Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tidbits on Growing: Night Shades and Nicotiana

Certain Plants are not the Best of Companions. Sometimes those Plants are among the Favorites of the Humans. Therein lies a Conflict.

I love Nicotiana. The Variety that we have was a gift from Fellow Gardeners when we settled here 2 years ago. Each Evening, the Plant opens these Lovely White Flowers which emit this Beautiful Soft Fragrance that is just about indescribable. We sometimes sit on the West Porch while watching the Stars and the Lightning Bugs (the Lightning Bugs are now just about gone). We enjoy Nicotiana's Soft White Flowers in the gathering Evening and its Beautiful Fragrance.

We love our Night Shades too: Egg Plant, Tomatoes, Potatoes. And we depend on them for Major Food Crops. Therein lies the Problem.

Nicotiana is a Host Plant for the Tobacco Horn Worm, which loves to chow down on Leaves, Stems, Fruit of the Night Shade Family. Most of our Night Shades are in the Big Garden which is on the other side of the House. I felt that distance would be plenty. I forgot that Melanie had tucked in Eggplants and a Tomato Plant right alongside the Nicotianas. How convenient.

It is very easy to tell if we have Tobacco Horn Worms. These Vigorous Caterpillars leave "Tracks" as to where they have been. Leaves and Stems are gobbled up. Fruit is eaten. As they get bigger, they leave gi-normous Poops, which look like Black Pellets on the Ground. Yesterday, Melanie looked closely at the Nicotiana and at one of her Eggplants (below). Sure enough, Tobacco Horn Worms were everywhere.
I do find the Caterpillars (and the Sphinx Moths which are the adult Form) beautiful. They are gorgeous living Creatures. But they do get big, as big as one of my Fingers. And they grow fast with their voracious Appetites. (The Mouth is on the right.)Melanie carefully looked over the area and found 70 Tobacco Horn Worms. Yes, 70. She put them in a bowl and discovered their combined weight was 1 and 1/2 pounds. That's a lot of Plant Material.

So what do we do withi such things? We 3 C's try to honor Life in all of its forms. Sometimes that is hard.Melanie took the collection to the Chickens. Our Feathered Companions were curious at first, but most kept their distance. There were a few takers, but not many. She finally cut the Caterpillars in 2 and left them in the Rooster Pen. She apologized to each and every Caterpillar, but she just couldn't allow the threat to her Tomatoes and Eggplants.I suppose the Moral to the Story is that we need to be careful what Plants that we bring into the Garden. Some will serve as Hosts, or rather Hotels. These Vigorous Creatures which do have their place in the Great Circle of Life may chow down on a Food Crop upon which we depend.

For me, I may choose to have 1 Nicotiana next year, but no more. For this year, I have removed the Plant debris and we will burn it, because those Plants are prolific producers of Seeds.

In Gardening as in Life, we always have something to learn.

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