Harebrained Schemes

As my dear friend Susan would say, sometimes you need Plan C’s and even D’s in gardening. Looks like that’s going to be the case for our little suburban garden.

Besides ongoing struggles with CFS and fibro, it appears that I have done something to my upper back. And that something is not good. I am guessing a disc is bulging; hopefully it’s nothing worse. I have been hurting almost constantly in my neck, shoulder, and right arm for the last couple of weeks. Pain and limited range of motion have halted my work on the new bed I’d hoped to have ready for the fall.

I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. But now a reassessment of what I can and can’t do is in order. It’s time to move forward. Container gardening, here we come! I am not certain which fall vegetables might do well in containers, but I am shortly going to learn.

And speaking of learning new things…

While researching safe ways to eliminate hornworms, bugs, slugs, and the like, I decided that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) looked promising, as did Neem oil. Those items were unavailable in the size or price I wanted at the stores in my zip code. With my neck hurting, shopping trips into town have been limited. So I spent some time one evening researching alternatives on the internet.

Cyberspace abounds with home fixes for whatever ails your garden. Well, really for whatever ails your anything. But that’s a post for another day. When it comes to hornworms (one of our biggest pests), some of the suggestions left me, shall we say, skeptical? A few were impractical. One or two bordered on the absurd. I am convinced that I lost IQ points reading some of that mess. So what was the fix on which I settled? Cornstarch.

I sprinkled cornstarch liberally on my tomato and bell pepper plants and on the ground beneath. It looked like snow. One warning if you choose to use this garden fix. You may have Christmas music stuck in your head for awhile. Think Bing Crosby.

The cats were intrigued, especially Dobby. She sniffed, licked, and rubbed the leaves of the bell pepper, which is exactly why I’ve put time and effort into finding pet-safe alternatives. We don’t have the brightest animals on the block. Sister Hermione stopped short at rubbing or tasting the cornstarch. Holly the dog says this is yet another harebrained project of Mom’s and she’ll stay far away, thank you very much!

harebrained schemes
Holly gives her opinion on the matter.  Dobby inspects the “snow job.”

Honestly I was expecting most of the cornstarch to fall to the ground immediately or be washed away by summer showers. The plants sit slightly under the overhang of the roof along the back porch. They are not directly out in the open for rain to fall straight down on them. But still I anticipated the need to reapply the white powdery mess almost daily. To my surprise, that has not been the case.

cornstarch before and after
Left: Initial application of cornstarch. Right: Six days later.

The initial application was made on August 13th. Six days later and the tomato plant is still reasonably covered, especially the top branches that are in the best shape. Though it’s a bit hard to tell from these photos, there has been no further damage to the tomato plant and very little to the bell pepper. I am sure the new holes in the bell pepper leaves could have been prevented had I reapplied the cornstarch once during that time.

So what’s the verdict? Cornstarch works, especially on tomatoes. Which really isn’t all that surprising. I wouldn’t want to dig in to a garden salad covered in that stuff, would you?

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