My Organic Garden's Best Friend - Penny Lane Blog at - 282047

Penny Lane

My Organic Garden's Best Friend 
Aug. 17, 2012 9:52 am 
Updated: Sep. 3, 2012 1:29 pm

Without a doubt Organic gardening comes with hazards.  This year I opted to forgo even the use of Bt for tomato horn worms.  It is said that Bt is safe but after doing a little reading on the subject I decided to just grow a garden and deal with what ever I might find living and eating my precious plants. 

Let me back up a little bit and introduce you to my best buddy and garden helper. 


This is Komi.  

She is a very large and mostly lazy, black Labrador.   Ever since her puppy days she has loved to chase and catch bugs and flying insects.  Grasshoppers are her favorite prey and we laugh at the lengths she goes to in order to track them down.  Yes, she does eat them once she catches them. 

Some Labs are trained to sniff out drugs, others are trained as search and rescue dogs and still others are cadaver dogs.  No doubt about it, Labs have good noses.  

This year she has developed a taste and nose for green tomato horn worms.  Each morning she looks forward to visiting the tomato plants as I inspect for damage.  The other morning as I was on my hands and knees trying in vain to spot the monster that had quite obviously consumed several branches of leaves.  Komi stuck her nose into the tomato plant and sniffed out the invaders.  Yesterday, she kept sticking her nose next to my right ear and excitedly sniff.  As I turned my head to shoo her away I came eye to eye with a large horn worm.  She had managed to sniff out what I had failed to see. 


Some people have bird dogs - I have a bug dog.  :) 

Aug. 17, 2012 10:00 am
That's awesome. Great job Komi. I don't have horn worms. I have a chipmunk that luckily has only been eating the tomatoes that have hit the ground already. Any chance Komi wants to come east ?
Aug. 17, 2012 10:04 am
Oh Doug - Komi would take care of those chipmunks. Fine and dandy to eat the fallen ones but how soon is it until they are helping themselves to the real deal? By the way, she knows that as soon as I put on the blue surgical gloves we are off to hunt bugs.
Aug. 17, 2012 10:05 am
Hi baking nana, your dog is beautiful,what i can see of her.I have a black lab. also,and she has a red collar just like Komi,my dogs name is Molly,and her very favorite thing chasing after tennis balls.I don't think she would know one bug from another,like your dog does.Hope Komi keeps the bugs away from your plants so you don't have to look them in the eye again.Also agree on the sniffer part,Molly can smell food like nobodys business.
Aug. 17, 2012 10:07 am
We have a Gentle Giant that sniffs out tomatoes and eats them befoe we can have them for ourselves. Stopped planting tomatoes.... That is a very interesting looking worm!
Aug. 17, 2012 10:11 am
manella - Labs work for food alright. Komi can be fast asleep in the other room and smell a chip bag open. :) Those horn worms = treats for her.
Aug. 17, 2012 10:12 am
Oh gosh, I hope Komi never develops a taste for tomatoes! YIKES!
Aug. 17, 2012 10:22 am
There has been a tomato blight here on Long Island, similar to what did in the Irish potato crops years ago. I only have a container garden on my terrace, so I decided not to waste space on tomato plants that probably would only produce disappointment like last year. Even the Farmer's Market hasn't had what I consider "good" tomatoes. I have had better luck with the NJ tomatoes in my supermarket.
Aug. 17, 2012 10:24 am
I meant to say Komi is more than just a pretty face. What a talent!
Aug. 17, 2012 10:25 am
TOO COOL! My Bane has a good nose too but not for bugs darn it! It's quite disheartening to go and see the devastation those blasted bugs leave! Found a huge one the other day. Totally devoured 1 pepper plant and was working on another. Tossed his happy you know what in with the chickens where Bugs & Babs made short work of him. Somedays the organic garden feels like an uphill battle but it is still so worth it to me :)(:
Aug. 17, 2012 10:39 am
Hi Baking Nana! I LOVE Komi! She's such a sweet girl and a fine helper to Mom and Dad. Horn worms are the ugliest creatures, along with those big Summer beetles with the Mickey Mouse ears! Yuck!
Aug. 17, 2012 11:49 am
How cute and funny!
Aug. 17, 2012 11:55 am
Cute story and having a horn worm sniffing dog is great, those things are so camouflaged and hard to find. Does Komi eat the horn worms also? Your beautiful Komi makes me miss my dog so much, she loved being with me in the garden...squirrels were her thing. I think the squirrels actually miss her, they loved to tease her.
Aug. 17, 2012 1:25 pm
Hi BSM - Komi is a talented girl, for sure. Sad to hear about the tomato blight. I sure hope it doesn't spread.
Aug. 17, 2012 1:28 pm
Cat - when Komi was about 14 months old we were over run by grasshoppers - she would come with me to inspect the plants and I would grab them and toss them to her. Yes, she does eat them. It became her favorite 'game'. Then came the tomato worm 'game'. She is good at it too!
Aug. 17, 2012 1:30 pm
Hi Cathy! Thank you, we sure do love her. It is amazing how big those worms can get, isn't it? I try to find them while they are small but sometimes they get ahead of me. They are so darned hard to spot.
Aug. 17, 2012 1:33 pm
Yes, Sherri Komi eats the horn worms. Like I said, she works for food. :) Isn't amazing how well they blend in? Up close they are really interesting. Too bad they can cause so much damage.
Aug. 17, 2012 1:34 pm
Thanks for stopping in CookandBakeGirl. Looks like you have a gentle giant for your Avatar.
Aug. 17, 2012 4:08 pm
You should hire him out. What a wonderful talant.
Aug. 17, 2012 4:36 pm
Wonderful story! I love labs, have two of my own, in a long line of them going back 35 years. Had a black one that used to 'hear' moles digging under the ground and then proceeded to dig them up to play with. Wish I could train these two to do that. They are tomato stealers from the garden, just waiting for them to get ripe.
Aug. 17, 2012 5:11 pm
BN: Of course, you couldn't bear to part with Komi for a minute. But I think you could start a lucrative rental business. ;)
Aug. 17, 2012 6:20 pm
What Is "BT"?
Aug. 18, 2012 5:29 am
Good morning. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a spore forming bacterium that produces crystals protein which are toxic to many species of insects.
Aug. 18, 2012 5:37 am
Sassy - I have seen Komi try to dig up ground squirrels. They are too fast for her but provide her with hours of entertainment. I sure hope that she doesn't develop a taste for ripe tomatoes - that would not make me happy.
Aug. 18, 2012 5:38 am
Marie C & Bikerfamily, If I were to rent Komi out, I would have to go with her. We are a team. Besides, she would probably get even fatter if she could eat worms all day long.
Aug. 18, 2012 8:14 am
Baking Nana, I got a kick out of Komi eating all the horn worms. I don't have a garden this year. However, in previous years, my dogs would root up the carrots and eat the tomatoes. We had to fence off the garden to keep the dogs out. Enjoy the wonderful veggies from your garden! I hope to see Baking Nana photos of fresh veggie recipes. Send a Caprese Salad my way!
Aug. 18, 2012 8:45 am
Good morning Lela - One thing about our Lab is that she is eager to please. I rarely have to scold her but when I do, she rarely repeats the mistake again. I would not be happy with a veggie eating dog. Caprese salad is on the menu today. I will be thinking of you.
Aug. 18, 2012 9:36 am
Yes, labs have an excellent nose. You could start a whole business for Organic Gardners training dogs to sniff out pests to be picked off the bounty. BTW, great photo of the horned worm. Another one I'd frame and hang. Good job Penny!
Aug. 18, 2012 11:10 am
Hi, Baking Nana - enjoyed hearing about Komi. Our pets are the most entertaining companions! My Golden liked to hide in the garden if she wanted to eat a cucumber so I wouldn't catch her at it - she would pick peas right off the vine and loved tomatoes. My "now" dog - a Cavalier is my bugger and eats whatever she can find - I think we'll work on horn worms next week.
Aug. 18, 2012 5:57 pm
I love it! Go Komi!! : ) I am lucky to have not had a problem with the worms as my tomatoes are in pots. But my brother in law would love to borrower Komi. Gardening on a beautiful day with your best friend...perfect! Thanks for the smile toay, baking Nana and Komi.
Aug. 18, 2012 6:46 pm
i hate the tomato horn worm too. we can only grow patio maters in 5 gallon buckets in the back end of the drive-way. we have monster oaks and elms here. anyways, my youngest daughter , the gater became fasinated with caterpillars. so of course, we kept a horn worm and let her watch it thru the pupa stage all the way to hatching. a beatiful butterfly!! no kidding. i wanted to take the worm fishing...sorry to contribute to mater abuse, but they are great looking butterflies.
Aug. 18, 2012 9:08 pm
Hi Candice - it is funny but I didn't set out to train her to hunt these invaders - she kind of trained me. Interesting how things work out.
Aug. 18, 2012 9:11 pm
Mema - all I had to say was "AH HA!" and she learned to come running. Mind you, I think my dog understands English - if I am in the kitchen and swear she knows that I dropped something and comes running. :)
Aug. 18, 2012 9:13 pm
wisweetp - having a friend in the garden sure is nice. I am a little concerned about these veggie eating dogs I keep hearing about though. I better keep an eye on her!
Aug. 18, 2012 9:16 pm
gderr - I always think of that children's book, "The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar" I am sure they turn into beautiful butterflies but not at my tomato plants expense. At least not if I have Komi around.
Aug. 19, 2012 6:11 am
I marvel that you had time to write a blog when you were so busy preparing to cater a party! Wow, Baking Nana! I know who's the talented one here! :)
Aug. 19, 2012 7:52 am
Tell Komi i admire her talent.....but no more puppy kisses for me :)
Aug. 19, 2012 10:16 am
Good morning Marianne. I had to sit down sometime and decided to spend that little "down" time putting out a quickie blog.
Aug. 19, 2012 10:19 am
Mauigirl - Fortunately, Komi isn't much of a 'kisser' ! This morning when I let her out it was still dark and I knew she had found another worm that she wanted me to go pick for her. I guess I will have to put a flashlight with the surgical 'bug picking' gloves.
Aug. 19, 2012 2:15 pm
My dog can be outside and hear/smell a chip bag open. As for the horn worms I don't know. They seem to be as big as my little pal. Now if I could just get him to sniff out ants and eat them he'd have a fighting chance.
Aug. 19, 2012 2:41 pm
LOL - bd.weld! Your 'hover' might have trouble with the size of these dudes. An ant eating dog would be good though.
Aug. 19, 2012 2:51 pm
I need to borrow Komi! For the life of me, I cannot find my hornworm(s)! They have stripped the cherry tomato plant and have started on the Mr. Stripey. Good thing I've pretty much had my fill of garden tomatoes!
Aug. 19, 2012 3:30 pm
Sweet story. I gotta say what I discovered about Tomato horn worm, and now I have a hard time killing them! One, I used to think they were ugly. Now, once REALLY looking closely at them, I see them as beautiful. But that is not it. Do you what those lovely big appetite things grow into? They turn into " Hawk Moths"!!! Beautiful Hawk moths... These are lovely, buff colored large moths that are nocturnal feeders. They come out at dusk, dart around quickly, move just like hummingbirds, looking for flowers. Just lovely, NEEDED creatures. I decided if they got out of hand, I would just hand pick them off. Luckily, I haven't had much problem with them in years, and I am an avid gardener. Just love your story. Your dog is amazing, and I think it's great he does what he does. I have had horn worms so bad, that on a quiet day, you could hear them munching! I had a great dog that did a similar thing with gophers! My Duke. Thank you.
Aug. 19, 2012 5:49 pm
Komi is a great garden gadget!! Our long haired Chihuahua only helps by trying to steal cherry tomatoes.
Aug. 19, 2012 7:38 pm
Wonderful story, Baking Nana! You and petey have some amazing animals.
Aug. 20, 2012 6:25 am
Wyattdogster - I find it amazing how hard they are to spot and then once I find them and see how big they are I am mystified as to how I could have missed them. I am not sure if I could ever have my fill of garden tomatoes & I don't like sharing them with the critters.
Aug. 20, 2012 6:28 am
Good morning Peggy. Aren't they amazing looking critters? I have some other pictures of them. I really wish they didn't do so much damage. There are so many of them this year. Between the horn worms and the grasshoppers my garden is taking a beating.
Aug. 20, 2012 6:30 am
Gwen - Another tomato stealing dog? YIKES! I will have to be careful to not let Komi know about these tasty treats - being a chow hound she would have a field day picking her own! Thanks for stopping in.
Aug. 20, 2012 6:35 am
Good morning Bibi. Petey's dogs really earn their keep, don't they? Komi sees this as a tasty 'game'. Her motivation is purely self centered. Again this morning she came to get me and showed me a big fat horn worm right at nose level. Her morning snack.
Howard Schwartz 
Aug. 20, 2012 7:44 am
But does dog slobber actually taste better than tomato horn worms? Give me a touch of pesticide any day. You can't taste it if you only use enough to keep the bugs away.
Aug. 20, 2012 8:13 am
LOL Howard! She doesn't slobber on the tomatoes or the plants for that matter. You can have all the pesticides you desire - for myself, I will pass, thank you very much. Pesticides not only kill the bad bugs but the good ones too, not to mention the other critters it kills - including people.
Howard Schwartz 
Aug. 20, 2012 9:59 am
Well, Nana, thanks for pointing out that there are multitudes of insects to be found in organic groceries and if you enjoy eating them, you go girl! After all, they are healthy eating and humans can live on bugs alone. I'll stick to bug free, thanks.
Aug. 20, 2012 11:07 am
Love your dog! You are lucky to have her (and she is lucky to have you). I've never used any fertizers or pesticides on my garden. Just have to be vigilant and always start with healthy soil..We're pretty "lucky" here because we get a really hard freeze in the winter which tends to keep the insect and varmint population under control!
Aug. 20, 2012 3:50 pm
irayd8 - we are in Southern California and we don't freeze - occasionally we get a frost - no snow and no ice. Everything thrives, including the bugs! Not complaining at all - just stating the facts. I love my pal, Komi. She is a bug eating gem. :)
Aug. 20, 2012 3:52 pm
Howard, thank you! As I said, each to their own. I prefer to know that my produce is insecticide free and well washed. I hope you wash your produce too - there are different 'bugs' that you can't even see along with the pesticides.
Aug. 21, 2012 7:12 am
Hello everyone! Love the story about Komi- what a treasure she is! We too battle the dreaded hornworm- tobacco and tomato. It never ceases to amaze me how MASSIVE they can become overnight, and how they can decimate an entire plant in just a few short hours! Recently however, I ran across a piece of research that indicated the use of red plastic sheets as mulch beneath the plants as a great defense against these caterpillars. According to the articles I found, this red plastic sheeting repels not only hornworms but many other critters as well. Going to try it this season!
Aug. 21, 2012 9:35 am
Good morning bonappetit. I have seen those red plastic sheets in gardening magazines but have never tried them. It is worth giving it a go I suppose. These pests have been particularly bad this year. Komi is enjoying the action far more than I am. Thanks for the suggestion.
Aug. 21, 2012 8:31 pm
Good dog, Komi.
Aug. 22, 2012 6:51 am
What a great post, Baking Nana! It's amazing what our pets can do!
Aug. 22, 2012 7:04 am
WTH? Those worms are nasty looking things, I do not have any pests in my tomato patch but have heard of those worms. I plant marigolds around the toms to keep any pests that may decide to inhibit my yard on a given year. The scent of marigolds is suppose to deter bugs, slugs and perhaps your monsters as well. Also garlic, onion, chives all help too. But then, poor Komi would be on the unemployment line:(
Aug. 22, 2012 9:36 am
RNG - believe it or not I planted marigolds and guess what the slugs and snails ate them. I figure that at least they didn't get the tomato plants. Komi has taken on a few snails - she has to sniff them to decide if they are 'good' or not but she wants nothing to do with slugs. The worm pictured is one of the smallish ones. Left unchecked they will get bigger than my index finger. Even at that size they are hard to spot. Nothing eats the chives or garlic, nope they just pass on by on their way to the tomatoes and sage.
Aug. 22, 2012 11:16 am
they ate them???? You must have a highbred type of slug, wowsers. Sorry can't be more help to you, I know my neighbour who used to live in Ont spoke of these monster worms. ICK! So glad you have a pooch to clean out the garden. What about birds on the yard? Do you have many? The barn swallows were swooning the yard by the 100s a few weekends ago, cleaned out the mosquitos. Several other neighbours noticed the swarms of swallows. The robins and wood peckers eat many bugs on the yard. You can't win them all, you have warm weather all year, so you can't complain of the cold=you get some massive bugs;)
Aug. 22, 2012 3:57 pm
Yep - they ate 'em RNG. Mums work well but they tend to get too big too fast. You are right though, no freeze means more bugs. On the other hand we have Citrus and can grow something year round. As for birds there are not enough that is for sure but the ones we have are well fed.
Aug. 22, 2012 6:45 pm
Good for Komi! I had those nasty worms last year but not this summer. My dog, a boxer named Flash, Is worthless in the garden but my granddaughter loves yellow pear tomatoes and will eat them as fast as she can!
Aug. 22, 2012 6:48 pm
jojo - Doesn't it make you wonder why some years are worse than others? This has been a bad year for these horn worms, I have had a few grasshoppers but not as bad as I did 2 years ago. Grand-daughter who eat tomatoes bring a smile to my face. I have a couple of those gems too!
Aug. 24, 2012 6:30 pm
What a good dog!! We have never used anything on our garden, in 40 years, and so far so good! Once in a while if I see a prob I use a spray of about one drop of Dawn and 2/3 cup of water and spray the plant, and usually it recovers. However, we DO have black walnut trees in our yard and THEY do a number on different plants for sure. Our son and daughter-in-law have 2 Siberian Huskies and a German Shepherd. Since they are both vegan, the dogs LOVE veggies and really don't know what meat is when they visit us! Our 2 Greyhounds love most veggies,too. But not tomatoes. It was the HEAT that did a lot of our garden and flowers in this year. So very hot for so long and very little rain. My husb said he felt like an elephant as we hauled water all over the yard day after day from the end of June til the end of July. Strange year in the gardens!! Great blog,BN, and as always, thanks for sharing!!
Aug. 24, 2012 7:46 pm
Interesting, Vegan dogs! Komi found two large grasshoppers today and she chased them down and gobbled them up. Dawn is great, isn't it? I too do the Dawn wash - it is awesome! It has been a harsh year in the garden. No zucchini here - I am still waiting for someone to leave zucchini on the porch - I think the neighbors are having the same problem.
Sep. 3, 2012 1:29 pm
Love Love Komi! We don't have the horn worms here but I remember them from when I was kid in Socal. We do have a horrible blight in our soil that causes our vegetables to sometimes turn black and its just killed our apple trees. We are hoping each year as we turn the soil and in vitamin-rich new soil this will eventually go away.
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Baking Nana

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About Me
Every morning my granddaughter calls and says, "Good morning Nana. Whatcha doing? Are you baking Nana?" Hence my name, Baking Nana. I love to bake bread and never get tired of it. Yeast is additive!
My favorite things to cook
I go through phases, Asian for a while then Italian then on to something else. I love experimenting with new flavors and different spices. Some times my husband will ask if we will ever have "ordinary" food again. Once in a while I have to toss him a burger just to keep quite! Actually, he is a good sport and my favorite taste tester.
My favorite family cooking traditions
In our family if it is your birthday you get to choose the menu. We have had some really interesting meals. In March we have 5 birthdays so we do one big party - what a crazy menu that is! Christmas dinner is very traditional. Sausage rolls, Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, gravy, Green beans with bacon, Mashed Potatoes (the really fattening kind) and trifle for dessert. If I were to dare to omit any of those items I would be lynched.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering really great bread is probably my biggest triumph. I am always so pleased when I create a perfect Asian dish.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few but none so horrible that I can't laugh about them now.
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