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The Clue of the Poo…

… or Developing Your Gardener’s Eye.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about developing what I call your gardener’s eye. By which, I mean knowing what your garden looks like generally and what it ought to look like, so you notice changes that can signal an issue of concern. In caring for a garden organically, catching a problem early is especially important.

I was at a client’s garden pruning the tomatoes (more on that another time) when I noticed the following.

Tomato Hornworm Frass

At first I just noticed a small amount on one leaf and didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed more on other leaves and decided I should take another look. To my gardener’s eye this looked like frass (caterpillar excrement), even though it was definitely different than the only other frass I’m familiar with.

Cabbage worm frass

Cabbageworm Frass

As I looked more closely at the tomato plants I quickly spotted a small tomato hornworm. And I found 4 more throughout the tomato patch.

Small Hornworm

Small Tomato Hornworm

This was a revelation to me, because I’ve never manged to spot a tomato hornworm until it was at least a couple of inches long and had done a lot of damage to my plants. I was also surprised to spot the hornworm so easily, because I’ve often had trouble spotting the big ones. However, I realized that the white stripes on the small caterpillar are much closer together than those on a mature hornworm making the small hornworm stand out against the color of the leaves much more than a large one.

Mature Tomato Hornworm

Mature Tomato Hornworm

So now I will look for this clue of caterpillar poo to save a lot of damage to my garden. You can too, with this problem, and others, as you develop your gardener’s eye.

It’s Baaaaaaack…

Preserving season, that is. I already prepped some kale for freezing a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be doing more today, as well as some chard, beet greens & rutabagas. Also some people’s cukes have already stared to come in (mine are still a ways away) so pickling time will be here soon. Not to mention tomato season and salsa, pasta sauce and BBQ sauce (though I still have plenty of BBQ from last year).

4 Pounds of Kale

4 Pounds of Kale

I think one of the real joys of gardening opening up a jar of pickles or salsa in deepest, darkest February and getting that taste of summer again. Not to mention that I still have squash from last year in my freezer to make my Flax-Squash Bread (though I just made a couple of loaves this morningĀ  with last year’s sweet potatoes).

If you’d like to be able to preserve your own harvest, you can learn how to do so at one of the two classes on Canning and Food Preservation that I’m teaching on the next two Saturdays, July 16 & 23 in New Paltz and Hyde Park, respectively. You get more details including how to registerĀ  here.

The classes will introduce you to the equipment and techniques for safe and delicious food preservation and it will include demonstrations and samples. I hope to see you there.

My Favorite Books

Image of Bug, Slugs, & Other Thugs: Controlling Garden Pests Organically (Down-To-Earth Book)



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