Sunday, May 14, 2006

Little Bastards

Among the many things I grow in my garden here in the middle of nowhere, I have two productive gooseberry bushes. One of them I bought in a shop, the other was a gift from one of our near neighbours, who is forty years older than the Horse Doctor, to the day (spooky).

These are not all gooseberry bushes (cat included for scale)

I like gooseberries. They make a good fool, a fine crumble, and if you've got the patience, a decent sparkly wine substitute. They are, however, prone to several horticultural problems, the most notable being the gooseberry sawfly.

Before (or as it should be)

Sawflies (Nematus ribesii) are evil little buggers. The female fly lays her eggs on the underside of leaves of gooseberry, white and red currant bushes anything up to three times a year. Usually she lays them deep inside the bush, and the larvae eat their way outwards, so by the time you notice them, the damage is already done.

After (or as it is)

I checked over the plants last weekend, and cast an eye over them most days during the week. But such is the hunger of the little bastards, that they can strip a good sized bush bare overnight. This afternoon, whilst enjoying a little sunshine perambulation, I noticed that the gooseberries weren't perhaps their usual, perky selves. Looking closer revealed the sorry truth.

Nematus ribesii (ugly little bugger that he is)

Now normally I would employ sound organic principles when dealing with such a pest. Which is to say I would douse the whole plant liberally in derris powder or some such US military nerve agent derived pesticide. I had a pot of Bug-Off spray last year, which killed pretty much anything and everything it came into contact with. And that's my kind of gardening.

But due to a serious lack of planning, we had run out of noxious chemicals completely. And so there was no option but to laboriously remove all the caterpillars from the bushes by hand.

Bush tucker

Some people would squish them, or flush them down the sink with plenty of boiling water. But I have more of a holistic approach to pest control. So I put them in a shallow plastic dish and placed it on the roof of the shed, where all the little birds could go and help themselves.

This year there will be plump robins, tits and thrushes for the coon cat to taunt, but I fear my gooseberry fool will be sadly lacking.


Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Yick, that's quite a collection of ugly crawlies.

I found some bright green ones in my geraniums. Caught them in time, though, it seems. No more holes in leaves.

May 14, 2006 11:42 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

I squish them. If you do it right, you can get their innards to go quite a distance. Squisssssssssssssssh!

But we're going to get some chickens soon, so if you have a surfeit of the things you can always post them up.

May 15, 2006 2:39 pm  
Blogger Trace said...

Do the birdies go for them? That's a really good idea.

May 17, 2006 1:00 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Some of them made a bid for freedom across the shed roof - they can move fast those little critters. Others drowned when it rained. The birds feasted well on the carcasses of those that remained.

And I added more to the pot yesterday. Mwahahahaha!

And fat robins can't escape the coon cat.

May 17, 2006 4:30 pm  

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