Saturday, 7 January 2012

Limes, stink bugs and basil glut

Sat 7th January

  • Basil  
  • Half a punnet of tomatoes 
  • Lemons

  • Stink bug surveillance
Surveillance of the two espaliered limes continues. My crop of limes is pretty meagre this year -  no glut in sight - just a few small fruit dotted across the plants.
In October when the flowers covered the plants with their heady scent, I tended them with a tonic of manure, mulch and water and, armed with goggles and secateurs, got stuck into the stink bugs that were already occupying the lime trees' fresh growing and flowering soft tips. At the green and orange stage (baby and adolescent stages before they turn into armour plated black beasts), I knocked them off the trees and cut them in half with the secateurs or stomped on them.  In October I had them under some control.
But then I had to go overseas for two weeks for work and by the time I returned they had destroyed all the growing tips where the flowers and fruit form. These tender tips  hung limp and blackened. It’s such a shame - home grown limes are so much more fragrant than shop bought ones.  Oh well, I have plenty of lemons!  I wonder if stink bugs actually prefer limes over lemons?
What I call stink bugs are apparently also known as bronze orange  bugs and are in fact an Australian native insect which formally did the same damage to our native lime plants - finger limes. Fancy that, so citrus growers in other countries don’t have to put up with them?
Almost every plant book I have ever seen and almost every phone-in  gardening advice program on the radio deals at some stage with these pests but I have found some useful information about their life cycle  in the September/October 2011 Organic Gardener magazine.
Over the last week or so a new batch of flowers had started to form on my limes and I am determined to get  a crop so went stink bug hunting. I got them at a vulnerable moment. Mature black stink bugs were copulating in the trees which involved them linking their backsides  -  handy cause their defence is to squirt concentrated citric acid at you when you are trying to destroy them.   But with their bums linked they are less likely to attack me -  they are a little distracted - so several copulating couples were quickly destroyed by my handy secateurs.
I have once been sprayed in the eyes by a stink bug, I can honestly say I will never let them do it again thus the goggles. It was incredibly painful but I had some water in a bottle handy and immediately doused my eye with the water again and again.  The optometrist confirmed this as the best first aid in case you ever have the misfortune to be sprayed!
Perhaps there is something better than summer sunflowers thru the house?  If there is then it is fresh basil. During summer I try to keep us in our own basil supply. I raise it from seed and plant it up into pots that I keep off the ground away from snails that will destroy a crop of  basil overnight. Hanging baskets would work too I guess.
There is enough basil for home made pesto tonight!

Home grown basil fresh from the garden is truely more fragrant that shop bpought basil pesto and 100 times better than the stuff you get in jars.

pine nuts
olive oil

Using morta and pestle smash basil leaves, garlic and pinenuts togehter. Add to a bowl and making sure the mix doesnt oxidise, mix in olive oil and pepper . Serve on pasta with parmesan.

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