Worm your way out of a hairy situation


From cutworms to caterpillars of a creepy and even hairy variety,  for a good couple of weeks our veggie garden, the spinach in particular, has been a buffet, relentlessly ravished and feasted on.

The donkeys most certainly do not seem to mind as they are all regularly presented with spinach bouquets!, but I on the other hand do.

And so it was… that the war began… These pink wellies were made for stomping and that’s just what they’ll do!

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Strategy Plan… Bugger that what plan! I am furious and fuming so just pick them off every morning until there are none left. Right, day one. 4:30am.. the birds are chirping, dawn is slowly creeping in with the prospect of a beautiful day. What is not beautiful, is my facial expression during the period that lasts between sleepy wakefulness/pre coffee consciousness.

Needless to say I might as well skip to a couple of days later when the only stomping I did was a victory dance amongst the spinach leaves!

Firstly any poisons or toxins are not an option on the farm.

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My solution would need to be organic in nature, whilst still efficiently, and due to the existing damage already caused, work a.s.a.p. As always mother nature in all her wisdom gently tapped me on the forehead with a “be patient” noddy badge.

Most of what I read regarding organic pesticides, seemed to have vinegar as a base. The rest is really a combination of strong and fragrant herbs like garlic and mint, amongst others. I decided to raid the kitchen and see what I could find. Not surprisingly, it was everything!

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I used about 2 cups of vinegar, a handful of rosemary (including the stalks), half a lemon(rind and all), a couple of cloves of garlic (pummeled it a bit), ground and whole ginger, lavender, a bunch of dried and fresh chilies and about a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Topped the bottle up with water, and popped it into the fridge. Over the next couple of days (except while it rained) I would give the base of the spinach a squirt of home brew and I simply kept adding which ever of the previous herbs I mentioned, into the bottle, and topping up with water. Most of the herbs I originally used were ‘leftovers’ and bits that were destined for the compost heap anyway. While leaving my little concoction to “steep” and “do its thing” in the fridge, I also later read that dishwashing liquid is frequently used, so in went a teaspoon of that! I had the strange urge to cackle every time I opened the fridge and peeked into my foamy brew…  bubble bubble toil and trouble…

I am sure that anyone can tweak this recipe and see what works for them. Alternatively there are numerous online sites that give advise and methods on treating pests in your veggie garden. Also just to keep in mind that you may have to alter your home brew to suit different produce. Liquid soap and baking soda is great for spores and sap sucking creepy crawlies. Vinegar is a great deterrent for weeds and to use on your lawn. I would recommend testing a small area in your garden, or on individual plants to see if you get the intended results before applying it to the rest of your crop. Keep in mind that most of these caterpillars tend to dig in just under the soil and next to the roots of most plants, where they spend the rest of the day waiting for cooler temperatures to crawl up and out onto your precious harvest, so spray around the base of plants closer to dusk or during dawn. Turn your soil every couple of days before watering to see if any more worms pop up and squush them! So far so good. The new leaves are healthy and even the plants I had to chop down to root and thought would not survive, have shown new growth.

Be sure to check in between the folds of leafy greens for any signs of infestation. I do not believe that there is a eezie peezie when it comes to gardening. This does not mean that it will not be rewarding or fun. Find your own way, just try and if it doesn’t work the first time, well, turn that soil and start again. I do hope that despite any and many challenges you will find yourself doing a victory dance in the middle of your garden. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy gardening.

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