Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mystery of the missing Mockingbirds

I've written many posts since we started growing blueberries four years ago complaining about Mockingbirds that view our bushes as as nothing more than giant feeders. But this year, despite a bumper crop of blueray berries, the birds are strangely uninterested. We have seen them on nearby buildings and regularly hear them singing. We even sighted one on our terrace recently. But they have not been feeding on our juicy fruit. Sure, the berries are a little tart, but could that be it. The berries just aren't to their liking this season? Are these birds such connoisseurs that they are rejecting our fruit? Our neighbors Michele and Charles across the street grow blueberries as well. Are the birds stocking up there? I should be overjoyed. After all, when they come, they babble, chirping with verve outside our bedroom window at 5:30 a.m. And when they nosh, they take the berries just before they're perfectly ripe, which leaves us with little worth eating for ourselves. So, I'm thrilled that the birds have found blue-r pastures. I'm just trying to make sense of it all.
A bumper blueberry crop has not attracted Mockingbirds this year

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ants and aphids make for a gruesome garden

Sometimes, rather than bucolic idylls, gardens can be horror shows. Like when you discover squishy white aphids all over your beautiful Japanese eggplant, just as the flowers are beginning to bloom. Couple them with ants crawling all over the plant, not to eat the aphids, but to protect them, and its enough to turn a sunny day black indeed. Turns out that ants are sort of aphid farmers that sup on the tiny bugs' "honeydew"--a sweet secretion they produce. As soon as I discovered this unappetizing scene I went to work to salvage the plant. I pulled out my spray bottle of soapy water and washed away as many of the small bugs as I could (and there were hundreds, maybe even thousands!) Then I sprayed the Ichiban eggplant with Safer Insect Killer (I hate to use it but aphids are tenacious and will kill your plant.) Finally, I squirted tiny blobs of Combat ant killer (it comes in a syringe-like tube) on the pot rim where ants were swarming. Just minutes later, I witnessed a gruesome sight: ants feasting on the poison which is engineered to attract them. An orgy of delight for such a fortuitous meal ensued. The ants were of course unaware of the consequences: certain death. After two treatments, I am happy to report that the aphids and the ants were seriously depleted! But vigilance is a must. Aphids are hard to eradicate entirely. They often return on the young leaves. Still, the plant is back to healthy and plenty of eggplants are growing. What a relief!

This gorgeous eggplant was growing beautifully

But then I noticed aphids.  They are the tiny white dots

Combat attracts ants who eat it and then bring the poison into the nest
This feast will end badly

Healthy again. The lovely purple flower could become a Japanese eggplant in a few weeks