Category Archives: insects

Edible thief

(photo by Mark FitzGerald)
When you garden organically, it’s a constant battle dealing with pests.
You win some. You lose some.
I’d had my eye on this delicious Tioga strawberry – ripe and luscious from our recent bout of hot weather in Sydney. But a cunning native slug beat me to it.
He’d burrowed deep into the stawberry eating at least three times his weight in strawberry juice.
Of course once he was discovered, the game was up. This little slug had to go.
At least he died happy.

I hate aphids

My mother always told me not to ‘hate’ anything (she found the word offensive) so I’m going to revise that and intensely dislike aphids.
Look what they’ve done to my broccoli plant! They’ve infested most of the leaves.
They’re turning an aneamic yellow. They’ve having their life sucked out of them – literally. 
And why did I sign up to this organic pest control boloney? Pest Oil and garlic spray aren’t making any in-roads. As soon as one colony is knocked out ten spring up in their place.
I’ve even brought Barney my baby praying mantis in from his usual position on the lemon tree to help with the offensive (you may just be able to see his little silhouette on the far left of the picture).
 I rail against the use of pesticides in our food but now I have some sympathy for our commercial growers.
Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with insects. They give life and they takeith away.
Sometimes I wish I derived as much enjoyment out of my balcony edibles as they did!
When you only have one broccoli plant growing you get kinda attached to it.. ok…. you get a little obsessive. 
I made some market-bought broccoli tossed with pesto and hand-cut pasta last night and it made me even more impatient for my little broccolis to hatch.
I don’t know if I will win this battle.
But I sure as hell am not going to give up without a fight.
En guarde Aphids – To the death! (Yours hopefully. Not mine)

Edible Balcony – Mr Bee Pays A Visit

Well, as I mentioned in my last post the borage has been a delicious addition to the edible balcony. But it’s also been a wonderful attractant for bees which, believe me, is hard to do when your plants are 300 metres up in the air!
I planted them in hanging baskets from seed in late January so they’ve taken about 3 months to flower. The plants are deep rooted and robust and are prolific flowerers.
….. and  they’re irrestible to bees…. (coming in from the left)
drink up and enjoy!

Edible Balcony – Evolution of an Eggplant

December 1st : I plant four long black eggplant seeds in quality potting mix with a little blood and bone mixed through. I shield the young seedlings from the wind with a plastic milk container with the top cut off.
January 26: I’ve culled the seedlings to two which may still be a little cramped for this container. The leaves are broad and healthy. I’m watering every day.
February 9th : the eggplants are clearly going to be much bigger than I anticipated and their root system has quickly filled the pot. I’m noticing little black bugs on the leaves which I later discover are flea beetles that can quickly suck an eggplant to death. I try to squish as many as I can.
February 13th: Despite a flea beetle attack and rear guard action from some chomping caterpillars I get my first flower.
February 13th: It makes all the angst and sleepless nights worth it.
Feb 15th: The caterpillar and flea beetles attacks look bad but the plants seem to be soldiering on
February 23rd: I think I spy my first fruit
February 23rd: Yes, that is unmistakedly the beginnings of an eggplant in all its glossy purple glory.
I’m now adding a little liquid fruit fertilizer in my watering can to give the fruit a boost.
February 26th: Just when I think I’ve survived the pest attacks I notice colonies of aphids on all the buds and new leaf growth.
February 26th: I mail order some green lacewing larvae which hatch and hoover up all the aphids in about 6 days. The eggplants start getting their mojo back.(And so do I !)
March 3rd: This little beauty somehow made it through the dramas and should be ready to pick and eat next week.
Phew…. that was exhausting…..

Edible Balcony – Bugs arrive in the mail

My battles with aphids, mealy bugs and caterpillars have been well-documented on this blog. It often feels as though I’m growing more bugs on my balcony than plants. And pest management without pesticides and chemicals can seem like an impossible task.
But there is help at hand.
I found a company in Queensland ‘Bugs For Bugs’ that breeds natural predators that only attack bad bugs not your plants. After a short phone consultation with a specialist I decided on purchasing 40 native Australian lady bugs (crytolaemus) which eat mealy bugs and 100 lacewing eggs (lacewings eat aphids, mealy bugs, caterpillar larvae) – all for about $40.00.
They arrived in little plastic cups filled with enough pollen and honey to keep them well-fed during their trip
The lacewing larvae needs to be put in or near the area of infestation so when they hatch they have an immediate food source.
I put them on the chili plant and in the eggplants.
The native lady bugs were parachuted into the watercress and tatsoi which have been battling hoards of aphids.
You sic ’em Rex!
It’s a good idea to cover the bugs with some light muslin cloth on the first day. This encourages them to stay and find the food source.
You don’t want your pest controllers flying off before they get to work!

Edible Balcony – Zucchini dreaming

 a zucchini outcast
This morning I had to thin out the zucchini seedlings from 6 to 3 to make room in the pot. This is one of the hardest jobs for a gardener – sacrificing some of your tenderly cared for babies so the others will grow strong and prolific. Gardening infanticide in a way.
I selected the runts of the crop which was hard to do when they all looked pretty robust – one Yates blackjack zucchini, one organic lebanese zucchini and one Mrs Fotheringill’s lebanese zucchini. With three gentle tugs three lives ended. I consoled myself by thinking with my track record the caterpillars would have eventually got them anyway!

the three zucchini seedlings that didn’t make the cut
Speaking of caterpillars, I found this fellow hiding under one of the seedling’s leaves. He was getting ready to pupate by the size of him.
I allowed him one last freedom crawl before I ended his life as well.
a green squirt, a spasm and it was all over.
(to the strains of The Last Post….You gave your life so many, many zucchinis could have theirs….