As the Teaching Garden currently lacks a heated place to start seeds, I started them at my home, where I have great light and a team of committed volunteers. Ok, it's more like grudgingly helpful family members, but still, it's someone to tend the plants while I am elsewhere.
Many of the seedlings are from my own saved seed. I've loved them, babied them, watered, turned, brushed, and talked to them.
They've grown from tiny sprouts into strong, healthy plants.
Then, last week, while I was watering, I noticed a yellowing of some of the leaves.
Careful inspection revealed a plague of tiny, white, paper-airplane-looking little vampires: the infamous whiteflies. Similar to aphids, whiteflies feed on the underside of leaves, spreading disease and mass hysteria. Well, the mass hysteria may just be my personal response, as you'll remember this is in my living room.
In the words of America's favorite Wascally Wabbit, "Of course, you realize this means war!"
My plan of attack was simple - I'd just squish every last one. As it turned out, I was outnumbered. This was going to require artillery and reinforcements.
First, I carried each and every tray outside (there are a lot!!) and planned to hit the little sap-sucking devils with a water cannon. Realizing that a water cannon may damage the plants, and also that I don't actually have access to one, I opted for a gentle spray with the hose to knock the enemy off the front lines.
Then it was time to call in the troops. The carnelian carapaced warriors were released - by air, by land, by sea - well, by cutting a hole in the mesh bag, anyway.
They immediately went to work.
I have to admit to spending an inordinate amount of time transfixed by the battle as ladybugs hunted down the whiteflies in my living room.
Not all of the ladybugs were released in the house, though. I put some in my own hoop house, where I'm hardening off plants. I've also saved some for a second release, as well as for a teaching experience at the garden.
The nightshades seem their main choice for tasty sap, so those are still inside where I can maintain a little more control over their environment.
Stay tuned for updates on the War of the Whiteflies!