Last night my wife and kids were out of town so I did what any husband and father might do with an evening alone. I put on my headlamp and gardened in the darkness. I planted tomatoes and tomatillos, and then I sowed a row of corn, and then I scouted around for insects.

Truth is, I garden at night here and there throughout the year, even when the family is home. But during hot spells like the one we had last week, I particularly choose the night in which to get yard chores done. After sunset I don’t have to wear long sleeves or a hat; it’s much cooler and the work is less sweaty.

Smooth transplanting

Also, nighttime is ideal for transplanting. You can pop the plants out of the trays and lay them in their spots, roots exposed, and be in no rush to get them into the ground and watered since there’s no sun beaming on them. Once in the ground, the plant roots have all night to get acquainted with their new soil situation before needing to pull up water to support their leaves at sunrise.

There you go, little tomatillo. Now you’ve got all night to get ready for transpiration tomorrow.

Nocturnal companions

There are many other pleasantries for you, the gardener, to experience at night compared to day. It’s usually quiet at night. At the same time, partly because your vision is limited, you end up hearing more animals. Last night I heard crickets and coyotes mostly. I was listening for owls but didn’t hear any.

Other nocturnal creatures that you can’t hear can be seen in your spotlight. Last night, after I was finished planting and sowing, I walked over to my orange tree and found pill bugs munching on fallen oranges.

Pill bugs eating rotten orange.

On previous nights I’ve found them munching on my cucumbers along with earwigs.

Earwig and pill bugs eating cucumber.

If you’re seeing chew damage on vegetables or if you’re seeing holes in the leaves of your vegetable plants or fruit trees, it’s likely that the feeding is happening after dark, and going out with a flashlight is the only way to know. That’s when you’ll find June bugs chewing holes in avocado leaves here in the early summer, for instance, as I also did last night.

June bug feeding on an avocado leaf.

Certain things glisten in the illumination of your flashlight or headlamp. A rabbit’s eyes show red. A spider’s eyes show green. And the guttation on the edges of the leaves of plants like corn show as silver balls.

Guttation on ‘Glass Gem’ corn leaves last night.

I’ve been told that some animals get their hydration by drinking this water that is exuded by some plants at night. I’ve also been told it tastes sweet. I tasted the liquid drops on the corn last night, but it just tasted like water.

Flying insects

I saw green lacewings fluttering throughout the yard last night. They glow light green in your beam. They are said to be predators of aphids, thrips, psyllids, scales, whiteflies, leafhoppers, spider mites, mealybugs, and more pests — so I always appreciate seeing them, but they’re a bit shy and were hard to capture in a photo.

Moths, on the other hand, can be annoyingly friendly as they flit around your face, attracted to the light on your forehead. I’m told they pollinate dragon fruit flowers though, and it is only at night that dragon fruit flowers are open in full glory. Here’s one I photographed a couple years ago:

‘S8’ dragon fruit flower at 9 PM one night in July 2020.

Meanwhile, other flying insects sleep at night. Just before I turned in around 11 PM I found a squash bee already snoring inside a pumpkin flower.

Squash bee sleeping deep inside a pumpkin flower last night.

So if you find yourself wanting to take a break from tending your garden under the hot summer sun, or if you’d like to experience a whole new set of animals and sights out there, the night awaits. 

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