I Got Those Aphids in the Lettuce Blues

So about this gardening thing. I took the big leap and committed to 9-10 potted vegetables and herbs this year, not just 3 tomato plants and guerrilla sweet potatoes. That’s pretty much like marriage-level commitment for me, and I’m not doing that again. So I think we can agree I’ve had some personal growth. The pandemic broke everything wide open, so why not, right?

Well, I’ll tell you why not. But first, I will say that digging up the old plants/weeds to make room for the containers was very satisfying. And I have experienced the gardener’s high of having all your brand new, green, perky, healthy plants potted and looking camera ready. And it was glorious.

That lasted about 2.5 weeks.

And now we enter the “process” of gardening, which I have been really, really trying to embrace. For the most part I am doing well. But I turned my back for 2 days on the long weekend and came back to:

Holes in the leaves of the pepper, cucumbers, zucchini, and oregano. Gah! Deep breaths, I know about making soap insecticide and gave the whole lot of them serious squirts. Is there such a thing as preventive soaping? Just in case I squirted the tomatoes and the beans, which were unaffected. Two days later the new leaves were looking better and the holes (for the moment) were holding steady.

Except for the cukes. One plant was down and the other one was listing. I don’t think it’s going to make it.

Cue George’s father in Seinfeld, “Serenity (Process) now!”

Back on the deck, I have been keeping a close eye on the flowers. You may recall the great battle of the bud worms from last summer. My petunias fought for their lives, while I picked off the fat worms and hurled them to their death two stories down. Bastids. So far, nothing has been attacking the flowers. The begonia I rooted last fall and brought indoors for the winter looks a bit freaked out about being outside again. Which I can kind of relate to as I consider re-entering the social scene post-COVID. But it’s still flowering profusely, so I’m going with its leaves are reddish because that’s what happens during a transition.

I also have a window box of lettuce, what I call miracle lettuce, because I’ve been able to get one salad a week out of it since I planted it at the beginning of April. For someone who has waited until August to eat any tomatoes, that’s amazing to me.

So I started picking the beautiful green, tender leaves, left to right, and in the middle I noticed some white things tucked in the leaves. By the time I got to the end of the box, there was a full-on aphid infestation. It was like Burning Man Aphid Edition in there. They were on the leaves, in the leaves, littered all over the soil. I grabbed the bottle of soap insecticide like a Colt 45 and let the varmints have it. But there was no end to them. Every set of leaves I parted, there were dozens more partying away like it was 1999.

The leaves looked absolutely perfect. What fresh hell is this? I was used to seeing the damage and acting on it, but now? I have to inspect all the plants all the time? It’s like having a toddler you can’t turn your back on for 2 seconds or they, oh, you know, say, fall off a bar stool, or get dunked in the Charles River. Theoretically speaking.

Serenity (process) now!

But the hardest part was yet to come. I Googled aphids and lettuce, and it said if you wash off the leaves, they are perfectly edible. Well, that’s fine for some people, but I’m squeamish. I kept feeling bugs on me after my most recent combat with the aphids. The worm thing last year was gross enough, and I wasn’t eating the petunias. The next day I continued my soapy assault, and while the aphids had taken heavy casualties, there were still a fair number of revelers. Grrrrrrrr. And I’d run out of store bought lettuce for my lunch salad.

Now, I knew gardening was going to be a challenge. I knew there was going to be the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, often at the hands, er, legs, of bugs. But I did not expect to have to eat stuff they had been partying on. I fully realize that probably all the produce I eat has had bugs on it at one time or another, but the key is I didn’t have to see them in action. I mean once you see aphidpalooza, you can’t unsee that shit.

So, I had to dig down deep and gird my loans. I washed those varmints off and inspected them like a crazy person, putting the leaves right up to my eye for inspection. Then I ate them and it was only a little creepy and a lot tasty. OK, piling everything else on top also helped.

So do I get a star or extra gardening points? Anything? What’s that you say? Satisfaction of growing things and and enjoyment of the outdoors. Ah, I see.

Well, the kid is taking a summer course on the history of rock and roll (don’t get me started), and he has to write a blues song for an assignment. Maybe I can pitch him my lettuce song. With apologies to B.B. King:

The thrill is gone
The gardening thrill is gone away
My lettuce is gone, baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you aphids done me wrong
And you’ll be sorry someday, when I spray.

2 Comments

  1. You got the Aphids on the Lettuce Blues…
    They sure picked out the wrong damn place to shmooze….
    I would alternate soap warfare with some booze.

    Tough topic, awesome post. Can you just order some Ladybugs? I mean, one can, right?

    1. Nice poem! I suppose I could, but it seems like a slippery slope, and I still have commitment issues, LOL! And then don’t they fly away home because of fire? Ha ha!

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