Saturday, August 29, 2009

A rained out farmers market, tomato hornworms and an organic garden tally

Considering the east coast is supposed to get a predicted three to five inches of rain today it's not surprising that the parking lot of the farmers market is empty. So, I unfortunately can not bring you a glimpse of local Ipswich, MA produce for the Farmers Market Challenge. I can, however, put on a big batch of Farm Share Soup, bring you a few pictures of a fascinating garden pest and update everyone on what they can do with a mere 6 foot by 14 foot veggie bed.

I want to introduce you all to an adorable beastie I met in the tomato patch yesterday while doing some emergency staking in preparation for Tropical Storm Danny. This is a tomato hornworm, which is actually a bad thing to find in one's tomato patch since if they get out of control they will do a lot of damage. I do remember seeing the moth that must have laid this larvae a months ago feeding on some of my flowers. But, have no fear, I also saw a second hornworm that looked like this below:

This guy has been parasitized by the small braconid wasp so he won't live long. Those white things on the worm's body are the wasp's eggs. Neat huh? You're more likely to see the damage these guys do than the worms themselves as they are so cryptic. I've been seeing their droppings and the giant holes they make in my tomatoes for weeks now. Yet, these are the first full grown worms I've seen and they're bigger than my thumb.

Since my garden is organic I will let these worms be and let nature take her course, which she seems to be doing already. And considering my garden has seemed to have luckily escaped the late blight sweeping the state I have at least fifty tomatoes ripening. If I lose one or two to a worm it's OK.

My little Monsanto Sucks, Michelle Obama Rocks Organic Veggie Garden is a bit out of control. I've been harvesting like crazy. So far in the raised bed and a few small patches around the rest of my small yard I have eaten, shared or frozen the following:

  • 35 Strawberries
  • 42 blueberries
  • 5 large salads
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 9 zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 5 large bunches of cilantro
  • 274 green beans (just over 3 pounds)
  • 67 carrots
  • 3 batches of basil pesto
So if you too have a small yard or even just a patio you can still do a lot. You just have to dream big.


  1. You have a nice little harvest there. I am not as tolerant of the tomtato pest. It makes me mad to see holes in my tomatoes.

    As usual I have been watching weather channel. Our friend Jim is in your state today. Have you seen the segment with all the women in a bar singing songs to him?. He is so embarassed. Seems he has a lot of fans in MA.

  2. Kate, I'm working on my August market post right now. I came over to see yours, and I have to agree with Rae, those tomato pests are nasty, but I felt sorry for the one covered with wasp eggs. Nature does a number on them, I guess. Nice post, though, I learned a lot.

  3. Rae: I turned on TWC to catch our buddy, they're showing Storm Stories right now, perhaps later. Maybe that women was the same one who googled "is Jim Cantore married?" and landed on my blog? too funny.

    DJan: I felt bad for the parasitized worm too, half of me wanted to pick off the wasp eggs, but then wasps have to eat too. tough decision. I guess I could move the worms to the nearest nightshade since they eat that too. Or take them inside, put them in a jar and let them turn into a moth like I used to do when I was a kid. that would be fun!

    thanks for visiting, hope the weather is nicer where you both are. wind's really picking up here!

  4. Kate, I was on the weather channel also earlier this morning and saw your area was going to get soaked. But I had no doubts you would come up with a great post.

    I realize the hornworm will damage the tomatoes but he is adorable. I think I am getting way too caught up in the insect world, I just named a praying mantis!

    You harvest inventory is growing rapidly, I can't wait to see the finally totals. You have inspire me to plan one for next year. I can't decide if I want to do containers or a small spot with the raspberry bushes.

    Thanks for taking part in this month's challenge. I'm thinking about doing another one the end of Sept. What do you think?


  5. Please, don't taunt me with your rain stories. lol

    Sorry, I have no sense of compassion for a hornworm. If I am not mistaken, you can mail order those wasps and I plan to do so next year. Your garden is 6 x 14 feet? I am so impressed with your harvest! Great photos, btw.

  6. Hi Kate,

    Eww those are nasty worms...I hate it when I saw one slowly eating up everything in the garden. You made a lot of harvest, considering you the size of your veggie bed, not bad at all, at least you have something to harvest unlike me hahahaha here I go again whining about my ungreen thumb! Thanks for sharing Kate and visiting my blog. I'll send you some dried mangoes.


  7. Beautiful pictures, even if they are of worms and wasp eggs. :) You write so inspiringly about gardens I am almost tempted to give it a try.

  8. SQ: that's too funny that you named your mantis. I haven't seen mine in weeks, I'll have to name my hornworm, even though he might eat a few tomatoes! I think the September post is a great idea. I'm in! Our farm share is only half way through the season if you can believe it!

    Lynn: I'm a bit of an insect nut, must be the biology training and the fact that I was obessed with turning caterpillars into butterflies as a child. But yes, you can order the wasps. Check out, they have them.

    AL: If I ever have the honor to visit your country you're going to have to drag me away from your markets! Someday I will take you up on that offer of dried mangoes!

    RT: definitely give a garden a try! I started out with just a few tomatoes in planters when I first got out of college. This is my first attempt at a bigger veggie patch. The best part if eating what you grow, somehow it just tastes better!

    thanks for visiting everyone! -kate

  9. Yes, you can have quite a garden on a small patch. I should take some pics of a townie's garden. He has veggies growning along his sidewalk! His yard is very tiny, yet he manages to grow quite a lot of produce.

    You had a very nice variety! Hope to 'see' you again.

  10. I too feel for that worm being eaten alive..but i RUN from worms...been a city girl too long.That is quite a nice veggie garden you have there.Here folks grab the space in front of their homes and grow veggies/plants of all kinds.

  11. An excellent harvest to date - very well done! We've had way too much rain here in PA as well. It seems upon leaving us she makes her way to you. I never knew that insect was a hornworm ~ I see them around here often.

  12. So glad the bugs are just being let to do their thing organically.

    One of the worst memories of Topiary's young life was being sent out to pull those worms off of tomatoes.

    May explain why just don't like tomatoes to this day.

    Congrats on a great harvest.


  13. Lily, If I had a sidewalk I'd probably grow veggies there too, sadly the front of our house touches the street. :)

    charmine: I'm a bit of a bug nut, it's the biologist in me, I think most people are more like you! :) that's interesting to hear that people on your side of the world grow veggies where ever they can fit them too. thanks for sharing that!

    Lisa: we do seem to get your rain! the only reason why I knew what the hornworm was right away is because i was shipped a few as a free sample from the live bug company I use at work to order mealworms for my birds. they were WAY too big for the little birds to eat so we let them pupate and change into moths and a coworker put them in his dead bug collection. And you all thought I was nuts about bugs? you should meet my coworkers!

    Cow: you and my husband have a similar fear. His brother put worms up his nose when he was a child. Now he fears the compost pile since that's where all the earthworms seem to be. He screams like a girl when he sees one, it cracks me up!!

    thanks for visiting everyone! -kate


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