This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record, Part III

It’s Just a Habit: part three in a series of notes for POD 2011

Oh, POD knows what it’s like to hate. Loopers, cucumber beetles, aphids, whiteflies, stinkbugs — oh yeah, to the kill.

Loopers: bacillus thuringiensis
Whiteflies: yellow sticky traps and lots of yellow marigolds
Aphids: Recycled aluminum foil mulch and maybe diatomaceous earth
Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs: Vigilance — these nasties have no local predator or proven killer.

It’s Been a Tough Summer

whitefly damage to tomato
Whitefly Destruction

In case the recent string of posts about garden pests hasn’t tipped you off, it’s been a tough year for the plants on deck. So tough that it’s too depressing to post the monthly update photo. So tough that the only remaining cherry tomato is the Gold Nugget, heretofore referred to as Champ. On the bright side, it seems that blights and fungi were largely avoided this year.

Anyone who says container gardeners don’t need to worry about bugs live  a charmed life.

Let’s see, a random nutrient deficiency finally slaughtered the Isis Candy (maybe copper, maybe iron, maybe potassium, maybe all of the above) and whiteflies took out the pampered Black Cherry (pictured left). Next year I’ll make up a batch of yellow sticky traps and see if that doesn’t do the trick. Aphids have taken over and samples of the brown marmorated stink bug have been collected. And oh, yeah, it’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry.

And guess what? The rescued Black Brandywine isn’t looking so good.  Its calcium deficiency may be terminal but it’s got one lonely fruit that I’m unwilling to sacrifice just yet.

Whitefly close-up
Whitefly close-up

Each year I resist the urge to buy a pH kit to test each container’s soil as it seems just a little too garden-geeky, but let’s face it, the little blue deck has had a blog devoted to it for over a year. If that ain’t geekdom, what is?

Now, all hopes are pinned on the currently thriving Greensgrow Mr. Stripey. Cross your fingers, please.

Sap Suckers

Because Early Blight just isn’t enough pestilence for one little blue deck to endure, it’s also got a fascinating case of banded winged whiteflies. What the heck?

Looks like it’s become a race: how many tomatoes can one eat before the tomatoes eat themselves? So far over three pounds have made their way into the kitchen and that feels like an enormous success.

What you see here are the eggs and larvae of the whitefly sucking their way through the underside of a chocolate cherry’s leaf. If you look veerrry closely, you’ll see one of the more mature almost-flies taking a stroll along the lower left edge of the leaf.

bandedwinged whitefly, chocolate cherry
banded winged whitefly, chocolate cherry tomato

These pernicious pests are easy to miss. It took a good deal of staring, research, more staring, picking, squinting, still more research, and then magnifying photos to figure it out. These microscopic suckers live on the undersides of the leaves but the top of the leaf appears to have whitish spots, then suddenly wilts and falls off. All that and they transmit a viral diseases, too.

By all accounts, whiteflies are tough to control. The poor chocolate cherry tomato has been moved as far away as possible from the struggling, but producing, Tumbling Tom, Gold Nugget, and Isis.  POD hates the thought of chemicals (because we actually do want to eat what tomatoes can be salvaged) and kinda’ figures these guys are a lost cause. But, the undersides of the leaves are being hit with all we’ve got: soapy water with baking soda, EcoSmart Organic Garden Insect Killer, and Garden Safe Multi-Purpose Garden Insect Killer. Take that.