Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tale of a mustard plant

The mustard plant in full bloom in my kitchen garden conjured up visions of large fields in Punjab/Haryana and even in Leh (Ladakh), during the short spring in the Indus valley.

The warbler and the tailor bird started visiting the mustard plants in the morning. They seemed to relish some white powdery substance from the back of the leaves-the leaves were now nearly white with morning frost and not good enough for making "sarson ka saag". So I let them be and started watching the birds. Only small birds came, warbler (almost daily) tailor bird and an occasional white eye.

Then one day, I noticed the leaves getting eaten up by large worms. The birds stopped coming on the plant. Even the babblers and bulbuls ( who I found were particularly fond of worms) gave the mustard plants a miss. The worms grew bolder and bigger.

I tried spraying neem oil, since by now, I was determined to let the mustard seeds ripe. The worms were apparently not moved.

Then, within a week, the temperatures started going up. The morning sun hotted up. One such hot morning I found the crawlies all down from the plant moving around in all directions.

I looked up Google. The worm had a name-diamond backed moth worm, which normally affects mustard leaves and cabbage leaves. The leaves were all eaten up, but the seed pods were intact. So I can still hope to get some home grown mustard seeds.

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