Monday, August 28, 2006

Invaders in the Tomatoes

Yesterday I discovered to my horror that there must be an army of hornworms in my tomatoes. I managed to pick off and kill about four, but could see signs that there were many more. So I decided to offer the two neighbor children a job -- a quarter for each tomato hornworm they could pick off, put in a jar, and bring to me. I did caution them to be careful how they handled the plants. They brought me a total of 14 worms, and I did away with them after paying the children. But when I went out to water this morning and cut off the parts of the plants the worms had stripped, I discovered that children can also do damage in their zeal to increase their funds. The vines had slid down from where they had been staked, spread out so they they covered adjacent plants (borage, peppers), and some were broken off, so I lost another four green heirloom tomatoes that way. However, I'm imagining I'm still better off, since I have a pretty good idea how much those worms would have eaten by this morning had they not been caught. And I did find two more this morning. As soon as I have a car again I will have to get some BT. I dare not turn the kids loose again without supervision.

I also have a mystery plant I'd like to grow on the slope next year. It must be native, since it grew on its own in two different parts of the property that are pretty far from each other. It is extremely drought resistant and requires no care that I can see. And it would provide a nice contrast to the purple and yellow colors already on the slope. I've been checking both the books on weeds and the books on wildflowers, but I can't find it. Does anyone have a clue? It's about 18 inches high and forms seed pods. I took pictures today. I have put them here. I show the whole plant, with close-ups of the flowers and pods forming. (Since posting this the first time, I've discovered this is milkweed, and after watching it for a season I have decided it's not very pretty after it forms its seed pods.)

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