I used to think my animals got pissy when they didn't get enough attention.
The last couple weeks, I've been outside every night after nine with a flashlight, taking out bugs that have decided to take up shop in my muskmelons. Leave those bastards alone for one night and the melon plants get gnawed down to little more than sticks.
Now that's codependent.
It all started with the monsoon that blew through my town a couple of weeks ago. July in Wyoming is usually hot and dry, creeping into the nineties and triple digits. Things suffer in the heat and need to be watered regularly.
Muskmelons and cucumbers thrive in the heat. They soak up that sun like tanning bed addicts. Of course they still need water as do the rest of my plants, so the area in which they sit is usually slightly damp from all the watering I do.
When I first moved in I paid forty dollars every two months.
I'm not sure how the city is justifying this, but whatever. I water a lot, but not that much.
One morning I noticed holes in the leaves of my muskmelons. There were holes in my cucumber leaves too, but that was because of the hail that came along with the monsoon. Driving rain also came along with the monsoon, and that whole week had been rainy and pretty wet.
Imagine my horror when I went out one night and my fence was just covered in slugs.
I have a solid white aluminum fence. Perfect for slithering over as it's a smooth surface. I scattered slug pellets all around my plants, but apparently it wasn't deterring the party raging on the fence.
Slugs can decimate a garden in a couple of nights. That many slugs can decimate a garden in a matter of hours.
So I got out the big guns. More slug pellets and a spray bottle filled with water and vinegar. I went out there and just took out the fence in streams of vinegar water, target-popping each slug and sending them sliding into the dirt as they died. Apparently their sticky slime doesn't hold up well in vinegar, and who the hell wants slug slime all over their fence anyway?
At least they were small, even if there were fifty or sixty of them. On the west coast I'm told they grow to the size of small cats.
It was remarkably satisfying, aiming that spray bottle at each slug and taking it out. The next morning while it was still damp I went out again and picked off the survivors.
Yet, holes still appeared in my muskmelon leaves. I had to step up my preventative tactics. The slug pellets work, but not nearly as well as is bragged about on the bag. I also set out beer traps, trellised my cucumbers, and surrounded them with dog hair (apparently slugs can't slither over hair). Then I did some research.
Turns out while slugs were a nuisance around my plants (and my fence), what was actually going after my muskmelons was earwigs, or pincer bugs. They chomp holes into leaves, strip the leaf stems, and they can decimate a garden in a few days too, if there is enough of them. Plus they love damp conditions, and with all the rain, I'm probably harboring a small city of them somewhere.
Once again I went online to find out how to combat these little pests. According to my friend Google, you can kill the little bastards by luring them into oil traps seasoned with soy sauce. The soy sauce attracts them and when they fall into the oil it gums up their works and they drown.
It didn't work.
What did work? Well, just like the slugs, beer worked great. In the evenings I can go out there, shake the leaves of my melon plants, and a bunch of the little jerks fall out. Then they discover the beer which I set out in shallow plastic plates, and it's goodbye pincer bugs.
Now every evening I put out shallow plastic trays, fill them with beer, and wait for morning. The last few mornings I've found dead slugs, dead pincer bugs, and dead wasps floating around in my beer. The beer is discarded into the rosebush and everyone's happy.
Especially me as I still have my melons.
I had an issue with grasshoppers too for a while. One day they were everywhere, jumping around, climbing up the long grass that grows along my fence, and the next day I noticed the herd had been considerably thinned. I thought at first it was Tess, as she likes to snap up things that fly around. It's one of her games. She chases flies, wasps, and grasshoppers, and snaps them up. She's done this for years, and never been stung. She's the reason I don't have yellow jackets building nests under my deck anymore, as one summer I came home from work and the deck was littered with yellow jacket carcasses.
I'm not the only one declaring war on pesky insects. My dog is at it, too.
The only thing I don't like about this little dog quirk is the occasional snap she takes at a big fat bumblebee. I'm sad to say she has killed one before. They just can't get their big fat butts into the air fast enough to get away from her.
Not okay, dog.
Anyway, the grasshoppers pretty much disappeared from my yard, and I couldn't figure out what had gotten them until the other night when this cute little black snake bolted across my foot and under the cucumber tub.
Most people would have screamed. I was all, "Oh, aren't you just the cutest thing?"
Some people hate spiders and snakes. Me? I love them. I especially love them in my garden.
I went ahead and named him Hiss.
I was also thrilled to discover more little jumping spiders crawling around on the cucumber plants and taking care of the vermin there. I still remember a few summers ago when I was weeding one of my raised beds, and here came this rather large spider just dragging a grasshopper carcass along behind him.
It's deadly out there.
So beware, slugs, pincer bugs, and grasshoppers! There's Hiss the Snake, Tess the dog, plenty of spiders, a collection of shallow plates filled with beer, and me and my spray bottle of vinegar just waiting to take you all out.
Let the war begin.
Who knew gardening was such a bloodbath?
My pride and joy - six muskmelons!
And some carrots!