Monday, June 29, 2020

Wild Things! (in the garden)

Wild Things! (in the garden)

Backyard gardens provide a venue for flowers and herbs and veggies, but consider all the wild things that are attracted to those tempting plants.  If you include cabbage or cauliflower plants with your veggies, you will attract the cabbage white butterflies which will adorn your precious plants with hundreds of eggs.  When the eggs hatch, tiny green hungry caterpillars will begin to devour every leaf in sight unless you intervene with an insecticide. (Can install row cover fabric to protect each plant instead.)  Cabbage white butterflies are an unwelcome “wild thing” in the garden.

Cucumber beetles are tiny but destructive… another unwelcome “wild thing.”  They are attracted to cucumber plants, but also will enter zucchini blossoms; you might find several congregating within a single zucchini flower.  These beetles spread mosaic disease causing the leaves to become deformed; it will produce deformed, warty fruit.  (Remove entire affected plant; burn it or bury it—do not compost any plant showing signs of mosaic disease.)

 Earth worms cultivate soil underneath plants—a welcome “wild thing.”  Jumping worms are an invasive that is destructive and can spread easily—an unwelcome “wild thing.”  Jumping worms (a.k.a., Asian worms, crazy worms) were discovered in Wisconsin in 2013. They destroy soil structure and feed upon the same organic matter within garden soil that your plants need. (Learn more about jumping worms online so you can identify them in your garden; simply Google on jumping worms.)

Recently my granddaughter witnessed her very first hummingbird moth—she was so excited and shared her picture with me.  Hummingbird moths (a.k.a., sphinx moth) are in the Order of Lepidoptera, just as other moths and butterflies are.  Sphinx are considered excellent pollinators and feed on the nectar from plants like bee balm (Monarda).   They are a welcome “wild thing” in my Monarda patch each July.  But beware—this amazing pollinator creates a hornworm caterpillar that can decimate an entire tomato plant in a day or two. (Not a welcome “wild thing” on tomato plants!)

Butterflies and birds are welcome “wild things” in most gardens… but many gardeners who raise fruit crops do not consider visiting birds an asset.  Birds may eat lots of insects each day, but they can devour a fruit crop as well.  Some gardeners utilize netting placed over their berry bushes to deter birds from stealing the fruit.

When you select plants for your backyard garden, consider you are extending an invitation to a host of “wild things”… some you will welcome, some you will NOT!

M. Lynn Schmid,   
Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture