The title pretty much says it all. Sometimes gardening in Florida just sucks. Our growing seasons are hot and long and winters very mild and usually frost free which allows for the often unchecked growth of the appropriate tropical hardy plants and fruit trees. We can have bananas, papayas, oranges, sweet potatoes, hot peppers and tomatoes growing almost year round. The nearly limitless amount of things we can grow is definitely a plus. But with these tropical conditions come some serious disadvantages too, namely in the form of pests and humidity. Folks from up north feel like they can’t hardly breathe when they come down here for the 98% humidity in the middle of a summer day. They describe it as breathing water. It can be oppressive for many plants too and a transmitter of a host of problems. I’m pretty sure that the high humidity is why my poblano pepper is still dropping its tiny pepper buds.
But on this 85 degree fall day, the thing that has me in near tears are the pests. I lost my corn to army worms a few weeks ago. My peach tree has been seriously attacked by weevils, a non native species that has been introduced and gaining ground here over the last few years. None of our native or localized predators seem to like the Sri Lanka Weevil and it is carving a path through just about everything. It’s food list is as long as my arm. So my poor peach tree has deep chew marks on nearly every leaf. I’m trying desperately to save it and am this. close. to breaking out the hard synthetic pesticides.
I lost half my cucumbers to root knot nematodes at the same time my corn went kaput. My Nevada lettuce transplants that I started from seed and wrote about a couple weeks ago were completely mowed down two days ago in the garden, maybe from snails, maybe something else. Something chewed through and killed a couple of my sugar pumpkin vines, but I cut them open and didn’t see any vine borers.
My pole beans are suffering from spider mites, and now my remaining cucumbers are being attacked by them as well.
In spite of it all, I was remaining optimistic. I bought a four pack of Celebrity Hybrid tomatoes this morning. They are resistant to darn near every wilt, virus, and even nematodes. So I planned on putting them in the garden an hour ago. But then I saw even more damage.
Overnight, my hybrid sangria ornamental pepper seedling which had been thriving and was a bushy 2″ tall was chewed to a stem. My ornamental 2 yr old Purple Flash pepper (see pic) which was filling out really nicely was completely defoliated. And the larger of my two Black Krim tomato seedlings, a nice 3″ tall healthy plant yesterday, is now a .5″ leafless stub. It wasn’t even planted yet. It was just sitting in a nursery pot in the garden.
I am so disheartened. I looked around in the garden and tilled the soil a bit around the purple flash pepper but didn’t find the culprit, just some nice looking earthworms. The lack of pest indicates that the cutworms are most likely the culprit and that without the corn to entertain them, they have moved on to my Nightshades.
I’ll be spreading diatomaceous earth over the soil at dusk since they tend to come out at night and hope that I can get them under control in the next couple days so I can plant my Celebrity tomatoes. If the DE doesn’t take out the cutworms, I will have to look for a bottle of Bt, like Thuricide to fight them.
I don’t even have the hope of winter killing back the pests for an early start next year because winter doesn’t usually go below 45 degrees here. And the last several years it hasn’t even gone that low. That means a wonky season for my peach tree and possibly too few chill hours. And the cool season veggies are quite susceptible to damage from pests like cutworms and nematodes. So, I don’t know quite what to do next.
Hopefully the tiny top bunch collards that have just sprouted in the garden don’t get leveled by the cutworms tonight, but I won’t count on it.
I watered my remaining plants with a strong vermicompost tea that I’ve been brewing the last few days and will put some in a spray bottle to try to deal with the spider mites tonight also. Maybe it will give the purple flash pepper the needed verve to bounce back.