Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Enemy

I was so furious yesterday morning.

Our peas are just starting to come in. There are so many white blossoms everywhere! Have you ever noticed how a white pea blossom looks like a little lady wearing a bonnet? If you look close enough, you can even imagine a sweet little face.

The pea pods, on the other hand, don't stand out so well. We are growing snow peas again this year, which means we can eat the tender pod and all, but any kind of pea we've ever grown is still green. And green equals hard to spot. I've always preferred picking something like tomatoes or beets, to picking peas and beans. It's just so much easier when I can see what to pick.

But someone must do it - pick peas, that is. And since Mom decided yesterday morning that there were enough pods on the vine to warrant a picking session, out I went, basket swinging on my arm. My youngest sister, Lezley, went with me, and Tiffany came to help after awhile, too.

I hadn't been picking long when I spotted them.

The enemy.


Oh yuck. Thousands and thousands of them, sucking the life-giving juices out of our vines, clinging to the leaves, sitting on the pods...

...OUR pods!

It just wasn't fair. There they were, congregating in masses on the underside of every fifth leaf. There were big brown ones, and tiny green ones that were the same color as the leaves. It was as if the big ones were whispering instructions to the little ones "this is how you do it, Charlie..."

"Aphids! Look at them all!" I wailed. "How do we get rid of them?"

"Daddy showed me. Here - let me borrow your gardening gloves," Tiffany said. She proceeded to protect her hand with the glove, then systematically squash bugs between her fingers.

"Ugh." I shivered and shook my head. I couldn't bring myself to do that - glove or not. I picked another pea, and carefully flicked two aphids off. It didn't kill them....but at least they were out of sight. They didn't appear to have hurt the pod any. I stuck it in my basket. I would scrub it well before I cooked it.

We have tomato plants in the same beds as the peas. I soon went over to check on them. I've heard that aphids really like tomato plants.

Yup - there they were.

We've put a lot of work into our tomato plants - Dad has, especially. They are each neatly staked (with a bug trap on the top of each stake!), and Dad has taught several of us how to remove the suckers that form on the plant. We prune, tie, weed around, and water each plant carefully. We have over 20 in our garden now.

And there were the aphids, calmly ignoring the bug traps, (which I think are designed for other kinds of bugs) and camping out on our tomato vines.

That did it. Tiffany was still borrowing my old gloves. My new ones were in my back pocket. I pulled out the right hand one, slid my hand inside, and went to work.

It really wasn't that bad. The aphids weren't big enough for me to actually feel them being squashed. In just a few moments the thumb and first finger of my glove were dyed a strange dark green color.

As I worked, my anger began to bubble up. How dare these little pests move in! They had never swarmed over our garden in such numbers before. Did they know that we were praying for an extra big harvest this year? I was glad to squish them.

As I worked my way down the beds, I came to Dad's, um, pet tomato plant, if I may call it that. It's the largest plant in our garden, and has been given extra care. It already had almost a dozen blossoms and one or two small green tomatoes!

A cluster of five or six of those lovely golden blossoms were hanging limp and curled, with brown starting to form around the edges. Tiny green bugs gave very clear evidence as to what had happened.

I reached over with my bare left hand. I pinched the vine just below the blossoms, trying to prune it off. The vine was mature and thick. It would not yield to my fingers.

I used both hands, tugging and pulling as my lips trembled and misty tears formed in my eyes. The six-inch piece of vine, loaded with blossoms, finally came free.

I tossed it to the ground beside the bed, and stomped on it with all my strength. I continued until I could see neither bugs nor blossoms - just a green-yellow mess. As I looked up, I saw Tiffany watching me with surprise in her bright eyes.

I looked over at the tomato plant. One section looked bare now, with the section of vine showing a sticky place where I had pruned off that piece.

I sputtered as I stared at the aphids that still remained on the peas, not wanting to say the name I was thinking. ""

"...Meanies?" Lezley offered.

"Meanies. ...There has got to be a way to kill these things!" I couldn't wait for Dad to come home. I wanted to personally help with the extermination I was sure he would think up.

Well, to skip ahead to present time, I had to be out yesterday afternoon, and didn't get to see Dad mix up his concoction of oil and dish soap, but I did have the pleasure of walking out to the garden as soon as I got home and seeing the bugs lying still and dead on the leaves. It might sound cruel, but for the first time in my life, I soaked in the sight of a dead thing. ...or things, rather.

And we did have steamed peas for supper. I scrubbed them well.


YayaOrchid said...

I feel the same way about aphids. They seem to be everywhere once they find a plant. I hear ladybugs are good defense. Around here we get chinch bugs, stinky ugly critters! But you're right, dish soap works good on aphids.

Anonymous said...

Try releasing some ladybugs into your garden. Ladybugs love to eat aphids. You can order ladybugs from Gurney's and other catalogs.