"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pesky pests

Hmmm - I thought that protecting my vegetables by growing them inside a shadecloth structure would keep the pests to a minimum.  I obviously thought wrong.

The ants were having a field day on the mealies (corn).  And they had deposited aphids all over the corn stalks.  There were ants Everywhere  - in the beds, on the weedguard path, up the plants.  Nasty, biting ants.

Harvesting anything inside was a "quick, grab, load up the container, stamp! stamp!  get out and brush off, and forge back in again - quickly" over and over happening.
Ants and aphids on the corn
I seriously need to do something radical with the ants!  I did try sprinkling cornmeal - but the ants ignored the food I left for them.  Ditto with the borax and sugar mixture.  I have re-Googled the problem - and the best advice seems to be either diatomaceous earth or ground cinnamon.   Given the infestation of my vegetable hut I going to try both - I have to sort this out!  

They are so bad that MKid even found them attacking the plug at the end of the small portable solar panel which charges the light we use to help our visitors get to their cars at nighttime.
Fried rice - does anyone want some fried ants?
I guess they enjoyed the jolt?  Seriously, they are literally eating and destroying the tip of the plug.  And being killed in the process.  The dead ants are then carted away by the living ones.
They are in the process of destroying the tip of the plug
But - as always with Mother Nature - she taps me on the shoulder, and reminds me she is in charge...

After I ripped out the remaining mealie stalks, I decided to add some fresh compost to that bed - quickly LOL

Collecting compost from the hole in the ground which is earmarked for our future cellar I was horrified to find cutworm - not small cutworm, not "squishable with the foot" cutworm, but h-u-g-e juicy morsels of destruction. I know they couldn't wait to land into the newly planted bed and munch all those tasty roots..
Look at the size of this mother!
i shouted: "RMan - come and see!" (a.k.a. I need your big heavy boot as opposed to my thin soled croc.)

Lucky I did that for RMan had a brilliant idea.  If the ants were so interested in our legs, arms and what was inside our clothing - would they - could they - possibly be interested in freshly exposed, warm and wriggling cutworm?
Oh Boy - could they ever!  "Ants secrete the formic acid for attack and defense purposes".  I reckon that is why their bites hurt as much as they do.  And what they did to those cutworms was amazing!
This is what the cutworm looked like 15
seconds after being deposited on the ground
Four cutworm being eradicated in
an eco-friendly way
In no time at all the ants had reduced the cutworm to no more than bird food - well, for those birds which were quick enough, and I'm happy to report that quite a few were.  Those that weren't - well, the ants dragged bits and pieces of the lifeless cutworms down into their nests.  Now, that I what I call an eco-friendly pest solution...!

I have no problem with the ants inhabiting the rest of the 2 Ha - but my lemon trees and my shadecloth veggie patch - I think not! 

Then I need a bit of advice from anyone who can help with my next question. Not exactly a pest, but  a really strange occurrence.  And it is occurring with my mealie plants from my heirloom (heritage) seed supplier.

And it is happening both in my town garden and in the veggie hut on the farm.

The mealies kernels are forming on the top of the plant where the tassle is normally situated.  This is on one of the popcorn plants on the farm...
Confused popcorn?
... and this is on one of the normal mealies in my town garden.
Normal corn acting strangely...
I have never seen anything like this - has anyone else?  Is this a mutant mealie?  Does one get mutant heirloom mealies?

Finally, our neighbour, CGuy, permanently has a guy living on his plot to prevent theft of his equipment and materials and wanton destruction of his "house in progress", and to look after his chickens.  This chap very kindly keeps an eye on our house as well.  As we gave him our excess food prior to leaving the farm at the end of our last weekend visit, he informed RMan that on 13th February, 2012 we had 33 baboons on our property!  33?!?!?!  That's hectic.  He managed to scare them off - thankfully. And I don't know if they got anywhere near the veggie patch...
Baboons on our neighbour's roof in March last year.
I am amazed - for it must be at least 12 kms to their natural habitat in the mountains.  And I'm not that keen on them making a habit of visiting our neck of the woods.  In fact, it is exactly a year ago that I wrote about them gamboling around on our other neighbour, Tom's roof.  Hmm, as I typed that - I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the farmers fields have all been harvested, and they are now on the scrounge for other food...?  Blockhead doesn't seem to be making the most of his position of authority - it may, therefore, be time to increase the size of his family :)  Well, he can only remain a bachelor for so long, especially being away from the bright city lights and all those attractive females.  I'm sure one of them wants a farmer for a husband, even if he has got a big head...


  1. Sorry but my thoughts are - baboons! How cool!

    1. Linda - LOL - but they have very b-i-g teeth...

  2. Gee those ants look nasty, we had massive problems with ants in australia, unfortunately my mum gave up with eco by the end and killed the whole colony (i was not impressed....) so no helpful advice but good luck with it im sure youll work out a system :)

    Your garden seems to be doing amazingly, I cant believe how quickly everything grows there, maybe its the pay off for having to work so hard to make a garden in the first place? I can basically just throw something in the ground but it'll take forever to grow!

    I hope those baboons dont make a habit of visiting you...

    1. Astra - I'm committed to an organic farm - cant have anything other. So I HAVE to find an eco-solution.

      Can I tell the baboons that you don't want them on our farm either?

  3. I've never seen corn do that...not that I've seen corn do much of anything.

    And the ants! We get itty bitty black ants in the house(annoying but no problem) and fire ants outside in the yard. I only have one rule. If you bite me I will crush your sorry little...Well, you get the idea. I aint eco-freindy about it either. Fire ants are NASTY.

    Yick on the fat and juicy's and 33 baboons? If then were heading in my direction, I'd be adding some "Holy Crap" to the garden alright...(just not the right kind of fertilizer is it?)

    You do live and interesting life Dani @;)

    1. Tami - Fire ants - hate the b*ggers! Interesting - not so sure - sometimes it feels downright scary - especially the baboon bit ;) But RMan is armed, so if all else fails, we can use that to (hopefully) scare them away...

  4. Yes any enclosed area like your shade garden is a haven for aphids. I have the same problem in my greenhouse and any lady beetles I find I put in there to control the population. Now on the corn, since heirloom corn is open pollinating you may have had it cross with something else. Or that is just the way the corn forms. Have you grown it before? Maybe the seed was not from a true heirloom. Could also be the reaction to a fungus, which corn is very prone too.

    1. Jane - I only found aphids on the corn - where the ants were. I didn't see any fungus either - neither in my town nor farm veggie patches.

      I think I'll have to check with my heirloom corn supplier...

  5. You have baboons .. we have moose .. but our moose don't climb on top of the roof ;) Corn is a funny crop. It needs wind to pollinate and full sun .. lots of sun. Ants, cutworms .. ewwww! Your photos are .. well very descriptive :)

    1. Mrs Mac - LOL Moose on a roof. Now that would be a sight!

  6. Hi Dani
    I have the same aphid problem on some of plants and I've just read that you can smear Vaseline around the stem and the ants don't like to cross it. so without them bringing the aphids up the stem, that should stop both. I'm about to try it and see.

    1. EB - Thanks for the suggestion. I've tried that - didn't work...

  7. Dani, do you know if your soil is copper deficient as I've sprinkled copper over soil where there are ants, admittedly between crops, and watered it in and they've left and haven't bothered to return. This works well around fruit trees and, depending how much you use and if you leave it for a day or so before you water it in, it is also a good grass weeder. A weak copper spray on the fruit tree trunks/branches will also help - not on a hot day though or you'll fry your leaves! Our soil here is chronically copper deficient so I'd need to spread an outlandish amount to actually poison the soil.
    Baboons must scare the same as crows so invest in a stock whip and learn how to crack it effectively - it sounds like a gunshot :D! Cheap, eco-friendly, recyclable and not as dangerous, lol unless you crack it the wrong way and flick yourself.

    1. Robyn - I have no idea if our soil is copper deficient, but know it is magnesium deficient. I am going to try, diatomaceous earth, ground cinnamon and coffee grounds which I am going to beg borrow and steal from one of my local nurseries :)

      Good idea with the bull whip - if I'm brave enough to be outside with the baboons LOL

  8. I just hate pests. I don't care how they get near me or my house but the first thing that comes into my mind when i see them is how on earth do i get rid of them. I'm glad that there are a lot of specialists nowadays that can solve our problems.

    1. John M - Welcome :) I agree, and I'm also grateful for the internet which advises on how to treat / prevent them in an eco-friendly way.


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