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FRED FIRST: Summertime, and The Living Is . . .

One of a number of reasons for a dry spell here on the R-Star columnist page has been the call to the garden every morning – the hour before local sunrise (and heat-rise) during what would in other seasons have been my time to read, research, write and post from time to time.

I won’t have much to show from the garden this year—in which I told myself in early spring that I would NOT plant any veggies in the garden at all.

But I relented, and did plant just four tomato plants—from heirloom seeds we have planted for many years. The one pictured was our first to ripen. It probably comes close to two pounds.

I recall the year I took a gardening class at the vocational school, and planted four dozen tomato plants. The kids have never forgiven me. That was the Summer of the Squeezo. Anything that can be made from tomatoes, we made it.

LOTS of it.

Each of this year’s five-foot-tall plants (in cages made from reinforcing wire in the summer of 2000) has readily-visible evidence of the dreaded tomato horn worm. I have looked and found castings, but no adults.

But I learned recently that these voracious vegetarians could be located by black light. They glow in the dark! Check it out.

Search: Finding tomato horn worms with blacklight

It didn’t work for me.

FACT: I just got back inside at 315 a.m. from an unsuccessful attempt to find tomato horn worms with my little blacklight flashlight. Nada. The plants are just too dense and the light probably not strong enough.

But the night sky, on a warm and windless early morning, was stunning. Why don’t I do this more?

I will take a break here and go back out into the darkness. I will find a spot to kick all the way back in one of the zero-gravity lawn chairs and travel the cosmos. The Pleiades—an asterism in the constellation Taurus, is striking this time of year.

Did you know: The Japanese call this constellation Subaru.

Finding the plump stealth defoliators back here on Earth in the daylight will, once again, have to rely on the presence of parasitic Braconid wasps that make these massive hungry caterpillars visible.

And if I find a hornworm with these very visible pupa cases, I will LEAVE IT ALONE!

Every one of those white tubes will produce another tiny wasp with the ability to seek out one or more meals (by smell, I’m guessing) and in that natural cycle, keep these pests in balance.

  • Fred First

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