Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Sort of Turtle in the Garden

Yesterday I spent an hour watching a painted turtle lay eggs in our vegetable garden; specifically in the okra bed. She was a welcome addition to the garden. I've flagged off about a 2-foot area encircling the nest to make sure I don't disturb the nest as I go about weeding and harvesting okra later this summer. My Dad called to suggest that I erect a little fence around the nest to keep skunks away. Skunks love to dig up and eat turtle eggs. We've seen skunk diggings in our yard, which is great as they are looking for grubs. But, I don't want the skunk eating the turtles.

Earlier in the day I found another sort of turtle in the garden. This time in the potato bed. Instead of a reptile these were tiny insects called tortoise beetles. If you look close they look like a tortoise mounted on a piece of glass. They are an odd looking creature. Since they nibble on the potato leaves, I picked them off by hand and dropped them into soapy water. These tortoise beetles barely move so I am not sure when they are active. I could not find out a lot about this insect, so they must not be a huge pest for gardeners.

Another beetle, however, is more of a nuisance -- cucumber beetles. These yellow and black-striped beetles are more active and more devastating to crop plants, including cucumbers and watermelons. I check the plants twice a day and any cucumber beetles go into my soapy water (yogurt) container.

Lest you think I am going a day without seeing turtles, on the drive back from an errand this morning I stopped to help a painted turtle across the road. We are coming into peak turtle nesting season so drive slow and help turtles if you can. Just move them across the road in the direction that they were going. If you find a turtle wandering about your yard, let it be. She's probably in search of a nest site. If you carry her back to a wetland she'll just have to make the long trip again!

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