Black Thumb Chronicles

Okay, okay, what’s happened to my poor little herbs since we checked in:

Well, my rosemary plant died for no good reason.  I have replaced it with a new one which so far (knock on wood) is doing well.

One of my basil plants (the one that had previously been the largest and healthiest) did not survive the inch worms.  Bastards!

Sometime week before last I was horrified to discover aphids on one of the two remaining basil plants.  What’s with all these pests on indoor plants?  Annoyingly, there seem to be ladybugs everywhere but on my plants where there’s a feast laid out for them.  I was so busy that I very foolishly waited a day or two before I got the chance to mix up some garlic chili water to spray on the plants.  That may have been the death of that plant.  I’m holding out hope, but it’s a slim hope.  There’s a little green left in the stem, but it has lost all its leaves.

My final basil plant got aphids too, but I was able to I was able to stop the infestation earlier.  It’s looking a little ragged, but I’m marginally more optimistic about its chances of survival.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting no sun.  I mean, ordinarily my apartment doesn’t get much, but at this point it’s a little ridiculous.  It’s been grey and cloudy every day.  My poor plants that are trying to recover their strength need sunlight!

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!  The universe is conspiring to deny me fresh basil!  It’s not fair!

Inching Away with My Time

Okay, as promised, my war with the pests that were attacking my basil appears to be over (Victory is mine!), so here’s the tawdry tale:

I’ve been planning an update to my Black Thumb Chronicles.  Because so far all three basil plants and my new little rosemary plant were all alive.  Not just alive, but thriving.  For someone who hasn’t met a plant she couldn’t kill, this was very exciting.  Then several weeks ago I went to pick some basil for my cucumber lime sorbet and I noticed that a few of the leaves had little holes like something had been munching on them.  I made a mental note of it, but the damage was thus far minor, so I wasn’t super concerned.

Then a day or two later, I noticed that there were more holes and there were some sort of black specks all over some of the leaves.  Initially, I thought that the specks were the parasites in question.  Apparently I was wrong.  And I was mad because one of the benefits of house plants is supposed to be that they’re relatively safe from pests.  AI rushed to the interwebs to see what sort of information I could find on bugs that attack basil.  The closest I could find to something that fit what I was seeing was aphids, but these little black things seemed too small, even to be aphids.  Nonetheless, I looked for remedies.

Now there’s a big issue with pesticides—mostly that I’m only growing the basil so that I can eat it, so I don’t want to get anything toxic near it.  I read that cucumber peels had pesticidal properties, which was vexing because I had just thrown out a large amount of cucumber peelings a couple days earlier.  Then I read that you can get great results by crushing a couple of garlic cloves, soaking them in water for several hours, and then spraying the mixture on the plants.  At this point I was really annoyed because I was out of garlic.  Understand that I am never out of garlic.  This was probably the first time I’ve been without garlic in my apartment since 2004.  Finally I discovered a solution I had on hand—soaking chili peppers in water and spraying it on the plants.  So I filled an old spray bottle and went out to spray these little black specs off my plants.

I started meticulously spraying all these little black buggers off my plants and got a little curious.  I couldn’t see any of these black specs moving.  They were the strangest little bugs I’ve ever seen.  But I’m no bug expert, so what do I know?

The next day the black specs were back.  Hell, they were worse.  And the leaves were looking lacier by the moment.  I got my spray bottle and went to work again.  And then I saw something green fall into the dirt.  And I realized what was really going on.   It was an inchworm!  As best I can guess the black specs?  Inchworm poo.

You have to understand the depth of my hatred for inchworms.  Back when I was in middle school we had an unusually cold winter which evidently killed off something that eats inchworms in their larval stage.  This caused an over population of inchworms.  A disgusting overpopulation.  Our front porch was literally swarming with them.  My mom left a pair of sneakers on the porch and within a day you couldn’t even see them they were so covered in the little buggers. My parents’ house is surrounded by trees.  There’s no way to get in and out of the house without walking under at least a few.  I have long, thick, curly hair.  Picture me having to walk under all those trees, dripping with inchworms on my way to the bus stop every morning and ask me why I have such a virulent hatred of inchworms.

Getting them off my basil proved to be a pain in the ass.  The little creeps are the same exact color as the leaves.  And they hide underneath the leaves because they are, of course, creatures of darkness.  And they can hold on like nobody’s business.  I wound up just clipping off every leaf I found with an inch worm on it.  Then I took them outside, dropped them on the ground and did a victory dance on top of them.  Sneaky as they are, I didn’t get them all the first day.  Or the second day.  I thought I got them all on the third day, but then a couple days later?  More black specs.  Then I found two final inchworms.  Big ones I had initially mistaken for stems they had gorged themselves so thoroughly on my basil.

I took them outside and did one final victory dance on their evil segmented bodies.  And then the war was over.

My basil is still alive, but it’s looking much less healthy.  My rosemary is just fine because it seems inchworms don’t like rosemary.  And I won the war.  But it sucked away a lot of my time.