chokes any weeds that try to “invade its space”.

Oregano

To harvest it, we simply cut the entire stem. It then goes immediately into the dehydrator (set at 95F) for a day or so.

Oregano in Dehydrator

Wearing latex gloves, we slide our fingers down the stem and the dried leaves come right off. The leaves are packaged in Zip-Loc bags which then are stored in a cool dark place to preserve the flavor and the wonderful bright green color.

I use a lot of oregano when I cook and let me tell you, store boughten oregano is not even in the same league as this stuff!

Bob