The Great Potted Plant War

People who live in this spectacular city are survivors and really do put up with alot of crap to live here.  Yes the festivals and the joi de vivre definitely do make the irritations worth it, however, we deal with a mix of so many things that really make it almost a marathon of survival:  Hurricane seasons, termite swarms (utterly disgusting beyond words), opressively hot and humid summers, Palmetto Bugs flying at your face, flooding streets, a kind of crummy police force and finally the defeat of not being able to grow a plant for longer than 2 months due to the elements.  At last update, my plants were kicking butt and taking names -- flourishing and producing amazing herbs for my crazy cooking.  However, things have taken a bit of a turn for the worse.  I am currently in a war and I am afraid I am losing to my tiny opponents.

Enter the caterpillar and the aphid. 

I have tried almost everything in the non-poisonous world to deter these pests (i refuse to throw poison on them because that defeats the purpose of my organic little garden).  Soapy water in a spray bottle does nothing and honestly, i cannot bear to touch the fat black caterpillars to pull them off the plants (did I mention i absolutely HATE bugs.  I see them and I yell for Mr. Bama.)  I read somewhere that sprinkling chili pepper around the bases of the plants helps, but its definitely not working for me.  

my caterpillers are very hungry indeed, but totally not as cute as the eric carle version.  photo court of http://jmclblog.wordpress.com

So now my marigolds look emaciated and have pretty much had their leaves totally stripped.  My strawberry plants have huge holes in their leaves and the mint is starting to turn brown.  The cilantro is incredibly sad looking and naked.  The only plant that the critters find no interest in is my pretty little rosemary bush (thank heavens).  I have had some help from my allies, the resident geckos.  However their appearance is sporadic, although effective for a short period of time.

I have exhausted my options and am really close to giving up and letting the invaders win, which is totally against my incredibly competitive nature.  Granted, I'm going to be cutting everything back as we leave vacation in a few weeks, but until them I'm thinking of just letting nature take its course.  Anyone have any ideas or advice to help save my poor little plants?

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