With friends like me. . .

. . . my tomato and pepper plants may not need enemies!

The deal is that I grow my “garden” in containers.  I’d prefer to have them in the ground, and I did have them in the ground years ago, but the place where there was sun relatively close to an outdoor faucet was back behind the the toyport and well house.  The tomatoes and peppers did pretty well, but the dear and armadillos and whatever else ate them all up.  This was VERY discouraging to me, especially since I had daily tended them with TLC for months.

Then there’s also the issue that tomatoes, especially, are subject to various fungal infections.  This stuff does great damage to your plants in the current year, then gets into the soil and dooms your plants the following year.  Again quite depressing, and the recommended solution is to NOT PLANT tomatoes in the same place year after year.  Well, shoot.  Not only do I need a sunny spot with access to water; I need a NEW sunny spot with access to water each year!  Have YOU ever tried to dig up part of a yard to make a garden?  Let me tell you that it is no small job.

Furthermore, there aren’t a lot of sunny spots in our yard.  Well, there is the far back (large grassy area in the middle of the back yard where we play kickball and various other yard games), but if you put a garden there, that kind of ruins the usefulness of the area for recreation.  In addition, trees tend to grow – except for the several that are dead and need to be removed – and when they grow, they make more branches with more leaves, and the end result of all that is that our yard is growing gradually shadier over time.

So. . . in the past eight or so years, I have grown tomatoes and peppers in tomatoes, primarily on the front walk.  Not too aesthetically pleasing, but functional, and as most of you know, I am totally into function.

Well, beginning three years ago, someone let a couple of Japanese beetles loose in Taney County.  These guys reproduced and now the Japanese beetles are rampant and causing destruction of ornamentals on a scale I’ve got to believe is comparable to the locusts in the Bible!  They decimate leaves, rendering them lacy and ugly, and I hate it.  Also, my tomatoes have for years been attacked by various “wilts” (fungal infections), and I have tried to find a product that will strengthen them against that.

At Lowe’s I found NEEM oil.  It’s supposed to repel various insect pests and be fungicidal.  Perfect!  It’s a nasty, foul-smelling liquid that you pour into a spray bottle, attach your hose and it mixes it in the proper proportions and you spray it on your plants.  For the past two years, I’ve sprayed ’em once a week on Saturdays.  Since I do it every week, I just leave the NEEM oil in the spray bottle.  It comes in a very expensive 8-ounce bottle and I just dump it all in my sprayer and use it each week.  Except that it often seems not to come out.  As in, the stuff stinks, so after you spray it on your plants, they should stink too, right? But they don’t.  As if the only thing coming out of the sprayer is water.  And the level of NEEM oil in the sprayer never seems to go down.

But I bought three bottles of this stuff last year – because as we all know, once you find a product you like and want to use on-going, when you go back to buy more, they will no longer carry it.

Last year, I waited till the plants had beetles attacking them to start spraying, but this year I decided that I should be more proactive.  Two weeks ago, with the plants less than a foot tall, I went after them with the NEEM oil.  I went and got the spray bottle and shook it up well, but noticed that it seemed like there was some solid stuff in the bottom of the bottle that wasn’t mixing up.  So I opened the spray bottle and pulled out the tube, and it was completely gummed up with solid stuff!  I cleaned out the tube, reassembled everything, shook the bottle well, and sprayed the plants, but when I finished, I took the bottle apart again, and in those few minutes, it was again completely gummed up.  Like the walls of Jericho, nothing went in that tube and nothing came out.  GRRRRRR!

I cleaned it all up again and stored the bottle without the tube in it.

This week, when I examined my precious plants, they had already been attacked by the Japanese beetles (or something similar).  Sad and discouraging.  Actually, infuriating.  I angrily pulled out the spray bottle, but this time, I decided that it was time to be done with being too cheap to start the next bottle.  If this stuff had all congealed in the bottle and wasn’t useful, I would throw it out!!!  Well, I reasoned, that would be wasteful and this stuff does cost a small fortune.  Instead, I would stir it up till the solids were liquid add water, and POUR the result directly on the plants.  Then, NEXT week, I’d start with a fresh bottle.

And that is exactly what I did, only the solid stuff wouldn’t dissolve.  It was still all lumpy and nasty.  I shoved my hand in there and mixed with my fingers.  I added water till the bottle was full to the brim.  That’s probably a ratio of something like one cup of NEEM oil to one cup of water.  The ratio delivered by the sprayer is supposed to be two to four TABLESPOONS of NEEM oil to one GALLON of water, but I was mad and I didn’t care.  I wanted those stupid Japanese beetles to take one lick of my tomato and pepper plants and NEVER COME BACK!!!

So I hand dipped this super concentrated, very messy stuff all over my plants, rubbing it on the leaves.  This morning, I went out to walk, and my tomato and pepper plants’ leaves are all shiny and turning black.  I think I may have killed them all, and that after I started them from seeds two months ago.  Sigh.

I did pray about it, as there is really nothing else to do.  I decided that if God spares my plants and they live, I will take care of them and be thankful.  If they all die, I will throw them out and we just won’t have any homegrown tomatoes or peppers this year.

I simply don’t have the emotional margin to stress over it any more!

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