(Mis)Adventures of a DIY gardener (part-2)

My regular readers (hey Mom! *waves*) would recall part 1 of this post, in which I wrote about the gorgeous allamanda that graced the top of the trellis in my courtyard.

It took so many months for it to grow lush and dense, covering the trellis and shading the courtyard underneath….

All to be destroyed by the vile mealy bugs!! Aarghh!!


Yes, there was another infestation. And this one was worse than any I’ve seen before, so complete was the havoc it wreaked. I guess I lost not just the battle, but even the will to grow any more allamanda. It’s all over, folks.  I mean, just LOOK what it did to my beautiful trellis 😦

after i had finished cutting and dragging off ALL the horribly infested branches and stems

For the uninitiated, mealy bugs are possibly THE WORST kind of pest to infect succulent plants. They feed on plant sap by attaching themselves to the undersides of leaves (all the better not to be seen, tricksy little buggers) and secrete a waxy powdery layer to protect themselves while they suck the juices right out.

You know your plant is infected with them when you see colourless drops of honeydew appear on the leaves. A sooty mould soon forms on the honeydew secretions, the plant takes on a sickly appearance, the stem distorts and the leaves start to shrivel and drop. Weakened plants succumb to fungi and rot.

To set things straight, I TRIED. I tried VERY HARD. In fact I have been fighting mealy bugs all of my adult gardening life. I have plucked them out with tweezers. I have tweaked them off with toothpicks and cotton buds dipped in nailpolish remover. I have painstakingly and delicately spent hours wiping them off with damp cloth. I even made litres and litres of soap-water solutions and went crazy with the spray gun (apparently, soap is the only thing that penetrates the protective covering of the damned bugs), followed by further sessions with pesticides, no holds barred. I even succeeded in eradicating them a couple of times, but ultimately, those were just small battles. It was the whole damned war I lost!!

This infestation didn’t just suck the life out of my lovely allamanda….I guess it was a shoulder-slumping moment for me too.

In a way it was almost a relief to accept defeat and declare (mentally)  ”I can’t fight this anymore!!”

Sigh. It looks so desolate now….like the aftermath of a fire. The mealy bugs reproduced and spread quite literally like wildfire, the very denseness of the foliage proving to be the cause of its demise. All my vehement spraying had no effect at all, as I couldn’t quite get through to the innermost regions of entwined stems and leaves, let alone the fuzzy white armour of the little dastardly creatures.
Curse you, mealy bugs!! *shakes fist at mealy bugs* Curse you all to death!!
May you all die slowly and painfully and be pushed over the brink of extinction!!

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My very own terrorists

I have some uninvited guests in my house, but I don’t mind them staying. They have adopted the bamboo trellis in my courtyard as their home and when you look at the picture you will see why.

See the holes in the ends of the bamboo? Perfect.

Apparently, they do not approve of me encroaching on their domain, and I have no intention of disputing their claim. I actually like seeing them buzzing around busily, hovering over the pretty yellow flowers, then zooming off to chase one another in the bright sunshine. They’re unique in their fat, juicy, black plumpness.

Someone once told me a story regarding bumblebees that involved ears being dived into. Needless to say, my first instinct is to clap my hands on both sides of my head and run.

But laundry has to be strung up to dry, and plants need to be watered and tended to, so I try my best to act like I’m not scared. My nonchalance doesn’t fool them, however. They zone in on me like bombers and succeed in chasing me off, tail between my legs, ears firmly sealed (much like the effect created by bats in an earlier post)

I think they just occasionally like to have some fun with me. Usually they’re too busy flying in and out of their holes in a non-aggressive way. I quite like their company when they’re in that mood. They make things more lively 🙂

And I’m hoping they’ll have a good influence on my tomatoes (the ones that stubbornly resist fruiting 😛 )

(Mis)Adventures of a DIY gardener (part 1)

There was once a vine with very pretty yellow flowers called Allamanda that caused me great grief . I brought it home in a pot and put it in a corner of my courtyard and hoped it would go wild, like it does in homes all over Karachi; but as luck would have it, the one that I adopted behaved like a stubborn child and refused to grow much, and was prone to attacks of mealy bugs.

Months went by and my Allamanda didn’t seem as healthy as I would have liked. I would drive by houses with walls overgrown with these beautiful fresh green leaves and flowers and feel envious and miserable at my failure.

I didn’t give up on it however, and transferred it along with a fertile mix of sand and fresh buffalo manure into a big hole in the ground near the stairs, and crossed my fingers.

It promptly shed most of its leaves after the transplantation, and my heart sank, thinking it was a goner….and I would be held responsible for its death.

But after a few weeks, I spied new tendrils and leaves beginning to peek out of the stem, and I tended to it with new zeal. Watched out for bugs and sprayed it every two weeks, watered it and trained the tendrils to climb higher.

New leaves kept growing after that and the vine got bushier, until one morning I woke up to see new yellow flowers bobbing in the breeze! It was the most beautiful and gratifying sight in the world, giving me fresh hope and the reassurance that I wasn’t a plant murderer.

Several months went by, and now my Allamanda is the pride and joy of my little courtyard, entwining itself over the bamboo trellis just like I had always hoped it would 🙂 Joy!