Don’t Mine Me – Leaf Miners and Garden Loss

I had to give my awesome Gnome book back to the library –  those book hoarders – so alas, I can not share fun details about the lives of gnomes with you anymore. Like how they live to be 400 years old, how they invented snow goggles, and how they are the ones that pull the ticks out from behind the ears of their forest friends, the deer.  The “library” is the keeper of this knowledge.

Surprisingly, I didn’t gain much gardening advice from that book, so I will have to author that myself.  I do have a large textbook on organic gardening somewhere, but currently not on my bookshelf.  All I can see on my bookshelf is “Origami for Dummies”….

Exhibit A.  The Leaf Miner.

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If a leaf miner did in fact make this beautiful pattern on a leaf in my garden, I might sit and watch him work away.  It’s pretty fantastic.  Before lovingly plucking the leaf from the plant and placing it in a bucket.  In the hot sun.  Full of eco-soap and water.

In my garden, the leaf miners are not as artistic with their slow slaughter of my spinach and beet leaves.  They are more sloppy a la:

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My beets looked like this for many years and as a beginner gardener I never bothered to investigate further. I just stayed naive and figured all would be well.  Did my beets mature and flourish?  No.  They stayed small and puny.  Yes, I loved them.  But a lot of work for 10 puny beets.  I have learned my lesson – You must look closer!

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I found them.  Little green maggots chomping away between the layers of the leaves.  Mining my spinach.  Strange things that look trapped tightly in a womb, but at any moment will break through the light membrane, fall to the soil, burrow down to “pupate” (a terrible word, thank goodness we don’t “pupate”), and then emerge from the soil as a fly, to lay more of these creepy larvae on our spinach, beets, and chard.

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I have no magic fairy dust to sell you, nor have I had much success managing these buggers in my garden.  However, it is one of the bugs that I don’t really wage war on.  I just share the harvest, and mechanically pluck off the larvae (that is fancy speak for grabbing gross grubs with your bare fingers and smushing them into green goo – gross, I totally wear gloves).   I do try to move my crops around each year to avoid infestation, but this brings me to my main point.  Yes, we are just getting there….

THERE WILL BE BUGS.  THERE WILL BE SUCCESS.  THERE WILL BE LOSS.

When I planted our gardens 2 weeks ago, I envisioned a lush, green, bug-poop-free, edible estate full of butterflies and unicorns.  One worthy of watering with a dreamy water wand (which I just ordered from Lee Valley!),  in an old bridesmaid dress and a sun hat.  I smiled at my cute garden sign that reads “To plant a seed is to believe” and danced my way back to the house.

One week later, I am beside myself in that bridesmaid dress, mascara smeared down my face and hair frazzled in all directions when the carrots haven’t germinated, the lettuce has holes, the zucchini is missing, my cute dollar store sign is completely rusted, and there are unwanted unidentifiable plants everywhere!  Who would do something like this?!

Well at least that’s how I feel…and look. Love re-using those bridesmaid dresses, especially the ones from when I was 20 lbs bigger or smaller.

Put your hand up if you lost something in the garden already…..(everyone’s hands are up….c’mon)

Put your hand up if you laughed in the face of nature, broke out into song –  “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks, and began replanting.

Just plant again.  I can relate frighteningly well to this fish…Just keep planting. gah.

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Beans, radishes, lettuce, chard, kale, cucumbers are all great things to fill gaps with that we still have time to grow.  Even better, if only 1/2 of your beans came up and you plant the other 1/2 again now, then you can brag to your friends and casually throw around the term “succession sowing” when you explain how you planted your beans to ensure you had just the right amount throughout the growing season.  True, if your tomatoes, peppers, squash, or melons have not made it, you will have to trade for them.  Kale.  Organic kale is already almost a currency with health foodies.  Grow. More. Organic. Kale.

And Bugs.  I often write and rant about how to manage the bugs in the garden organically with an unsaid goal of complete eradication. However, in my wiser years, I must concede with the bug-lovers and wise gardeners: There can be an ecosystem-like balance of good and bad bugs in the garden.  That rather than complete eradication, our goal should be “management” to avoid infestation.  I actually learned this from my cat.  When I watched her lick-up some ants from our walls, and leave others.  I figured “Ok. There’s a balance”.

 

 

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