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    Pesky pests. . .

    Do you see that?  In the picture.  Do you see that there are NO LEAVES on the upper half of those precious baby plants?  And how about the Echinacea bed - look at those poor, leafless stems.

    Doing my detective work, I have narrowed the suspect list down to two - the backyard groundhog or grasshoppers.  I’m leaning more toward grasshoppers, as they are hopping in abundance right now and there is no garden bed destruction.  We set out the live trap in hopes of catching the groundhog, but no luck.  (Before you PETA folks rise up in alarm, we release our destructive wildlife into the true wilderness…”no groundhogs were harmed in the building of the gardens.”  Hence the term live trap.)  The hot, dry days of middle summer usually see grasshopper populations skyrocket, so this invasion is not unusual.  However, the prolific chewing and decimating is not usual.  Lack of moisture is probably to blame - grasshoppers need a drink just as we do!  There are also high numbers of Praying Mantises in the gardens this year.  Hmmmm…

    The Purple Coneflower will survive - being a prairie plant it is used to abuse.  The Morning Glory plant, however, will need some tender loving care.  In our organic management quest, the yard and gardens never feel harsh chemicals or non-organic pest control methods.  Earlier this year, we defeated a flea beetle infestation on the eggplant by placing a live mint plant (growing in a container) right up next to it.  We also use diatomaceous earth to keep down other plant chewers; with insecticidal soap, deterrent interplanting, heavy mulch, and homemade plant sprays rounding out our arsenal of pest control.  Keeping your plants healthy and unattractive to pests is also accomplished with good soil - full of great organic compost, earthworms, and the right balance of nutrients.

    Anyway, I’ve had my fill of missing sections on the cantaloupe vine, bare flower stalks, and holey leaves.  Grasshoppers are hard to deter, but I’ve mixed a magic potion that I hope will do the trick.  After spraying down their favorite plants, maybe the grasshoppers will move on to the horse pasture next door.  I will keep you updated.  For now, here’s the Magic Potion recipe, which should be helpful in keeping all those munchers and crunchers at bay.

    What you will need:

    An inexpensive, plastic spray bottle (no qualms about using plastic in this case)
    Liquid dishwashing soap - Ivory is good
    Freshly peeled garlic, 1-2 cloves
    Fresh or dried hot peppers, 1-2 tablespoons dried or 2-4 fresh - cayenne is best, but any will work
    Peppermint essential oil or mint herb (fresh or dried, teabags are fine) to make a strong *tisane

    Pour 1-2 tablespoons dishwashing soap into the spray bottle, also adding the garlic and hot peppers (chunk them into smaller pieces first).  Use the larger ingredient amounts for a 24-32 oz bottle.  If using dried peppers (or ground hot peppers), add them at this time.  Fill the bottle with hot water and gently roll the bottle around to disperse the soap, garlic, and peppers.  Don’t shake it.  Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature, and then add 30 drops peppermint essential oil.  Gently shake before each use, as the essential oil will settle at the top of the bottle.  Mist the plants to lightly coat, reapplying after rain or heavy dew.  If there is no rain, it would still be a good idea to spray the plants twice a week.

    * If you don’t have the essential oil, then bring the water to a boil, add fresh mint, dried mint, or mint teabags, and steep until cool.  (Use 2 rounded teaspoons fresh mint, 1 rounded teaspoon dried mint, or one mint teabag per cup of water.)  This makes a tisane, which is an herbal concoction usually made to drink.  Herbal ‘tea’ is the common name, but tea is truly that - a beverage from leaves of the various tea bushes.

    Companion Article:

    Beginning Gardening