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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Sunflowers, Suds and Saturday Morning

by KC Compton

Tags: Sunflowers, Garden Pests, Whiteflies, Sunflower Borers, Tomato Hornworms, Dish Washing Detergent, At My Place, KC,

KCSaturday morning didn't start out to be my very best day ever. As I sat in the living room sipping my morning coffee, my dog CP started barking at the dishwasher. This isn't a particularly new gambit for him and it's something I'm trying to train him out of. Since he's seven and came to me as an adult, I think that die might already be cast. Still, I try. I stalked into the kitchen to straighten his hash and suddenly saw he had a very good reason for all that dog barking.

Somebody apparently made the bonehead mistake of putting regular dishwashing liquid in the automatic dishwasher. Since I'm the only human living in this house, apparently that someone was me. So this time I thanked little CP for being so alert and grabbed some towels. It's simply amazing how much suds a capful of dishwashing liquid—even allegedly a low-sudsing, environmentally friendly dish wash detergent—can make in such a short time.


Since I already had sudsy water all over the kitchen floor, I decided to go ahead and mop the floor. I have to tell you, mopping the kitchen floor before I've had the second cup of coffee has never been on my list of highly anticipated activities.

After I finished the floor, I poured that second cup of coffee and meandered out to my alleged garden. As Constant Reader might remember, I've planted the barest of necessities this year—sunflowers and tomatoes—plus a bunch of random seeds that got all swirled together when the rain soaked my flower beds this spring and drowned the seed packs while stirring the seeds into a completely unidentifiable melange.

It's green. There are flowers, but there are also plants I simply cannot I.D. I've decided to let them grow until they either flower or identify themselves unmistakably as weeds (as more of them are doing every day). All I really care about is getting some pretty flower arrangements out of the deal and enough tomatoes that I can eat enough bacon and tomato sanwiches to feel that summer has actually occurred at my house. Last week this anticipated idyll was shattered when I discovered my tomato plants half-eaten by tomato horn worms. I picked off SEVEN of those nasty monsters that were the size of garter snakes and drowned them in a bucket.

But the rest of my alleged garden looked pretty good, even if embarrassingly wild, until I walked out on Saturday morning to oversee my estate (this takes approximately 45 seconds). The tomatoes looked pretty good, but I found out why there were no tomatoes on the lower branches: CP evidently has aspirations to be a garden pest himself and has developed a taste for green tomatoes. He has enough sense of shame that he takes them behind the little fence that hides the heat pump, but I caught him in the act on Saturday morning,chowing down on one of my yet-to-ripen yellow 'Taxi' tomatoes.

Immediately after that encounter, I walked over to water the sunflowers, only to discover that one of the plants has become infested with whiteflies. I doused it with as much insecticidal soap as I could spray on the plant and moved over to start weeding around the 'Moulin Rouge' sunflowers in the corner. To my abject dismay, I discovered brown gunk on them that I now recognize as the leavings of borer worms. Sunflower borers. And those, I'm not sure at all how to get rid of (any suggestions enthusiastically welcomed).

This was just about too much adventure before 9 a.m. on a Saturday, but at least I was able to make my first harvest and it was exactly what I'd said I wanted: sunflowers and tomatoes. And also a second cup of coffee. My house seems twice as lively now that I have these on my mantel and kitchen table.   

 Sunflower harvest 

Now, if CP develops a taste for sunflowers, all bets are off. 

CP and Apple