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Our cherry tomato is doomed. August 1, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood adore cherry tomatoes. Every year, we plant ‘Sungold’, ‘Yellow Pear’, ‘Yellow Plum’, ‘Sweet 100′, and ‘Pink Quartz’ cherry tomatoes in our raised beds. Yum!!!

But this year, in addition to the plants in our beds, a good friend offered us a container-grown plant of our all-time favorite, the orange ‘Sungold’. Why not, we thought, we’ll put it on our deck and be able to harvest cherry tomatoes from our kitchen door! We were excited. The tomato plant looked lush and was furiously flowering and setting fruit.

Then disaster struck. This past weekend, I noticed that all the new foliage had been consumed. Sure enough, there were two young tomato hornworms, green caterpillars that bear an uncanny resemblance to tomato stems, on the plant. In our garden beds, if I find hornworms on our tomatoes, I always leave them. That’s because, inevitably, they’ve been colonized by parasitic wasps (you can tell because of the white pupal “egg” cases running down their backs). This is organic pest control at its best.

Unfortunately, these two young hornworms hadn’t been discovered by braconid wasps. Figuring that they’d still make a succulent meal for birds, I tossed them into the backyard to fend for themselves as best they could.

But then there was today. This morning, I saw that half the ripe orange cherry tomatoes I’d been looking forward to enjoying in our salad were gone! I was tempted to ask Silence if she’d eaten them, but hey, this is Silence Dogood we’re talking about. Frankly, I didn’t dare.

This afternoon, the mystery was solved. I saw our cat Layla stationed by the deck door, staring out with total concentration. So I came over and stared out myself. Sure enough, there was, of all things, a chipmunk in the tomato container, and every last ripe tomato was gone!

I’m not looking forward to sharing this discovery with Silence. But at least there’s some good news to offset the bad. I was sitting out on the deck with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, this evening when I heard a loud “Bleep!” coming from the direction of our half-barrel water garden. Trying to be as casual as possible, I turned my head and thought I might see some eyes sticking up out of the water.

I took Shiloh back inside, then sidled up toward the water garden. Sure enough, there was a pickerel frog in our deck’s water garden! This is the first time an amphibian has chosen to grace our water garden with its presence. Silence and I love frogs and toads. Perhaps she’ll be willing to accept the loss of our container cherry tomatoes in exchange for a new friend.

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