Monday April 28th, 2014

The exercise:

Write about: the infestation.

I tried to get some work done in the garden with Max this morning but he was having none of it. Instead he was interested in wandering off in search of Kat, his grandma, the tractor... pretty much anything and everything.

So in the end I gave up and took him into town to do some grocery shopping. This guy has friends all over town now.


We seem to have an infestation of some sort in the greenhouse. The most likely culprit is cutworms, since the damage matches up with the descriptions I've read. Although at this point I can't read anything about them without getting incredibly frustrated.

They started with a tray of salad greens I'd seeded a while back, though it was hard to tell at first. Initially I just thought the germination was poor, or being slow, or something. Then I realized that there were actually tiny stems poking out of the ground... and that the growth was ending there, because their tops had been eaten.

Now, I'll be honest here: we really should have done something about them then and there. But we've never had a problem like this in the greenhouse before and we were slow to act. Plus we had lots of salad greens, so the loss of one tray, while annoying, wasn't overly problematic.

Then they discovered our pepper trays. Before I realized anything was wrong (again: poor or slow germination came oh so readily to mind) they managed to wipe out all of our pepper seedlings. All of them. Every last one.

I am having difficulty avoiding swearing right now.

So. No pepper plants in the greenhouse. Option one is to talk with our farming friends to see if anyone has any extras we can inherit. Option two is buying seedlings at the farmers market in Penticton. This is considerably less appealing, since we don't make much money off our peppers - they're mostly used in our boxes and we don't sell much otherwise.

This was really not the start to the season we were hoping for, but we should still be able to recover from it. I just wish we didn't have to, as there's more than enough other things to worry about already.


Greg said...

Oh wow, the cutworms sound like bad news. I guess you're going to have go down the pesticide route, having read that article, as you're not going to be able to plough a greenhouse! I hope they turn out to be relatively easy to get rid of.
On a tangential note, I thought pepper plants were annuals? I have a couple of shili-pepper plants (that I should do more with really, but they're indoor plants and if I keep replanting them they'll grow enormous!) that flower each year. They have yet to produce as good a crop of peppers as they did the first year, but I figure they might just be not that happy with their constrained growing space.

The infestation
Duluth (his parents had named all their children using an atlas for a baby-name book; his sister's name was Cincinnati and she had a mean punch on her) was sat at the bar when I walked in, his long face drawn and white, his unruly ginger stubble looking almost like a skin-disease. The bar was busy but not crowded, and there were women in -- I could smell the sticky, fruity notes of the cocktails and the floral notes of perfume -- but he seemed unconcerned, staring into his pint of Rickard's Red. Not at all like him, in other words.
"'Sup, Dull?" I asked, sitting on the stool next to him. He looked at me, and his normally twinkly green eyes seemed a little flat.
"Jeez," he said, and drank from his beer, a deep draught that made me wonder if he was trying to waterboard himself.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," I said. He looked like he was losing the battle with dysentery, but I cut him some slack. "I thought you were up a conference today? What went wrong?"
"Oh no, the conference was great," said Duluth, looking up. For a moment again he was his old, cheerful self. "Great talks, there was a fantastic one on an organic way to get rid of black-fly, and a really good one about hybridisation of vegetables. The Parsnot is going to be a thing, you mark my words! But...." He fell silent again.
I'd got myself a Rickard's White by this point, and was removing the fruit that the barmaid had insisted on putting in it. When I had the half-orange safely on the surface of the bar, I nudged him.
"Well." He sighed. "It was after, in the free bar. We were all gathered round, talking, you know? And Fred was telling people about the aphids and the ants and trotting out his rodeo story, see if any of the newbies bought it, right?" I nodded. Fred's claim to have seen ants riding aphids like cowboys riding horses was legendary.
"And then this new guy tells us about the worst infestation he ever saw. And--"
I nudged him again. "And? It can't be any worse than the shredder-worm you had a few years back."
"Well, not in terms of... in terms of... Jeez, dude. The guy telling the story was a gynaecologist!"

morganna said...

Cutworm infestation -- I've read that you can protect seedlings from cutworms by sinking a ring of something into the soil around the seed -- like a little paper cup (Dixie cup?) with the bottom cut off. The cutworms can't climb, and by the time the seedling outgrows the ring, it's big enough to fend off the cutworms. I think a little ring of aluminum foil would work, too. It just has to be a couple inches high. I seem to recall that diatomaceous (sp?) earth will also help, but I'm not sure about that.

That's all I have to say today. :)

Marc said...

Greg - yeah, can't really use pesticides when we're trying to be organic. Hopefully the earth will do the trick for us though.

Kat's mom has brought a few pepper plants indoors at the end of the growing season in order to extend their harvest. I don't think she's had great success doing it, but she might not have the required heat.

Heh, I think I'd like to hear Cincinnati's story as well :)

Excellent dialogue here, with a... I'm not sure how to describe that ending. Nicely executed?

Sure, let's go with that.

Morganna - yeah, we're trying the earth. Mostly because it's easier than putting rings around more seeds than I care to count :P