DEVASTATING – A small tomato worm, sometimes referred to as a tobacco worm, can devour a vegetable plant within one day if left to feast. The best remedy, according to local farmers, is to pluck the pest from the plant immediately and keep a close watch for its friends.
Tomato, Tobacco hornworm
As area gardens fill themselves with bright, red tomatoes; crisp, green cucumbers and mature, yellow squash, a closer look will reveal that produce growers wage a war against some of Mother Nature’s smallest creatures nearly every day.
From Japanese beetles to their cousin, the “stink bug,” and hornworms to leaf blight, the rewards far outweigh the armor used in the fight to prevail.
David Finch of Chestnut Glade has grown a garden since 1983 and said his relationship with the UT Ag Extension office and its agent have kept his vegetable patch on track each season.
“That’s the best advice I can give, is to talk to the guys in that office. They know what varieties to plant and what chemicals to use in your garden,” Finch shared. While seeking help from experts is good advice, Finch said the remedy of keeping a “good, clean garden” is beneficial to the grower and the plants.
“Keep your garden cleaned off and you won’t have to worry about bugs being a problem,” Finch added.
For the Wilson couple of Martin, organic is the way to grow and that is what they strive to achieve each year.
“We use as few chemicals as possible,” Jeannie Wilson said. The couple uses a mix of DE, white, powdery substance they ordered on-line a decade ago, with cayenne pepper, to keep pests off their plants.
Their peskiest pest problem as been a critter known as the Colorado beetle.
“They eat the foliage and they will devour the eggplants,” Jeannie added.
Weakley County farmer’s Market President Rich Gallagher of Dresden, said there are combinations of pests in the garden. His biggest complaint – the “stink bug,” a small bug that closely resembles the Japanese beetle.
His remedy is Neem Oil, an organic product of Indonesia that can’t be found anywhere in Weakley County.
Gallagher said he purchases the organic product online and it is “a lot better than using a lot of chemicals.” The local gardener said the stink bug has armor plating on its back and doesn’t arrive in swarms like the beetle. He sprays his garden every two weeks and the organic product is safe up to the day of harvest.
Reader Lynn Stewart offered some advice using The Press’s Facebook page. “If you use flour on your plants instead of using Sevin dust, it does help get rid of the bugs. It might not be a cure all like with these Japanese beetles, but it works,” Stewart noted.
With so many small battles to wage in the garden, one might almost think it would not be worth the efforts. But area farmers agree that making a batch of fresh salsa and munching on crisp, sweet Peaches and Cream make the sweat, time and tears of joy worth every minute of time spent armed with powder and spray bottle in hand.