Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tomato Trouble

When I went out into the garden today I discovered quite a surprise in my tomato patch. One of my plants was missing nearly half its leaves! What could have done this?

I looked closer.

This didn't look like deer damage (and I don't think deer like tomatoes), definitely not a rabbit (which would have eaten near the ground) or a squirrel (which would have taken bites out of the tomatoes but left the plants. I had a small mystery on my hands. I like mysteries. Well, I like reading mysteries.

So I looked closer and found...

A tomato hornworm. I'd never seen one before. It's quite large!

Tomato hornworms are the caterpillar stage of the Sphinx moth and can cause a lot of damage to a small vegetable patch. So I did what I always do in situations like this, grab the camera and look it up on the Internet. There is a lot of hatred toward tomato hormworms out there, lots of talk about how to kill them and how to avoid getting them in the first place (when I looked further I found that marigolds don't work and the theory behind planting in a different spot next year doesn't seem sound since this is just one stage of a life cycle and the same animals probably won't be back next season, unless in the form of the moth).

Now this got me thinking about vegetable gardens and gardening philosophy. I don't grow a lot of vegetables. I don't need to, there are good quality organic vegetables available near-by (even tomatoes that were picked today). My husband has a good job and I'm highly employable and will probably get a job next year (after some important stuff is done to our house) so we have enough money for high-quality, relatively expensive food.

I do like a fresh tomato while I'm in the garden but I have plants in several spots and LOTS of tomatoes right now so this one guy isn't going to decimate my crop.

I believe that humans (myself included) leave a large footprint upon the Earth. I like to take long, hot showers, turn the heat up in winter and leave the computer on when I'm not using it but I'm home and I might get back to it soon.

I believe that nature, the environment and wild things are important.

So I welcome all manner of living things into my garden. I don't use pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that could wash into local waterways. I try to choose plants that will thrive with little supplemental watering. I try to plant at least some plants that benefit the local pollinators or birds. I avoid plants that I know will escape cultivation and crowd out native plants that local wildlife depends upon. And I left the hornworm where it was.

I can't make a tomato hornworm so how can I justify destroying one just for the sake of a few tomatoes that I want but don't need?

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