“So, how much do organic potatoes cost, anyway?” I asked my darling husband last night.
“Oh, about $4 for a five pound bag,” he replied.
“Well, I think that maybe growing potatoes is just a waste of my time and effort.”
Dear reader, you might ask what prompted this exchange.
When I was a youngun we used to sing a song very similar to the “99 Bottles of Beer” song that had words that said “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…” It was a rousing tune, and a lot of fun for a six year old to sing in the back of the car when you are traveling across country. Not so much fun for the parents to listen to, but fun to sing.
I submit that the words should be amended to say “The ants go marching one by one, oh no! oh no!” Because if your ants are marching one by one, they will soon be marching in their millions, especially if they find something good to eat.
A few short weeks ago, my potato patch looked like this.
Granted, that picture is of the potato patch from last year, but this year’s patch looked just has happy and healthy. Shortly after they blossomed, the potato plants swooned, for no particular reason that I could see. They were not blighted, there were no potato beetles. They just didn’t look very happy.
Soon, they looked very unhappy indeed
Having decided that we probably should cut our losses and dig what potatoes there were, last night, having been stood up by my massage client of the evening, I went out and addressed the situation.
This what I discovered.
Lets just see a close up of that, shall we?
No wonder that the poor plants were swooning. Something had systematically eaten all the phloem and xylem of the plants, girdling them. And someone was obviously enjoying the potatoes that the plants had been making, too. Look at all the holes in that spud.
Who, one might ask, would be doing all that damage? Well (if the title of the post has not already given it away), take a look at what I discovered when I broke the perforated potato open.
Yep, those are ants, marching one by one by one by thousands. I mean, how many ants does it take to do that sort of damage? Let me tell you, there was not a single potato in that patch that had not been attacked by ants. Some of them had been harmed more than others, but ALL of them had damage.
I contemplated the storage problem this had produced, as all the harvest now had to be washed and cooked and frozen. Potatoes full of holes don’t keep worth a damn, I can tell you.
Well, as luck would have it, after I had mourned my potato harvest, I attacked the crab grass that was attacking the edge of the raised bed. We have put carpet remnants around the edge in a vain attempt to control the weeds near the raised beds. So, as I was pulling at the grass,which had put its roots through the carpet, and was crawling along the edges of it seeking the water it knew was in the garden, I happened to flip back the carpet scrap.
It was the New Orleans of ant cities, a Tokyo perhaps, inhabited in its millions. Life was good in the ant universe; with all those potatoes to eat, reproduction was underway on an industrial scale.
I decided that a tsunami, or perhaps a storm surge was in order. Watch out! The levees have broken….
Okay, I’m not a very good Buddhist. I systematically flooded the entire municipality of Ant, several times. Gleefully I watched the inhabitants scrambling to safety on the escarpments above the town, and cruelly I sprayed them down into the flood.
I admit to a certain joy in the destruction. As I was casually using my trowel to rearrange the dirt, the ants sent out their minions to stop me.
Pathetic things. They are not fire ants, their jaws are so tiny that they can’t find a place to pinch me. Well, except on the soft skin around my knees, where I have lots of tiny wrinkles left over from my weight loss.
I brushed them away casually. Then I started thinking about what the ants might be thinking. Was I some sort of Goliath, destroying their Lilliput? Images of the Godzilla movies ran through my mind. Were the ant generals down in their bunkers making plans on how to stop my ravages?
A mosquito whined near my ear. I checked. It was not being piloted by an ant, nor was it armed with tiny heat seeking ant missiles. There were no bombs slung beneath it.
I decided perhaps the heat had gotten to me, and I should go in and see about the beer situation.
An exhaustive search of my organic gardening books and the interwebs has taught me that I need to make a tea from Jim’s cigar stubs to spray on the plants, or possibly I should be spreading diatomaceous earth about liberally, or on the other hand I should be using coffee grounds to discourage the hymenoptera. Then there is the boric acid/sugar or borax/sugar organic poison route.
I believe I shall be doing all of the above. Beginning today.
And perhaps I shall create a judicious flood now and again too.
Too bad, ants. You should have stuck to eating the grass seeds and storing up the tiny seeds produced by the spurge, so that I could have more spurge sprouting in the pathways to weed out.