Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Invaders

No matter their destructive potential, there is beauty in those plants and bugs that come into our gardens uninvited. I doubt any of these are new to you if you're a gardener but maybe if you just take a little time to look at them differently, you will see what I mean.
And then you can pull them up/off, squish them, feed them to the birds or a compost heap and hope you got every last rotten #@$!

So much for straw as weed control...

This is the first time I've seen spurge flower and noticed the tiny seeds (they look like fruit, embiggen if you can't see it). Although you can compost this weed, the pile needs to be hot enough to kill the seeds, otherwise you'll just be doing the spurge an evolutionary favor when you add the compost to your garden next year.

Found a few hornworms (caterpillers) in the Ichiban yesterday. Look like Tomato Worms, right?

Tomatoes and eggplant are both part of the nightshade family... as is tobacco, which is a hint for the correct identification of this bugger: it's a Tobacco Hornworm larva. Tomato worms are similar except they have green horns with black sides instead of red horns. These guys were pretty young so there's no color in their horns yet but the white striping on the sides gives them away (Tomato Worms have white 'v' markings). The Colorado State University Extension folks have a nice fact sheet here. The moths are on the big side; I kind of hope I can catch (and release) one if any caterpillars survive the purge. Hey, they're eating my eggplant! Without eternal vigilance, the tomatoes are next! (Apologies to drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs.) 

As for my last invaders, it's really not their fault. Truly, it's a case of being deemed a weed only because you're in the wrong place. That burst-out-of-your-chest alien look-alike is a pecan seedling.

We have red squirrels all over the neighborhood; they sit on the fence and laugh at our neighbor while taking one or two bites out of his ripest tomatoes and melons and leaving the rest for the birds. Of course they need something wet and delicious, it's hot and dry here and they have been working really hard... planting pecans all over our yard and garden.

pecan seedling in the wrong place
Here in Smallish Small City they have had pecan trees since the late 1800 - early 1900s; they grow in people's yards (planted so folks could make a few bucks selling nuts to the wholesalers) and in the city parks.  Nuts from trees in public spaces are considered fair-game as the local PD generally doesn't enforce the laws against picking public pecans. Even laden branches hanging across sidewalks might be available to the intrepid forager who asks permission, so there are plenty of free of pecans available: we don't need to grow them. (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE pecans: raw, toasted, in ice-cream, on salads, in pie...) Plus, we are not yet ready to cede our hard-won garden space to an orchard. Even if we wanted to grow them, the nuts are not buried in great tree spots and they would take at least 15 years to start producing, so they are deemed invaders and yanked as soon as possible.

There's not a total anti-immigration policy in the garden, a few weeks ago I welcomed a most auspicious visitor:

showing the distinctive white stripe
Who is Mr. Toad?

That's a Woodhouse's Toad. He's an insect eater and would have been allowed to stay but for this display...

chemical warfare via the parotid gland
I wasn't planning on licking him but the three cats and Chessie might have mistaken him for a playmate so he was shown out the back gate and into the alley. I still listen at night to see if he's still in the neighborhood; haven't heard these dulcet tones yet.

As more invaders appear in the garden I just have to remember to take the time to observe and appreciate them all... before raining death upon them.

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