A Gardener’s Midsummer Nightmare!

It began in late winter. The hopes, the dreams, the plans.

The Happy Little Gardener scoured seed catalogs and stores for just the right ones. Choices were made and 6 weeks before the predicted last frost date, the delicate little seeds were hopefully nestled into nutrient rich seeding medium in a draft free place with plenty of light indoors. Day after day the gardener misted the soil, and scanned the surface, hoping for signs of life.

Finally the seedlings emerged, and she continued her vigil. Nurturing, pampering, loving those little sprouts. Her heart waivered at thinning time, but she knew it had to be done. Only the strongest were permitted to continue growing. Slowly the sprouts grew into strong seedlings with vibrant green leaves.

Meanwhile our Happy Little Gardener found the perfect location in the garden. The raised bed was built and filled with rich luscious organic soil. The seedlings were gradually hardened off to the outdoor air; brought inside to the warmth of the house at night. Finally the timing was right, she carefully transplanted her precious darlings to their new home.

And still the vigil continued. She checked every fogging morning for any signs of snail trails. The seedlings were sheltered from the wind. Cages were placed around each one in hopes of supporting their fruit rich vines.

And the plants grew. And grew. And grew. They out grew the cages and additional twine had to be used to continue to support their growth.

Then the little yellow flowers began to emerge and entice the bees with their delicate scent.

tomato flower

The flowers were replaced by the tiniest signs of emerging fruit. Day after day, week after week, the Happy Little Gardener, watered and trimmed any browning leaves, and monitored the development of the tiny green orbs.

Finally as the heat of summer came, the orbs began to change colors. Her hopes of a bountiful harvest increased as the fruits’ hue changed from pale green to an ever deepening crimson red.

wet cherry tomato

One midsummer afternoon, as our Happy Little Gardener began to gather the delicious red fruits to make Tomato Preserves and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes. To her horror, she noticed branches without leaves or flowers.

cherry tomato eaten by hornworm


NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Someone or some thing was eating her babies!

cherry tomato eaten by hornworm

tomato eaten by hornworm


She frantically scoured the leaves. And then she saw IT. The scourge of tomato gardeners everywhere: Manduca quinquemaculata.

tomato hornworm


It just sat there, staring back at her, wiggling its corpulent green body and waiving its vicious looking tail menacingly at her. ”Get away from my babies, you hideous fiend!” she thought. Oh yes, she had battled its kind before.

Without a moment to lose, she flew to the garage for her bright pink gardening gloves and Arthritis Foundation approved gardening pruners. Murmuring a quick apology to the tomatoes that had to be sacrificed for the greater good she snipped the entire branch and threw it to the ground. Immediately she began stomping on the loathsome creature, shrieking “DIE DIE DIE!” as the green liquid oozed from the beasts foul little body.

Once satisfied she had thoroughly slain the repulsive being, she shyly glanced at the house next door, silently praying the new neighbors had not seen her sadistic display and were not at that very moment calling the police to come take the homicidal maniac away in a straight jacket.

But her mission was not yet complete. With pruners at the ready she methodically searched every inch of every plant, only stopping to repeat her murderous dance when she spied another ravenous monster. After discovering and disposing of six of the gigantic creatures in the same violent manner, our not so Happy Little Gardener could finally rest.

Her babies were safe… for now.



Here are links to the two recipes mentioned above:


Tomato Preserves with lemon and gingerPickled Cherry Tomatoes




The Happy Little Gardener versus the Odious Manduca quinquemaculata.

this post shared on

Related Post


1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. Great story. Sorry for the destructiveness. We have built a huge fence around our veggies to prevent the deer but now the dang groundhog is having a feast!!

    1. Groundhogs are worse than the deer! The deer just munch a little, the groundhogs suck down your whole plant.

  2. I was laughing and commiserating with you. Great story telling… sorry you had such a nasty invader.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it. If I don’t laugh about it, I’d probably cry.

  3. Great story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked those worms off tomato plants! Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday:-)

    1. Unfortunately this wasn’t my first run on with them. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Let me be honest, if I saw one of those things in my garden I wouldn’t just be shrieking “Die, Die, Die”, I would be screaming and running for cover. Those look scary!! I do love your story though, it made me laugh. =) Thanks for linking up at the Bloggers Brags party, I pinned your post to our group board.

    1. I did that the first time I saw them too. They are really slow and easy to pick off, and it only seems like it is waving its horn at you. I still wear gloves to be safe.

    • Jan on September 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm
    • Reply

    giggle … I’m in Indiana right now visiting family and have been happily selecting tomatoes from the garden each day and then noticed that there were stalks with no leaves … and OY! There was that happy, fat, green thing! EEK! Scared the snot out of me and then I remembered that’s why I gave up growing tomatoes back home (Florida) … glad you were able to eliminate the rascals … (no, I am NOT a bug phobia person, but these things totally wig me out!)

    1. I am only bugphobic when they are in the house or trying to destroy my garden. ha ha!

  5. Awesome post! I would love to invite you to my new link party The Beautifully Creative Inspired. The party launches every Fridays at 9AM eastern time on 5 BLOGS! It runs until Wednesday night 😀 Hope you can party with us!

    1. I will come check it out.

  6. AHAHAHAHA oh my gosh I FEEL YOUR PAIN!! And I have to say I think your handling of the situation was gracious and justified, despite what the neighbors might have thought. 😛

    Also, I too quell when it comes time for thinning. I feel like I’m betraying them…….!

    Thank you for linking up at Free and Fun Friday!! 🙂

  7. This is my problem with the outside – it’s full of creepy crawlies, and things out to get me, either through stings or a terror induced heart attack! I walked into a cobweb in the garden the other day and that was bad enough. The neighbours must have had a good laugh at my shrieking and panicked squirming though. 🙂 #FridayFrivolity

    1. I am pretty good about creepy crawlies outside as long as they stay off of my edibles! ha ha!

  8. Garden pests are the worst! I just moved to Hawaii and I don’t think there’s many caterpillars here but we have slugs and they do the same thing to plants! Not good.

    Thanks for linking up with FTAF!

    1. Any type of garden pests are well… pests. ha ha!

  9. And this post reminds me why we’ve gone several seasons with our garden lying dormant – darned bugs! #FridayFrivolity

    1. I have scaled back quite a bit because of the drought. But it doesn’t stop the insects.

  10. Featuring you this go-round!! It might kinda be cheating because you’re also a host, but hey, this post was hysterical enough to deserve more attention. ;P

  1. […] native critters love it! – do you like birds and bees and butterflies and lizards and ladybugs? They love the native plants because it is their natural habitat. They might come for the native plants, but they also patrol my edible garden too keeping the pests to a minimum. Except the dreaded hornworm. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: