Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summertime Blues

It's been so busy lately that I haven't been blogging much. For that matter, lately it seems that I'm just not going outside much either.

Of course, temperatures that are consistently in the upper 90's have quite a bit to do with that. I'd have to say that this is one of my least favorite times of year. Heat and I just don't get along well these days.

When I do get outside, I usually spend my time watering, picking blossoms and buds off basil plants, or handpicking pests off my tomato, potato, and squash plants. I'd rather do the latter than spray chemicals - or lose my plants to these voracious eaters - but it's definitely not my favorite garden activity.

Last year my biggest insect issue was squash bugs. This year I read a hint somewhere recommending that you plant potatoes around your squash hills as a way to control these pests. Well, it was too late for that, but I reasoned that tomatoes were in the same family as potatoes, so I planted tomato plants at each corner of that bed, then interplanted basil for good measure.

Results? Not too bad. I've had a few squash bugs, but only a few so far. The squash vines are long, luscious and beginning to set fruit. It's early days to say for sure, but right now I'm definitely going to repeat this planting combination next year.

So this year my chief bugaboo is black blister beetles. Yuck. These guys are relishing the remnants of my potato plants and starting in on the tomatoes. So far I haven't found any natural predators preying on them, but I can always hope. Meanwhile I've started my morning p.b. (jar) and soapy water assault run. If I could remember to wear gloves, I'd probably dread this task less, but I always seem to find myself ready to start with bare hands. Then I'm too lazy to walk back to the house and find the gloves to put them on. (I'm also afraid that if I got back into the air conditioning, I'd find lots of reasons not to brave the heat and humidity again that morning!)

So I steel myself and start handpicking. The little brats are very good at dropping to the ground and quickly diving into the mulch there, so I've developed a routine of holding the jar with its soapy waters of death underneath the bug I'm targetting, then trying to knock it off the plant into the "target zone". My last resort is to actually grab the black beastie between my fingers and carry it to its doom. I manage to zap about 75% of the ones I see by this rather inefficient combination of techniques.

The reason these guys give me such a case of the willies eludes me. They can't bite. Their bodies are soft. Theoretically they emit a liquid that stinks and can cause blisters, but I've never had any problems with either issue. Logic, however, doesn't operate well when it comes to this sort of visceral reaction, so I just grit my teeth and get to the task at hand.

Speaking of which, I've neglected my bug guard duty this morning, and writing about it has given me a good case of guilty conscience. So I guess I'll go grab my trusty peanut butter jar, fill it with fresh soapy water, gird my loins (so to speak), and get it done.

Then, maybe, my halo will dully glow for at least a little while!

1 comment:

Kitt said...

This heat is something else!

I am always misplacing my gloves and then tackling some weeding project that I really should wear them for. Like yesterday, going after the thistles, virginia creeper and weed trees behind the garage.

My hands and arms are a mess today.