Going on a bug hunt

24 Aug

Another week and more time spent away from the plot. The last time I was there was Monday night. I had gone on a mercy mission to save my tomatoes from up ending, saying to the hubby I would be forty minutes at most. He gave me a wry smile and I realised that my forty minutes down the plot are always nearer an hour and a half at least. Once there I find it difficult to leave. Even if it’s raining it seems so calming and welcome after a busy week with the kids.

The hubby was right to wear that wry smile. My plot forty minutes are a reverse version of the counsellor’s hour. In my defence it takes ten minutes to walk there and back so maybe I do only do forty minutes’ work I just forget about the journey time. An hour and a half later and I am trapped in plot, it has got so dark I cannot see the numbers on the combination lock. Thank goodness for the illuminating mobile phone in my pocket.

The tomatoes were now, I felt, securely tethered. I had used 3 bits of bamboo, creating a tripod like structure and watered the poles in so they would set and not wobble. I then got sucked into the whole pruning all the useless bits on the tomato plants and that took me up to dusk. Finally I remembered I needed to add ericaceous compost to my ailing blueberry bush which was why I ended up leaving the plot in darkness. It was calm there at night but also a little spooky.

Today, five days, a trip to Brighton and a fourth birthday party later, what would I find? Firstly as the name of this post suggests, I found a  whole lot of bugs. The plot was wet and muddy and entirely different from when I had left it. It smelt different and seemed a little gloomy, giving me a feel that autumn is only round the corner. And the bugs! Oh my they were out in force today.

My first job was to remove the caterpillars from the brassicas. This, it has to be said, was not my finest hour spent on the plot. Wet, grubby, up close and personal with a whole lot of caterpillar juice – I can think of better ways of spending a Saturday afternoon.

Going on bug hunt caterpillars

One of the many caterpillar colonies I found today.

I peeled them off each leaf, sometimes three or four at a time. Being as gentle as I could. Reminding myself that today’s caterpillar is tomorrow’s butterfly but to my horror I witnessed the smaller ones literally bursting on impact, green ooze coming out of their wee heads. I tried removing whole leaves rather than killing them but the small ones did not fair well. I found puddles of caterpillar wee or droppings, I don’t know what it was but wherever they were found, nearby was a pool of slimy green liquid with lumps. I had to get right in amongst the brassicas, searching for more caterpillars and then the stench of wet cabbage reminded me I do not even like cabbage, sprouts or cauliflower that much.

Going on bug hunt slug in brassicas

My brassicas have turned into the best bug hotel going.

During my accidental slaughter of the caterpillars I also chanced upon countless fat slugs. Much more robust creatures they also got thrown in the weed bucket alongside their more delicate cousins, ready for delivery to the allotment dump. I found one that looked almost the size of a small vole as it nestled in my gloved hand.

Going on bug hunt mega slug

No wonder my sprouting broccoli is looking a bit lame!

In the interests of being fair to that slug I have to say I do have quite small hands but still, I picked off half a dozen over fed beasts of a similar size. My gloves were now soaked with caterpillar juice and slug slime so I was grateful the next thing on the to do list was weed the pumpkin patch. My bug hunt wasn’t over though as I soon discovered whilst pulling up the weeds that two small pumpkins have now also fallen to the voracious appetite of these slimy blighters.

Going on bug hunt slug pumpkin

It didn’t just eat my pumpkin, it fell asleep there too!

But my return after almost a week was not all bugs and ravaged plants. The grass seed in fruit corner is growing at last, if very patchily.

Going on bug hunt fruit corenr

Looking less like a grave!

I scattered more grass seed on the bare patches and went to check out the tomatoes. The home made bamboo tripods have held them in place over the windy week. I cut off more excess leaves, being as brutal as I could muster. And then I noticed the best thing of all. After weeks I finally have two reddish tomatoes. I left them on the vine, having heard the red ones give off chemicals that help the others turn red. I just hope none of the countless remaining bugs I may have missed on my bug hunt get to eat them before I do.

Going on bug hunt red toms

Hurrah – I have two red tomatoes!

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2 Responses to “Going on a bug hunt”

  1. Gill Ridgewell. August 27, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Another lovely instalment darling! So Grandad’s tip about the tomatoes worked – they look delicious! That slug is huge – pumpkin is obviously good food! XX

    • wifi allotment September 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      Yes there really were some mega slugs! I now have reluctantly put down beer traps for the poor old molluscs!! Xx

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