Hot Peppers and Dog Hair to the Groundhog

Anybody out there with a good Groundhog Remedy?

Frickin’ groundhog made her way into the garden a couple of weeks ago and munched on the sugar peas so about half of the plant tops were nibbled down to a few inches tall. Uuuuh! Here’s what they look like now.

Groundhog Damage to the Sugar Peas
Groundhog Damage to the Sugar Peas
The peas in the left row took a hit and then the fat pig wandered through the garden lettuce before I could chase her outta there.

Gotta scare ’em away somehow. Their tunnels are all over the place leading to and from the bean field. We live next to an agricultural field but separated by 100 feet or so of a wooded area.

I read in Dr. Bader’s Pest Cures Natural Solutions to Bigger Pests that the woodchuck doesn’t like hot peppers. The book itself is very basic but will introduce you to a lot of natural remedies that are definitely worth a try. It came with a second book on how to deal with bugs, the smaller pests. (Amazon offers both very inexpensively.)

So, instead of getting out the shotgun, I wanted to try something less destructive.

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Big Orange Spider in the Garden

What’s an orb weaver anyway? Some kind of spider that weaves large round nests!

This one drew my eye because of its bright orange color. Who wouldn’t notice that bright color crawling on the ground?

Orange Orb-weaver Spider in the Garden
Orange Orb-weaver Spider in the Garden

It tried to hide from me by creeping under an herb but I wasn’t done inspecting it yet. I scooped her up with a brown oak leaf and carefully placed the spider among the purple and white flowering alyssum next to the garden.

Marbled Orange Orb-weaver Spider with Long Legs
Marbled Orange Orb-weaver Spider with Long Legs

This orb-weaver was also a big spider — on the size of a mature garden spider. Not tarantula big, but it was larger than most house spiders.

Female Marbled Orb-weaver Spider
Female Marbled Orb-weaver Spider

It turns out this is a fairly common spider known as the Marbled Orb-Weaver, Araneus marmoreus. It’s a member of the spider family Araneidae, which includes thousands of species of spiders.

The orange color may make you think this spider is toxic, but it’s not. Not dangerous or toxic to you or your pets.

Adults do not overwinter. The species survives winter as eggs protected by a silken cocoon. Young spiders emerge from the cocoon in spring and grow into the adult forms by the middle of summer. Adults can be seen then until the first killing frost in autumn.

Seeing as it was late October when this female spider was photographed, she may have just laid her egg cocoon as her contribution to the survival of the species. If we look around this area next summer or fall we might be able to find her offspring. (The images above were taken in Central Pennsylvania on 30 October 2015.)

As gardeners we try to leave spiders alone. Sure, they’re kind of creepy and some people are quite afraid of them, but they do have a job to do. When that involves eating some of the garden pests, or irritating buggers like mosquitoes, I’m all too glad to let them live.

Go free! Eat and be merry!

Huge Green Worms Like Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato Horn Worms are so gross. Big, squishy green worms with busy mouths that won’t cut tomatoes a break.

Harvested Sungold Cherry Tomatoes Escaped Hornworm Damage
Harvested Sungold Cherry Tomatoes Escaped Hornworm Damage

The other day I harvested yet another quart of cherry tomatoes from the garden — that Sungold Cherry Tomato has been producing like crazy!

I noticed a few green tomatoes that were half eaten and right away I knew the culprit was the dreaded Tomato Horn Worm or one of its brethren.

Horn Worms Eat Tomato Fruits Not Just Leaves
Horn Worms Eat Tomato Fruits Not Just Leaves

(Click on any image to see a larger view. Photos taken 23 Sep 2015.)

Several big green caterpillars that get in the tomato patch might be called horn worms. They sure are big and kinda gross.

I found 3 of them. Two were thrown out of the garden by first ripping off the branches they were clinging to and tossing them on the gravel drive. Hopefully, they became bird food or some opossum came by and had a late night snack.

The third caterpillar I left hanging from that cherry tomato vine. It had already been infected with wasp eggs.

Wasp Eggs On Infected Horn Worm Caterpillar
Wasp Eggs On Infected Horn Worm Caterpillar

Sure, I’ll promote more of those little buggers to live by letting them feast on the caterpillar after they hatch into grubs. The close-up view of the above image shows some of the grubs have already spun their cocoons.

Not all wasps are our enemies. Braconid wasps lay their eggs on horn worms. The immature wasp grubs will consume the caterpillar as their first food. Then, there’ll be more wasps in the future to help control these big green caterpillars.

Doomed Caterpillar
Doomed Caterpillar

Nasty Tomato Worm Getting Fat on Cherry Tomatoes

It’s hard to believe that this fat green ugly caterpillar could turn into a moth one day!

Tomato Worm That Ate Too Many Cherry Tomatoes
Tomato Worm That Ate Too Many Cherry Tomatoes

First one I’ve seen in the garden, or anywhere else, all year long and it was a big one!

I ripped off the whole cluster of cherry tomatoes so you could see how big it was. The cherry tomatoes are in a quart-sized container.

You can see it ate the end of the stem, the last tomato and half of the next fruit.

By the way those Sungold Cherry Tomatoes are delicious!

This particular “worm” might have become bird food. I took the piece of stem with the big bugger still hanging on it and tossed it down the gravel lane.

Now we’re on the lookout for missing leaves. Seeing a whole leaf gone or leaves and stems missing is a sure fire way to tell that tomato worms are in the tomato patch.

Oh, if you see one with a bunch of white cottony oval eggs on it, leave it hang. Those eggs are from predatory wasps that keep the tomato worm numbers in check.

Leave it to nature!

Repel Mice With Essential Oil of Peppermint

Mice Don’t Like the Smell of Peppermint

People can sometimes be oblivious. Animals are much more in tune with their surroundings, aren’t they?

Peppermint Leaves Full of Essential Oil
Peppermint Leaves Full of Essential Oil

We brought home two new kitties a few months ago from the local animal shelter. At that time we had no idea that we had a mice problem. Any time a mouse gets in the house, it’s a problem for me!

Hadn’t heard any scratching or scurrying of little feet. Didn’t see any mouse turds left about the place. Nor did the dog detect anything and he’s a great mouse hunter.

The second night the new cats were here they were both fixated on the dishwasher. They stood guard and wouldn’t leave the area, so we knew something was up.

Once I heard the scurrying around under the washer I knew it was a mouse. I wonder how long he’d been visiting without us knowing.

From this book on how to get rid of vermin Natural Solutions to Bigger Pests it was stated that peppermint oil would drive a mouse away. (Also enjoyed Dr. Bader’s Natural Solutions for Bugs book.)

I knew what to do. Several drops of peppermint oil were placed on a couple of cotton balls which were then placed behind the skirting at the bottom front of the dishwasher.

Within 10 minutes a mouse popped out! No kidding. It was like the little critter couldn’t take the smell any more!

Too bad for the mouse but the house cats earned their keep that night. They played with the poor thing all night as it was still alive in the morning. The cats let it live until I tried to collect that mouse, then they killed it. I finally put a cup over it and a stiff piece of paper under it – junk mail is good for something after all! – scooped it up and took it outside to be thrown in a ditch well away from the dog’s view out the window.

Peppermint Essential Oil with Dropper and Cotton Balls
Peppermint Essential Oil with Dropper and Cotton Balls

It was amazing at how fast the mint odor affected the mouse hiding under the dishwasher.

I was hoping the smell would make it leave the house the way it came in, but no. The poor thing was doomed once it came out from hiding.

We’re leaving a few of these peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls around places where mice may enter the garage or house.

If you’re having issues with mice, try the peppermint oil trick and let us know how it works for you. Amazon offers Pure Organic Peppermint Oil Spray in a spray bottle with dropper, similar to what we used from a craft supply store.