Of Tomatoes and Bugs

Thanks to the recent rains that scourge of the late summer/ fall Texas garden, the red spider mite, is gone. They killed my tithonia and came THIS close to killing the tomatoes before the prolonged recent rains gave them the ol’ Wicked Witch of the West treatment and they melted away. So, when it finally DID dry out enough to pull out the tomatoes I actually found a halo of healthy leaves coming in… so they got a haircut instead of being executed.

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He’s only MOSTLY dead… which means that he’s SLIGHTLY alive!

From this… to this!

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Better looking than I was expecting, honestly.

I was quite pleased with them… as well as with the perfectly formed baseball sized green fruit on Bobcat that I hadn’t noticed under all those dead leaves. So for all the folks who rip out their determinate tomatoes and replant in the fall may I suggest that next year you try laziness? Worked for me.

But then, of COURSE on the last bit of cleanup on that first tomato plant I found this guy:

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Dang you!

Here’s the thing- I grow plants for caterpillars! I like them! My husband got me a book on pollinators for my birthday one year! The striped ones for swallowtails I literally smile at and call my buddies:

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My buddies!

But tomato hornworms!? Agh! Their appetite is HUGE! They can decimate a plant! And I found SEVEN more of them as I was cleaning up the rest of the tomatoes! So I had EIGHT of these massive green caterpillars… on my precious tomatoes. I was conflicted. And yet I couldn’t just squish them. Or throw them away. I actually DID put out a call to a friend with chickens to see if she wanted them for chicken snacks- is like the circle of life, right? She didn’t. That might have been too weird of a 7:30 am text honestly, now that I think about it. And so… I left them on the plants. They turn into the hummingbird moth after all… I just straight up couldn’t kill them, especially when they all seemed JUST about maximum sized and therefore should be crawling off to make  chrysalises soon, right?

And even now, after researching for this post when I find out they aren’t in fact tomato hornworms but are, in fact, TOBACCO hornworms (they both feed on both plants but are different species. Differentiated by markings on the caterpillars’ sides- tomato hornworm s have v shaped white markings and tobacco hornworms have diagonal stripes). And so they DON’T turn into these:

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Hummingbird Moth ( from the TOMATO hornworm caterpillar) cool and all if you could just do something about that oversized abdomen…

… but instead, the tobacco hornworms turn into these nightmares:

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Aw hell.

AND yet… I’d already decided to let them stay! Ugh… FINE. And besides, I remember seeing one of those moths on the front of the house… what if it was their mom? (I fully also see how crazy this all is, don’t think I don’t).

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Turns out they eat ACTUAL tomatoes too. Fantastic.

And so now the Sweet 100 cherry tomato has literally zero leaves from this brilliant decision of mine. But at least I am guilt free and happy in the knowledge I won’t have any angry tobacco hornworm moth parents coming after me.

Besides, it’s the Sungold that is still putting up the real numbers these days and still has enough leaves to see it through.

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So pretty!

So, a bit of a soft spot for insects I guess- which along with liking wandering around in graveyards puts me well over the line of quirky and unique and instead into downright odd territory. Whatever. Life is much too short to worry about anyone’s opinions- do what you like while you have the time. Besides, we’re all weird somehow- anyone who tells you they aren’t must be hiding some REALLY crazy shit.

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Did I mention my pet 2″ spider on the Basil? Yeah…

Cough cough… I also might have had a black and white jumping spider as a pet on the kitchen windowsill and have my second wolf spider pet on my desk… so… yeah. At least my weirdness is only for bugs and graves… imagine if I liked scrapbooking or napkin rings? Shudder.

 

 

Garden Watch, 2018

So… lot of gardening going on lately, to the detriment of the bank account, but for the benefit of muscles and souls; so it’s a good tradeoff. Besides, what else is money for? Oh, the mortgage,  right.

So here’s what we’re going to do- I’ll be posting updates on the gardens, to record them as they grow in; and on the specific tomato plants, to track their progress and because I have 3 varieties I’ve never tried before this year. And because I make the calls around this here blog, so yall just enjoy a week by week tracking of tomatoes until you resolve to never come back, m’kay?

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So, if you recall, this is the garden about a week after planting April 7th-ish

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And here it is April 29th. And we picked up some of the sidewalk chalk and the racket finally!

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Sweet 100 cherry tomato April 15th

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Sweet 100 on April 29th

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New one to me… HM 1823. We’ll see.

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Mine eyes have never seen a more beautiful tomato plant… it’s called Bobcat… I really need to get a cage, but it’s awfully nice and stocky. Not pictured is the other new tomato called Sungold- it’s a cherry too.

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Good fences make good and non-visible neighbors. And we did it ourself! Oh the pride… the PRIDE!

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Francis Dubriel Rose- lovely and fragrant… awfully disease resistant so far. What? It’s gotta be constant with the zippy comments? I do what I want.

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Dinnerplate Dahlia bulbs coming up… these are called Thomas Edison. Turns out he was a bit of a douchebag, but that isn’t the flowers’ fault

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My husband and I love gardening together so much, looks like our pitchforks got married too! He’s wearing a simple bottle cap band, whereas she’s in a lovely impaled penny

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The new garden on the other side of the deck. Can you believe we agonized for months on the new house color… and then ended up picking a color that was an exact match to the AC unit?

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And the cats. The calico does have a tail… she’s just embarrassed and sitting on it due to the competition she faces on the daily round the other two