Saturday, July 4, 2009

Possums and leafminers and pill bugs, oh my

The possums are on the attack again. They ran off with two baby Mickey Lee watermelons while I was out of town on vacation. Now at least one possum is back for more.

Ants were crawling in and out of the teeth marks, so I cut it off the vine and sliced it open. The rind was such a light green, I thought maybe I'd gotten the watermelon and honeydew seedlings mixed up. Nope - it's a watermelon. Or, rather, was.

The meat of the melon looked a bit mealy, so maybe it was just as well. It smelled super good, though. Even though possums are reportedly resistant to rabies, I thought it best not to take a taste. Hopefully I'll get a taste of this one.
mickey lee watermelon

The leafminer damage on the leaves is new. It wasn't there yesterday when I took this photo.

I've erected a chicken wire fence around this patch, to keep the critters away from the melon and the squash. Yes, finally, I have squash that look like they might make it.

yellow squash


I didn't notice it at the time, but the camera doesn't lie - see the teeny-tiny orange bug on the squash? Hope it's a good bug and not a bad one. I better pick these soon.
yellow squash

I figured out what was eating the squash. Pill bugs - otherwise known as roly-polys or land shrimp (they're not actually insects, but crustaceans). Staking the plants hasn't helped much - they can crawl up to the squash.
pill bug on squash leaf

They were attracted to the squash that were incompletely pollinated and rotting away at the blossom end. Unfortunately, they continued to feed on the healthy squash, too. So I set a trap for them with an old watermelon rind, to lure them away from the squash. (Sorry - yes, I need to weed. If only it weren't so dang hot!)

It seems to be working. Pill bugs are a sign of a healthy, pesticide-free garden, and they do help break down decaying organic matter. But in numbers this large, they can quickly decimate crops.
melon rind pill bug trap

I dug up the dirt under the rind and moved it to the opposite side of the yard, and sprinkled some diatomaceous earth under and around the squash to get rid of the rest.

Despite the heat, the chard's still going strong.

The coneflowers don't mind the heat, either.

I desperately need to cut back the flame acanthus, but I hate to do it when gulf frittilaries are feeding on the last remaining blossoms.

This is the first time this canna has bloomed. The other's more of a tomato-red; this one's watermelon-colored.
canna lily

Happy Independence Day!


  1. Wow--pill bugs are crustaceans? Do you suppose that means all millipedes and centipedes are as well?

    Your squash, chard, coneflowers, flame acanthus, and canna all look fantastic! I need to prune my Indigo Spires, but like you, I just can't do it while the butterflies are still enjoying them. Happy 4th!

  2. Iris - millipedes and centipedes are indeed distant cousins of shrimp, lobsters and crayfish!

  3. The things I learn reading blogs! Roly-polys are crustaceans! Wait until I tell Charley! She will be so excited. She rescues all the roly-polys that I displace while gardening. She makes little habitats for them in shoe-boxes. I think she is the best roly-poly control in my garden. LOL! Possums are a real nuisance in our neighborhood--and very well fed. I think they make the rounds to all the yards they know have dog or cat food outside.

  4. I too have possum trouble with the melons. I have had to make chicken wire cages to put over each melon as it starts to ripen. I grow the Crimson Sweets with mixed results. How big do the Mickey Lee melons get?

  5. Morning Glories, please send Miss Charley over with her shoe boxes any time - I could use some organic roly-poly control!

    Bob, the Mickey Lee is a container or "icebox" variety. I have one planted in a 5 gallon container, and two planted in a Square Foot Gardening box. They can achieve 4-5 pounds under ideal circumstances, but I'd be hard-pressed to leave a 3 pounder on the vine. My remaining baby Mickey is about a pound, and the two that ran off with the possums were about half that size.

  6. I have also had a pillbug EXPLOSION in the garden ... particularly in the squash, zuchinni, and cucumber plants. I got some advice to put out tuna cans filled with beer as bait and boy, does that ever work!! Natural Gardner sells some organic pellets that kills them, too, that is effective, but the beer/melon option is cheaper. I have some pictures I'll post eventually ...