Sunday, April 22, 2012

(DF) GARDEN DAY RAMBLINGS (part 3) ....... mosquitoes in the grass

       "We must take care, old chum.  Great hoards of voracious, flying creatures may well drain our bodies of life giving fluid, leaving little more than  mere husks of our former selves, to be blown about like leaves in the wind."

                            from 'Pickery Hudson on Mosquitoes and Gnats'


For several years, I have found that there seem to be more mosquitoes here than I consider reasonable, considering there is no swamp or large body of water nearby.  The closest such body of water would be my neighbor's pond a few hundred yards away and this time of year, the evening breeze tends to move them in another direction.  This was a bit of a puzzler for a while, until I did a bit of research and found that the prevalent species of mosquito that plagues me can actually raise in patches of damp, tall grass.

Anyone who has seen this place in summer in recent years can vouch that I tend to be negligent when it comes to cutting the grass.  In fact, most often, it gets quite tall before I cut it with a scythe and let it cure for goat hay.  No need wasting perfectly good hay, right?

Most years the mosquitoes, though plentiful, are somewhat tolerable, so the trade off is worth it.  This year, however, the mosquito population has exploded to a proportion comparable to that of any swamp or river bottom.  In fact, the last time I encountered such a huge number of loud, hard biting mosquitoes was when I camped out on a little backwater in the Mississippi river valley in July a few years ago. 

Mosquito numbers of this level tend to take the fun out of gardening.  Alright, they don't take out all the fun, but one does begin to wonder how much blood loss it takes before you get weak and light headed, and the fact that they are so intent on getting in eyes and ears adds to the problem.

As I worked in the garden, fought mosquitoes and certainly looked quite insane and hilarious to any onlookers, with my swatting, flailing of arms and slapping myself about the head and neck, I couldn't help wondering what could be done about this nuisance.  Before figuring out what to do about such things, I needed to know where they were coming from in the first place.  Lets face it, if they were coming from the neighbor's pond, it would be most un-neighborly of me to start putting insecticide in the pond where his cattle drink.

A few of the day lilies
After a few days of pondering and fighting these nasty creatures, I figured out where they are coming from.  Years ago, a sparse row of day lilies was planted along the south end of the garden.  Yes, it is the same day lilies that I mentioned spreading in part 2 of this post.  This spring has been ideal for the lush, moist, green growth of these wonderful flowers, which have over the years, spread and thickened into an absolutely impenetrable mass of vegetation.  Upon inspection, I found that underneath this mat of green was a wonderfully wet place, perfect for mosquitoes and other water loving creatures (even toads and smaller types of frogs) to reproduce.

Now the question becomes one of what to do about them.  My first thought was to cut down the day lilies, a thought which horrified Anna, and on second thought would be a little extreme (though we don't need so many of them).  Diatomaceous earth would probably do the trick but, as with anything else that would kill them, there is the problem of how to get it through the vegetation.  I am absolutely against the use of commercial insecticides as a matter of personal ethics and respect for the earth.  Anna has done a bit of research on natural pesticides and came up with an oil emulsion based possibility that we will be trying, hoping the oil emulsion will follow the leaves to the ground below.  We will certainly let you know how it works.  Any ideas or experiences you can share will also be very much appreciated. 

Stay tuned for a mosquito update, and good luck with your own pests.

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