Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Warning! This Post May Make You Itch!

Warning: today’s post is gross, but I really need some help with this one! As I've stated before, I love to garden. It's kind of like a creative release for me. I get to paint a palette with colorful flowers, nourish the future with an edible landscape, nurture my "babies" any way I see fit, rejoice in their growth, and share the harvest with others. I grew up in California, and before we left had gardened for many years in the hot, dry, inland area of Southern California. 

The summers were brutally hot, with temperatures around 115-116 degrees for weeks at a time. Many beautiful plants would not survive the heat, and I looked longingly at pictures in gardening catalogs showing plants that would grow as far as USDA zone 7, but never had a chance in my zone 9 garden.

When we moved to Tennessee, I thought, "YES!! Now I can grow anything I want!" I bought bare-root fruit trees in January, potting them up until the ground and weather were ready. In April and May I planted flowers and herbs, looking forward to the butterflies and hummingbirds that would come, I knew. Sweat and dirt were my friends, because they were the precursors of beauty, and I COULD NOT WAIT for summer!

Then came July, and the mosquitoes and katydids kept up their noisy whine. Irritating, but the mosquito plant outside the back door would keep us safe from the bloodsuckers, I reasoned. But then came something I'd never experienced before, in all my years in the sunshine state.
Suddenly, I was getting bitten in the daylight hours!

Worse still, I never saw or heard any mosquitoes, but by the time I was done gardening for the day, my legs and arms were covered with itchy red welts. They looked sort of like mosquito bites, but each bite had a raised core, and all of them itched to distraction for TEN DAYS, no less! What in the world! Never had I experienced such itching! Why in the world, I wondered, did these Tennessee mosquitoes pack such a wallop?

I decided to look it up on the Internet. At I found pictures that showed exactly the type of bites I had, but they were not mosquitoes causing this mayhem. They were something called "chiggers" which I had heard about from my mom when I was little. I found out that they are microscopic red spidery things that bite. They don't suck your blood, either. Instead, their saliva dissolves your skin cells into a liquid form. Your body reacts by hardening nearby tissue, resulting in a hard center core through which the chigger sucks up its meal. YUCK!!!!

You can't see them, but they will bite you. I spent the rest of the summer last year spraying bug spray on my extremities several times a day, AND I stayed out of my garden. Anybody have a solution to this problem? I miss gardening!

Thank in advance for any help or advice you can offer!

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