Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 154 / Day 89 - The good, the bad, and Critters! :(

So, I'm minding my own business when it hits me--I write a blog, don't it?

Yes, it's been about three weeks since my last post. A lot has happened since then with the Aerogardens.

The good:

  1. The week after Thanksgiving, I bought myself two ducks on sale at the supermarket, with the intent of using my fresh basil to cook this recipe. I started by harvesting the basil:

    Now, usually the rest of this post would be a beautiful picture of the beautifully honey glazed duck glistening in the oven, but guess what? I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE OF IT!! So you'll just have to take my word for it that the duck was flavorful, juicy, and absolutely delicious.

  2. The tomato Aerogarden is absolutely thriving. All of a sudden, tomatoes are sprouting up like crazy. I counted not 10, not twenty, but THIRTY new tomatoes growing on the danged thing! If you look carefully, you can count up to 15 in this picture!

    I learned the secret of successful "pollination" of the tomato plants. The instruction booklet says to shake the plants, but that's a good way to send fragile little flower buds flying across the room. Others have suggested Q-Tips or toothpicks, but that just takes too much time. The method I've found which works best is to take your index finger and just lightly tap the stem underneath the flower buds. If you look carefully, you'll see a little cloud of pollen spread out (you'll also smell a tomato-y scent). If you're feeling silly, you'll make a little buzzing sound when you do this like I do.

    The pollen will pollinate the flowers--each time I've done this, within days I'd see a cute little tomato form.
The bad:
  • My grow bulb has finally went out on my Holiday Herb Aerogarden unit. Now this isn't really 'bad', because the bulbs lasted through two generations of Aerogardens. Pretty amazing when you consider these units are on 15 hours a day non-stop.

  • I am down to my last nutrient tablets on my Tomato Aerogarden and my Lettuce Aerogardens. The lettuce has served me very well, but I'm a little wistful that it's only when the tomatoes are starting to pop up that it's time to say good-night. I guess I could order a new set of nutrient tablets, but my goal is to retire the Tomato and the Lettuce Aerogardens in 2-4 weeks because of one little thing...
The ugly:

...actually, it's about two dozen little things and counting. That's right, it's the worst nightmare of an Aerogarden gardener-critters! More specifically, I've seen these tiny little winged flies on the undersides of my tomato leaves.

The good news is, they're not scary looking. They're just little white flies (in fact, they're called whiteflies). If they were fuzzy or had big bulging eyes or creepy antennae or big hairy teeth, I'd retire as an Aerogarden gardener and throw all three units out the window. But they look pretty harmless, and don't even seem to be sucking the leaves as I've always heard whiteflies do, it looks like they're just hanging out to be under the light. They've also attacked the few potted plants I have on the kitchen windowsill--all alumni of the Aerogardens: a mint plant, a thyme plant, two basil plants, and a chive plant. Interestingly, they don't seem to be very interested in the basil, something I've heard is to be expected because of the essential oils (as I was writing this I just realized for the first time in my life that "essential oils" means "oils that give off an essence", and not "oils you can't live without" :P)

I'm not even sure how they got into my kitchen, but there are dozens of them. I'm thankful that (so far), they haven't made the migration into the living room where all my houseplants are, because I've heard once they get on houseplants, it's all over...they are nearly impossible to get rid of. So when I walk from the kitchen into the living room, I make sure to shake up and down to make sure I don't carry any with me (critters like whiteflies and aphids love to hitch a ride on loose clothes).

I have a unique way of pest control. I take my Dyson handheld vacuum and hold it like a gun. Then, I shake the leaves, and once the whiteflies start scattering, I suck them up. It's like a lame, 3-D version of Whack-a-Mole.

The Aerogarden manual actually gives instructions on how to get rid of critters, but it involves taking the unit and showering it under a stream of water. But since the lifecycle of the tomatoes and lettuce are almost at an end, I'm just going to let them live the rest of their lives in peace and then retire them (I'll figure out something cool to do with those 30 tomatoes) and try to make sure it's rid of whiteflies before starting a new batch.


Corinne said...

Great news about the toms..I bet you can't wait until they ripen. Mine are ripening right on schedule at week 16 in the Classic.
You may want to try tying them up with some yarn and snipping off some of those branches to direct the growth into the fruit rather than stems and helped me a lot.
re: the flies...yikes! Perhaps you brought in plants from outside and they found your toms.

Here is an old remedy:
Take a jar/punch small holes in the lid.
Put a tomato or other fruit or sweet cider or syrup in the bottom of the jar (about an inch) The flies go into the holes but can't get out!
Good luck on your hydro- gardening!

Heather said...

Just came across your blog while googling aphids and aerogarden. I've got some lovely little critters too. Its getting really bad with my lettuce. I love this thing and I'm afraid I'm going to have to terminate only halfway through the cycle. Boo!