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Image courtesy Alton N. Sparks Jr. University of Georgia

Cabbage Worms and the Ecosystem--Where do our priorities fit?

This morning Charlie announced that indeed worms (larva forms of the cabbage white butterfly actually) are feeding on his cabbage.  Always horrified that Charlie might resort to a chemical pesticide, I quickly ran to the computer and looked up organic remedies for cabbage worms.

On numerous sites throughout the internet I read:  ". . .sprinkling corn meal, rye flower or a mixture or 1 part salt to 2 part flour on damp leaves will kill the worms. After they eat corn meal they will bloat and die."  In addition, readers are cautioned to dust the underside of the leaves as well.  

Thus, this morning we sprinkled the cabbage plants liberally with corn meal.  In addition, I went home an sprinkled several of my plants with corn meal too.  My eggplants, strawberries, rhubarb, and four o'clocks all have some holes in their leaves.  I'll post next week regarding the results.

 However, dusting the leaves was not undertaken without some misgiving.  One of the more intellectual Internet references pointed out that technically the cabbage worm is not a worm but rather the larva of a white butterfly. According to information found in Wiki:  

"Butterflies and moths play an important role in the natural ecosystem as pollinators and as food in the food chain; conversely, their larva are considered very problematic to vegetation in agriculture, as their main source of food is often live plant matter. In many species, the female may produce anywhere from 200 to 600 eggs, while in others the number may go as high as 30,000 eggs in one day. The caterpillars hatching from these eggs can cause damage to large quantities of crops. Many moth and butterfly species are of economic interest by virtue of their role as pollinators and the silk they produce ."

Once again we are back to an old dilemma similar to answering the question of which came first--the chicken or the egg?  Do we destroy pests that eat our crops or do we allow them to munch on our food and then cut away the good parts that are left for ourselves?  Just where do we draw the line at protecting our ecosystem for ourselves and for future generations?  This is indeed a serious question.  

Even though Charlie and I used a nontoxic -to-humans substance, we still messed with the balance of the ecosystem this morning.  However, another way to look at this issue is that Charlie and I messed with the natural ecosystem to begin with by planting transplants and seeds to create our gardens.

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Notice the one purple grape in the cluster above.  Perhaps some of the bunches will be ready to offer to visitors who stop by my garden on the Midsummer Night's Garden Tour  a week from this Saturday on June 21 from 6PM to 9PM.

Grapes Can Change Color As They Ripen

When the grapes first appeared on my vines this year I noted with some disappointment they were green.  I much prefer the richer flavor of the red to deep purple grapes. I purchased the vines at the tail-end of the season in August of 2013 at Bruce Miller Nursery in Richardson. (Yes, I looked at all the local nurseries first but they had none.)  My memory is that I had purchased Concord grapes as I really like to eat them.  Green grapes are OK too, but not as good in my opinion as the Concords for eating.

This morning, when I was feeding my garden and dusting some plants with corn meal, I noticed that some of the grapes on my vine are changing to what promises to eventually be the deep purple of Concord grapes.  Come to think of it, I don't expect tomatoes to stay green. I'm not sure why I thought the grapes would be green.

Some people lament the fact they don't know it all.  There are those who even berate themselves for not knowing it all and for not being able to answer every question correctly.  However, I rather enjoy the fact that I don't know everything because that leaves room for the thrill and fun that comes with learning and discovery.  For example, if I already knew everything, I would have already known that grapes all begin green.  Thus, seeing the purple grapes on my  vine today would have been just another ho-hum experience.

And that's the thing I love about my garden:  every day it teaches me something by gently nudging me in the direction of learning more.

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