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Fig3825
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Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:40 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Weather trouble?

Hi all, just joined today and am located in the northern Virginia area.

I spent a boatload of time putting my garden together this year and it's production is nil thus far and I think I had some weather issues combined with some homemade pesticide woes.

The gist of my garden construction is 2x10 raised beds, set on the ground. 8" of quality soil from the local supplier, a weed block fabric, soaker system and a couple inches of mulch topping. I'll post some pics once I get home and can upload them to my ftp host. Since I'm an engineer, I got very technical about the whole thing - maybe too technical which you may see in the forthcoming pics.

I planted everything as seed and grew them indoors until most everything was around 4-10" tall, depending on the veggie, naturally. Shortly after transplanting, we had a solid bout of rain that lasted around 10 days with little to no sunshine and nothing grew at all. Following this, something started eating entire leaves off the seedlings in the garden as some of the leaves turned yellow and started dropping. To battle any number of potential threats, I mad 'chickenwire hats' for nearly all of the plants. I also whipped up some spray I made from boiled garlic and peppers along with some soap later. I sprayed them healthily and soon thereafter I got spotted leaves and more plant decay.

Does this sound like a complete disaster or what?

First question - the only thing I can think of that would eat entire leaves is birds, rabbits and squirrels, which I think I stopped with the chickenwire hats. No deer are in my area - too urban. Does this sound correct?

Second, I think I pretty much killed the plants with a spray that was WAY too strong - it almost ran us all out of the kitchen and the can still stinks of pepper weeks and washings later. Too strong?

I've since found a recipe involving some onion, cayenne pepper and garlic, set for an hour, strain and mix with a bit of dish soap. It doesn't seem to be killing anything. Sound acceptable?

Regarding the rain - I've since stripped all mulch off the beds because the soil was staying saturated for days and days with no sign of drying up. Now that the mulch is off, the plants that survived my nuke spray seem to be coming back. Some of them.

In my mind, the combination of rain and toxic 'too strong' homemade pesticide did me in right off the bat. I've been very light in my application of my new and improved spray and have yet to see any bad results.

I think I'm on the right track, but any comments or questions would be greatly appreciated in order to get my garden back on it's feet.

I'm not 100% organic, I just refuse to use commercial pesticides with two dogs and a pregnant wife that roam the garden. (There is a fence, so I ruled out the dogs as the culprits that were eating whole leaves)...

Sorry for the massive post. I hope to be annoyingly present in this forum. :)

Anyone from my area? Feel free to PM me for more localized discussions...

Cheers,
Jason

mbaker410
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Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 7:10 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

I live in Baltimore which isn't that far from you and I had similar issues but not quite as extreme as you. We have similar setups but I am using what is more like a traditional garden built up a bit.

I had cabbage worms infesting my broccoli and used an organic pesticide spray I picked up from Home Depot and had the same issue with the spotting on my leaves. I have had this happen in the past and normally the plants were able to recover. I just wait it out and they normally show signs of growth and begin to thrive.

The yellowing was possible due to over saturation and potentially root rot if not remedied fast enough. In this situation I tend to "neglect" my plants and withhold water until they have dried out without killing them!

I find that plants tend to be resilient and find ways to survive. I would hold back on spraying them down with the pesticide for a bit unless you notice more damage to your crops.

It would help everyone a bit more if you noted what was planted / effected and pictures of the damage. This would help us all figure out the pests as well as determine root rot, blight, or other disease.

Also its good to know your soil type and mix and if possible do a soil test to determine the nutrients present and the alkalinity of your soil.

Thanks,

Mike

mbaker410
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BTW,

Welcome to the forum.

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Thanks for the reply. I apologize for not responding sooner, but I have yet to have the chance to test the soil and get the appropriate pictures due to surgery a week ago on my wrist which limits my use of that hand to nearly nil.

I will get some soil tests done this week, with any luck, and can take some photos of where I am currently. I have a comprehensive kit that should be able to tell me a lot. The soil, though, was called 'super topsoil' and was claimed to have 40% organics and to have been screened to 1/2". It looked great, but the tests will tell the truth.

I did mist some of the plants with a diluted version of my latest bug recipe and it hasn't, thus far, affected any of the plants. I'm almost positive the strong solution I created on my own was too toxic for some of the veggie seedlings. (I used a hand full of habanero's, an entire head of garlic and boiled it all together, strained, added some dish soap and went to town coating my plants and killing bugs. It instantly killed pretty much any insect I hit with it...)

I do have some recent cucumber sprouts that show signs of something eating them already. We're having another 3-4 day bout of rain right now, so I'm waiting for it to somewhat clear up before reapplying.

This week, I transplanted some seedlings including squash, brussels sprouts and okra. I am watching them closely to see what happens to them. Planting with one hand has been a treat...

So, between now and my next post, I'll get some pics of damage I'm suffering and will test the soil.

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jal_ut
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Welcome to the forum.

When transplanting out young plants that have been grown indoors, it is quite a shock to them. They are now exposed to strong sunlight, wind, variable temperatures and whatever wildlife is around. It is not a bit unusual for them to halt their growth, maybe turn a little yellow, and just sit there for a while.

There are several "non chemical" bug killers available. Diatomaceous Earth, BT, Rotenone, and soap are some. Do a search of this forum for Soap. There has been several good discussions on that subject. Be advised that soap has no residual effect. It only kills the bugs you spray with it. Also if it is too strong it can damage your plants.

You need to try to find out what is eating your plants. It is much easier to suggest a cure if we know what we are fighting.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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Fig3825
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Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:40 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Okay, I'm going to start with the make up of the garden. I've managed to amass some historical pictures and took some today of the various damages. I may post the damages in a separate post.

This is the general bed construction with the soil in place:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/001.jpg[/img]
Weed fabric from Costco, good stuff I've heard:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/002.jpg[/img]
Installation of the soaker hose from Mr. Soaker Hose:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/003.jpg[/img]
Soaker junction network:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/004.jpg[/img]
Soaker timer, BFP, PRV and Filter:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/005.jpg[/img]
Mulch added as topper, about 2-3" worth:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/007.jpg[/img]
Overview of completed setup:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/008.jpg[/img]


This is the layout of my plants or "Planting Plan", from near to far, square foot by square foot - note that I have since stripped 90% of the mulch:
1 and 2: Are Corn - 1 is growing and 2 planted and sprouting
3-5: Are various pepper plants
6: Lima bean row (Fordhook 242)
8: Okra (Clemson Spineless - recently transplated after hardened)
10: Cucumber
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/030.jpg[/img]
From Left to right, sorry it's upside down...
1 and 2 are Snow Peas
3, 4 and 5 are Various greens on closest half, mesclun, romain and rocket salad - recently planted
7 and 8 are potato (near) and broccoli (far)
10 is Carrots
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/031.jpg[/img]
Left to right:
2 and 3 is a small watermelon hill - intent is to grow to the left
4 is a couple brussels sprouts
6 is a couple eggplant
8 is a couple squash (summer)
10 is a couple squash (butternut)
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/032.jpg[/img]
Left to right:
All are tomatoes, 10 total. I think either the excessive water or the spray I made destroyed all but the chocolate cherry on the far right, they came back. all in the foreground have been replanted and recently sprouted. Will see some close up in next post.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/033.jpg[/img]

That's my garden in a nutshell. All are 4 x 10 and 10" deep. You can see that I'm going to extremes to keep the squirrels out, but I ran out of chickenwire... The leaves on plants under the 'pointy hats' have yet to be eaten.

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Fig3825
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Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:40 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Okay, now for the damage:

Pepper (California Wonder). Never had a pointy hat. As you can see, something has picked the leaves and stems off. I'll be replanting this from seed soon. It's about 8" tall and has only those 4 leaves.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/010.jpg[/img]
Another pepper, same demise...
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/011.jpg[/img]
Lima beans, I think the spray did this... Never have seen any bugs on them and I inspect daily, top and bottom of leaves.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/012.jpg[/img]
Cucumbers, just REplanted a week ago, seem to be doing well. Previous batch, I think, succumbed to the wet soil from the extensive rain. They started to flower and were barely out of the ground. Plants pulled and mulch was stripped and these seem to be growing quickly. But something is feasting on the leaves as you can see.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/013.jpg[/img]
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/014.jpg[/img]
These are potato plants. The damage here is minimal, but here is a good example. I have not stripped the mulch from over these plants as they never yellowed and seem to be doing okay.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/015.jpg[/img]
New tomato sprouts. These haven't been in the ground more than 5 days, planted from seed. Something has ripped the leaves off completely.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/016.jpg[/img]
This is one of the new corn sprouts, ripped off at the ground surface somewhat similar to what happened to tomato above.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/021.jpg[/img]
The next three were all planted BEFORE the big rain. The mulch was still on them for a couple weeks after (but they got no water). I finally stripped the mulch, but I think they are too far gone. I think these are waterdamaged... Two butternuts and an eggplant, in that order. Also had some leaves stripped before I installed the 'pointy hats'.
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/017.jpg[/img]
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/018.jpg[/img]
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/019.jpg[/img]
The corn seems to be the only thing that somewhat bounced back after I stripped the mulch...however, it might still be a bit sad. No bug damage to date that I've seen:
[img]https://www.jtnewton.com/Images/Garden/020.jpg[/img]

As I said, I have not tested the soil yet but do not believe that that is the source of the problem. Straight from the nursery and recommended for vegetable garden. I don't always believe what I'm told, but I trust these guys and have been buying from them for years...

If I had to guess, I've got squirrel issues and some sort of bug issue. I think replanting and starting over with the yellowing plants will be successful now that the mulch is gone. I have a plant cam and need to set it up out there and take a daily timelapse to see WTF is going on. However, it's not going to capture the bugs, at least I don't think it will. But maybe I'll get lucky when I get get it set up proper.

I have sprayed with the new spray a couple times, but my timing has been poor. Nothing has gotten 'burned' with the new spray so far and I've applied 3 times. However, I seem to have a knack for spraying before a light rain and forget to reapply - thus, the bug damage. Those suckers have exquisite timing...and take advantage of my shortcomings...

Help? :)

SOB
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Wow...I glanced through your post (sorry I am still inexperienced and cant provide much help) but I was going to ask if you're an engineer. Then I went back and scanned and found my answer :)

As a fellow engineer (electrical) I say welcome to the forum and that this is one of the few areas I try to stay away from "technical" and try to stay simple, let trial and error and learning from others experience take over...

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

SOB wrote:As a fellow engineer (electrical) I say welcome to the forum and that this is one of the few areas I try to stay away from "technical" and try to stay simple, let trial and error and learning from others experience take over...
Yeah, I hear ya. Two years ago we had a garden in another yard and watered with a wave style sprinker and we had a lot of lower level rot on the plants, and, engineer or not, I have no idea what that is called. :)

As you can see, I did eliminate the mulch, which made it pretty for the most part; but in the end, it kept too much moisture in the soil which is high in organic content I believe. Based on soils classes and field experience, I know organic soils tend to hold water.

Things are looking up, however. I've pretty much resolved to virtually start over. The snow peas are doing okay and a few tomatoes are doing okay. I recently transplanted a squash and some okra that are also doing okay. I had the sense to harden these outside in their pots for a week prior to planting and they've pretty much remained unchanged from their in pot state. I replanted 8 tomatoes as you can see. Just this evening, I ripped out all the peppers, lima beans, dying squash and eggplant and replaced with seed. Thus far, everything I start in the ground seems to be 'coming up roses'... :lol:

Due to the stupid weather we are having (rain for 10 days, then 95+ temps for 10 days, then rain for another 10 days) I pretty much haven't turned the soaker system on. I've also learned to water less often and for longer periods. The timer is set, as of now, for 1hr of water every 4 days but I plan to move it to 1.5hrs every 5 days if I ever turn it on again... (that is, if the rain stops anytime soon and the soil gets a bit dry).

I know I have a somewhat problematic soil. We had about 10 days of sun with the first 5 being in the 95+ range, then another 5 of temps in the 80's. I checked the soil in one corner of a mulch free bed and it was still damp about 4" down. I have no idea how to resolve this aside from tilling the whole thing once the top gets crusty, and that's not happening. Another option I've considered it letting it dry out as much as it will and then topping it with plastic and letting the soaker system do it's job - but I don't think this will work. I see plastic in gardens all the time, but I have no experience as such.

I do like my pointy hats. It seems as though the chicken wire is keeping whatever was gobbling off entire leaves at bay. I'm guessing squirrels looking for water - but they have water which is what has me perplexed. I have a 2' high chickenwire fence around the entire garden to keep the dogs out and, hopefully, the rabbits. I have seen a chipmunk slinking around the yard, but I have no idea what they will do to a garden - and I imagine they can go right through the chickenwire. My wife is pregnant and I've mentioned the dogs, so Sevin is out. I may just start using soap and water and hope for the best.

And a final word about the KISS principle - I planted a garden for my father in law in Maryland about 4 weeks ago. We just tilled an area of the yard, put up fence to keep the deer out and I threw some seeds in the ground. He said he has a few tomatoes coming up well, a huge squash and several cucumbers crawling around. And he hasn't done crap to it. :roll:

TWC015
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In many of your pictures, I don't think there was anything eating the leaves. It looks like severe nitrogen deficiency. This is especially evident on the plants with long bare stems and yellow leaves.

Also from the pictures, the soil you are using looks like it has too much undecomposed organic material. This will also tie up nitrogen as it breaks down. What does your soil look and feel like when you pick it up? If you can see water coming out when you squeeze it, then it is too wet, but it should be drying out rapidly on the days with temperatures in the 90s. The weed fabric may also be preventing drying. I have mostly clay soil and it even dries out quickly in the summer.

Have you added any finished compost or any other source of nitrogen? I think nitrogen deficiency is the main problem, and it is being compounded by too much water.

I'd like to see more pictures of the soil turned over to see how moist it is and what it looks like.

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

I have a kit that, I think, will test for the nitrogen. I'll try to get the specifics on the soil this evening.

Yep, just looked it up...

"Soil Master testing kit contains enough tablets for 10 test each of pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium"

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jstrausss
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Not sure if this is worth saying but when I use the black fabric, I cut the holes for the plants alot bigger.

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

This particular fabric seems to breathe well and let in plenty of light. I imagine the light only matters for germination? However, I'm clueless as to the technical stuff regarding sunlight requirements other than drying out the wet soil... After several "x" openings in the fabric and several replantings, I've started cutting holes depending on the need. If I'm just planting seeds, I'll cut out a 2"x2" or 3"x3" squarish opening. On some of the transplants, I cut it large enough to get the root ball through (along with the soil). I haven't had any issues with anything coming up from seed yet. I did have one corn plant start to grow under the barrier, but since I look daily, I saw it and plucked it out. It's much happier now. :wink:

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TheWaterbug
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Fig3825 wrote:I do like my pointy hats. It seems as though the chicken wire is keeping whatever was gobbling off entire leaves at bay.
LOL! [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36971]This means I'm not crazy[/url].

BTW I like the plastic chicken "wire" much better than the nasty metal stuff. It doesn't cut you, and the kids can help make the hats/cages.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

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Fig3825
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I sat in the isle at Home Depot for half an hour weighing the options...hardware cloth, chicken wire and the very same stuff you use. I settled on the chicken wire since it was half the price for twice the material. And I just wear gloves and wrap it around a 5 gal bucket and pinch the top together and twist some wire through it. I see a drawback, however... Storing them will be impossible since they don't fit inside each other and they don't fold flat like plastic would. Might have to change my chickenwire ways...

I have only one kid at this point, and he's not due until September. The dogs aren't much help either. One is just plain stupid and the other is only interested in digging up the garden and eating the soil. And, naturally, the wife is plump with child, so she's only interested in relaxing. :roll:

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TheWaterbug
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I hear you. Every time I go to HD I debate how much of the green stuff to buy. Even though I know I'll have to come back later and I buy more, the price always pummels me into buying less than I need.

Here's a better picture of the cages:
[img]https://dl.dropbox.com/u/3552590/AntiSquirrelCages.jpg[/img]

At the end of last season I had 70 of these stacked up in the shed. Took up nearly 1/4 of the shed!
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

What do you use to close the top and meet the ends of your cylinder? And do you anchor them to the soil or just sit them on top? I bought the weed block fabric from costco and it came with these horseshoe shaped soil nails for attaching the fabric to the ground and I've found it works for anchoring the pointy hats to the ground as well. But I haven't found them 'a la carte' anywhere except the soaker hose websites, [url=https://mrsoakerhose.3dcartstores.com/12-x-8-Galvanized-Metal-Stake-bag-of-100_p_116.html]like these.[/url]

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TheWaterbug
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Near the bird netting &c at Home Depot they had green twist-ties for closing up the cages, and they also had green plastic stakes about 4" long. They had a cross-shaped cross section and a round head like a giant nail.

They're OK, but not great. They won't penetrate hard ground, and they're not long enough to really hold in soft dirt.

I considered using metal stakes like you're using, but I don't like having metal pieces in my field. I rototill the field every year (well, at least twice in 2 years now :D) and I'm not thrilled with the prospect of running over little pieces of metal all over my field.

But it seemed to deter the squirrels well enough. I think there were only 2-3 cages that got knocked over, and that was as likely to be the neighborhood dogs and/or peafowl as it was the #$!@#$%!@# squirrels.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

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Fig3825
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Soil Testing Results

Okay for those of you who were advising me up front and requested soil testing data, I tested it tonight.

PH was 7
Nitrogen was "Low" to non-existent
Phosphorus was "Medium"
Potassium was "Medium" to "High"

Now that the plants are in the ground, and knowing there isn't much I can do aside from liquid fertilizer (or granular, I suppose), any suggestions? I've read fish meal is a decent organic 10-5-0 fertilizer which seems to meet my needs? Fish meal, recommended or not? And is it going to make my backyard smell like the Chesapeake Bay?

I have access to coffee grounds, but have no idea how much to use and whether to mound it near the plants or spread it all over? I understand it helps add Nitrogen. I could amass around a cup of used grounds/day - we have an ancient drunk hoarding useless aunt living with us and when she's not drinking cheap wine or Keystone, she's swilling coffee... Don't ask... :?

And how the heck to do you bring Potassium down, or will it be okay once nitrogen is up knowing phosphorus is okay and potassium is borderline okay?

I think what I'm noticing in the soil is that the organics has not completely broken down, maybe not at all. I'm finding quite a bit of sticks and whatnot in the soil, some are the size of my thumb and are rock hard.

I also found a bug in the process of making holes in my okra leaves late this afternoon. It was yellow and black. I thought it was a Corn Rootworm, but then I looked up what damage they do and it HAS to be a Cucumber Beetle. I can get a picture of what the bastard did today and will post it tomorrow. Might explain why my cucumbers are getting cut up also? I posted this in the pesticide forum, but the topic started here... I'm interested in knowing how to apply the soap/water spray mix. I applied this evening and it came out bubbly wet and stick nicely. However, I'm not savvy on how much to coat the leaves (like dripping or just a misting), how often I can put it on (like, every day?) and how much soap I mix in the water. I've read 1/4 cup/quart (which seems excessive) and I've read a tablespoon/quart or gallon even...

One last thing - I thought a lot about buying beneficial insects. There is a relatively cheap package out there with ladybugs, lacewings and nematodes in it. Would it be worth trying? I've read that the ladybugs might fly home on the first day unless there are plenty of bugs to eat... I've also read that some nematodes can cause damage. I think the bottom line is that I read too much. All reading aside, does anyone think this is a worthwhile tactic? I enjoy watching bugs eat each other just as much as the next person, but will it work?

So, here we are again...Help? :?:

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