I've gotta be honest - my vegetable garden is struggling this year. And I am afraid it might be karma.
To those of you who can remember, back in March I mentioned that if gardeners were feeling adventurous, they should try planting some cold-hardy crops - spinach, peas, lettuce. Given that the end of February and most of March had been unseasonably warm, I figured gardeners could try some small-scale planting.
It was looking good until the first week of April, when the snow flew again, days got chilly and we had a couple of nights in the teens.
Then, in late May, I wrote from the bully pulpit, expounding on the danger of planting warm-season crops too early and suffering the consequences of a freeze in May or June. Well, that freeze never really happened, and the sky never fell. But it could have, and who would have thought that our last spring frost would be May 1?
For penance, I believe Mother Nature decided to unleash the wrath of grasshoppers on my small - yet usually productive - vegetable garden.
Basil transplants gone in one day.
Beans never able to reach second leaf stage.
Peppers and eggplant: consumed.
Swiss chard that looks like Swiss cheese chard.
At first, I thought it was snails and/or slugs, but after sacrificing multiple beers (cheap to painfully expensive) to catch nonexistent slugs and only catching earwigs (my daughter was delighted to see so many dead ones), I realized that the 'hoppers were doing the destruction.
If I had hair to lose, these creatures would cause it.
Ironically - and back to the karma idea - I only get squeamish when a particular type of insect lands on me. Any guesses?
Ever since childhood I have never felt comfortable around them, especially the ones that fly. Now they have come back to haunt me, and to be honest, I don't have any great weapons in my arsenal.
Because I try not to use chemical-based insecticides in my garden, I have resorted to using a bait containing the protozoan Nosema locustae as a biological control option. Frequently referred to as Nolo bait, this little protozoan has the potential to cause death to grasshoppers.
Younger grasshoppers - those that have yet to develop a hard exoskeleton - are attracted to the large, wheat bran carrier. The protozoan is activated once it reaches the mid-gut of the grasshopper, and will eventually cause death.
Unfortunately, that process is fairly slow acting and does not equally infect all grasshopper species. However, results do indicate that during the subsequent three- to four-week period sick grasshoppers tend to eat less and less vegetation and about 50 percent of the infected grasshoppers will eventually die.
The primary challenge with the bait is that once you see significant damage it may not make enough of a difference. The damage is done.
Ironically, one of the best control measures for grasshopper populations is poultry, which absolutely love the insects.
Now if only the city of Durango allowed chickens ...
email@example.com or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and orticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.