Intro: White-crowned sparrows look similar to house sparrows, but they have a prominent white and black stripe on the head. The rest of their bodies are gray or light brown, and they have an orange-yellow beak. These wild birds are much less common at bird feeders than house sparrows, but they may visit your balcony garden when hungry in the winter. They eat insects, including caterpillars and beetles, in the summer, and mainly eat birdseed during the winter. White-crowned sparrows from different regions have slightly different colors, and because their songs are learned, there are also regional song dialects. There are several white-crowned sparrow subspecies.
If you see squiggly lines on your container plant leaves, you may have an infestation of leaf miner pests. Leaf miners are the larvae of insects that live inside of and eat plant leaves. The squiggly lines are the damage created by the larvae eating the plant's leaf tissue, and experts can tell what species is eating the leaf by examining the squiggly line pattern. Most leaf miners are moths and flies. The damage can be quite extensive before the plant loses its vigor and begins to die. While leaf miners are not an immediate threat, their numbers can grow out of control and eventually kill your plants.
Protecting potatoes and tomatoes from garden pests, such as the tomato hornworm caterpillar, and fungal diseases requires some work. These plants are in the same genus (Solanum), so they have a lot of the same maladies. Their foliage of these plants can become infected with early blight, late blight, leaf spot and other fungal problems. (Late blight was a large factor in the Irish Potato Famine in the 1850s.) These problems are quite common in balcony container gardens, but they are easy to avoid.
Mealybugs are technically a type of scale insect (mealybugs and all other scale insects are in the order Hemiptera), but when it comes to gardening, mealybugs are often separated out from other scale insects because mealybug females are motile (all male scale species have wings), while other scale females generally lose their legs. There are three families of scale insects: Coccidae (soft scales), Diaspididae (armored scales) and Pseudococcidae (mealybugs).
While balcony gardeners usually look at flowers as beautiful accents to their container gardens, flowers are much more than that: Flowers are the way that most plants reproduce. Most plant species have male and female parts in a single flower, but some plants have separate male and female flowers.