19 May 2013, by gj
Pesticides kill bugs, that’s what they are used for.
Even ‘natural’ pesticides kill bugs.
Most pesticides kill indiscriminately.
Here’s the thing, we all have problems with bad bugs on our plants; and we want to get the best harvest possible.
This is a double-edge sword.
By killing the bad bugs, we may also be killing the ones that will pollinate them, like bees.
There is already a problem with the bee populations due to Colony Collapse. Add to that the use of pesticides in home lawns and gardens and it gets worse.
Some of these pesticides may already be on plants you buy at your local Farm and Garden as well. Put them in the ground, and they will continue to kill for years.
Not just bugs either, also the birds that eat them.
If the use of these pesticides continues, our ability to grow our own food declines as well.
Please READ THIS short article. Share it, print it out and take it to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s.
You can also Take Action here.
What can you do to prevent the need for any pesticide?
1. Keep your garden clean. Remove spent foliage at the end of the season.
2. Keep your plants healthy and strong. If you have healthy soil, your plants will be stronger and better able to fight off any pests. Give them what they need.
3. Keep a close watch for pests. As soon as you see them, pick them off by hand. Most pests can easily be swiped off and into a bucket of soapy water.
4. Look into pest-resistant hybrids for veggies you have the most trouble with.
5. Start your own seed with an organic seed starting medium, or buy from a local organic grower.
6. Add in some plants that will attract the good bugs. Bees love sunflowers, Ladybugs favor dill and oregano. Not only will good bugs help pollinate, many feed on the bad bugs.
7. Learn more. We recommend the book Good Bugs, Bad Bugs by Jessica Walliser as a great source for the information you need to know to grow a healthier garden.
If you need to use a pesticide, please go organic and target the bug you are after. Use as little as possible.
Here’s a few natural solutions to try.
Categories: gardening, living green, pests, techniques, Uncategorized
10 May 2013, by gj
When the story of the upcoming swarm of 17-year locusts first hit the news, visions of crop damage of Biblical Proportions entered my head.
You know, the kind of stuff a b-rated sci-fi is made of.
But after reading a lot on the internet, I came across this news release from Indiana University.
Frame is ready.
What a relief! You see, the cicadas are expected to travel up the east coast from North Carolina to New York. Some sources even mentioned the Hudson Valley region, which is not terribly far from us. I did finally find a map, and we are just on the fringe of their expected path.
With an estimated trillion of swarming red eye bugs coming this way, I wanted to learn how to protect the gardens.
As it turns out these much anticipated cicadas don’t mess with the majority of crops, mainly they will go after fruit trees and shrubs.
Luckily those are the plants the dang squirrels and rabbits damaged last fall and this spring, so we were already preparing to cover them with netting, using PVC pipe as a frame.
Get netting with opening 1 inch or less.
This project just moved to the top of the To-Do list.
Secretly, I hope we get a chance to see at least one, and get a good pic.
Then we can put it here:
Wow! Look at this great shot we got!
Are you in their path? Are you a cicadas geek?
Enjoy the fun by keeping up with the Swarmageddon and an interactive tracking map here.
Categories: gardening, pests
12 April 2013, by gj
Last spring an entire bed of young hot pepper seedlings got wiped out by a handful of these:
‘Rascally’ is not the word I would use.
They also did this:
Dear heaven, why?
So last weekend, I did this:
Go ahead… just try.
Sorry it’s kind of hard to see, but what you are looking at are 2 pvc pipes bent and inserted into 4 pieces of galvanized steel that are in the ground as anchors.
Over this is chicken wire, encircling the entire bed. Of course, the seeds were planted first.
The wire is also laying out on the bottom of the bed to deter any bunny digging, and is held in place with anchoring pins.
Now I realize that harvesting will be hampered, but once the Fava beans that are planted in here get tall enough, and they will get that chance that was denied those poor little hot peppers, I can open the wire towards the top.
We may even plant some melon seeds in there too… because this set up will also stop these:
Hey you… stay out of the garden.
What’s eating your garden?
Categories: gardening, pests
2 April 2013, by gj
Well, knock on a wooden raised bed these pests have not been a problem in our garden. Here’s what you can do to help keep your garden free of these buggers too:
1. Don’t send them an invitation.
Although squash bugs will feed on any members of the concurbit family, both summer and winter squash including zucchini and pumpkins, as well as cucumbers and melons; their favorite is yellow summer squash. You may as well yell “Hey squash bugs, look what I’ve got!”
If you can live without yellow, plant zucchini instead. Likewise, squash bugs are not as fond of acorn and butternut squash, cucumbers and melons as they are of other winter squashes, especially pumpkins.
So don’t plant their favorites and perhaps they’ll visit another garden that has them.
2. Don’t make it easy for them.
Wherever possible, grow your concurbits up. Even the heavier fruit can be grown on a good support. Plastic mesh or old pantyhose used as slings can help take some of the weight off the vines. There is even a vining zucchini called Tatume that does well on a trellis. Then, surround the bases of the plants with something stinky like marigolds or mint. Nasturtiums are not only pretty and edible, they repel squash bugs. Can you beat that?
3. Don’t let them move in.
but don’t grow these.
Even if you have never had a problem with squash bugs, it can happen someday. Keeping a clean garden by disposing of all wasted plant life can help prevent squash bugs. Checking the undersides of your leaves every once in a while may help you catch them before they become a problem. If you do get them, be sure to get rid of all the plants they infested because they can survive the winter and return the following season.
If all else fails, try using an organic solution. Many people have told me they have great success by spraying the leaves, especially the undersides, with milk diluted with water. Other gardeners recommend Neem oil, but remember this will kill off the good bugs as well.
The more organic your garden, the more likely you will have the predator bugs you need to help you fight. Got spiders? Good!
Categories: gardening, pests
18 December 2012, by gj
Most gardeners would agree that crops should be rotated, but the reality is that this is not always necessary.
If you have a small garden, it may even prove impossible.
Think about it.
If you are growing any perennial fruit, vegetables or herbs, you already have crops that aren’t getting rotated.
Why sweat the others?
with a veggie garden...
Late blight is most often the reason gardeners rotate tomatoes and potatoes. First off, if you didn’t have blight, there is no reason to rotate.
Secondly, since blight is airborne and can travel many miles, rotating won’t prevent it.
If you don’t want to rotate be sure to mulch your crops well, and water at ground level. Also consider a blight resistant variety.
If you have good strong plants they will be better able to fight off any disease, just like you and me.
Many a gardener has grown their tomatoes in the same spot for years… you just don’t hear about that.
you will have them eating out of your hand
If you have had an infestation of nasty little buggers like squash bugs, or cucumber beetles, just to name two, you should get those crops and their relatives as far away from the area as possible. If you don’t have enough room to do that, you may want to skip growing them a season or so until you have wiped them out.
If you have not had a problem, don’t worry about it.
happy little campers
If you plant the same family of crops in the same spot year after year, eventually the food they want will be gone. Unless, that is, if you put it back.
Replenishing your soil is an essential part of growing beautiful, tasty veggies.
Long before I ‘knew better’ I had grown gorgeous carrots in the same bed for a number of seasons. They were mulched well to take them far into the winter months, and good compost and old manure were added each spring.
They were happy, I was happy.
Since then it has been a crap shoot. Every time I move them is like starting over, and last year was the last time.
“GJ, surely you’re not telling us we don’t have to rotate all of our our crops?”
Well, as a matter of fact I am…
and don’t call me Shirley.
Conversely, there are benefits to crop rotation that apply more to those with large areas of land. Read this info on Wikipedia.
Categories: faq's, gardening, pests, techniques
17 August 2012, by gj
aww...it's a baby watermelon
Because of the unseasonably mild weather we all enjoyed here in NE Pa. last winter (and none but the snow bunnies complained), the gardens are now being overrun with real bunnies- and squirrels, birds and bugs.
We found the first of the watermelons the other day, but not before the critters did, so we quickly jumped into action.
Not literally, I don’t think I’ve jumped in years. And well, ‘quickly’ is a matter of perspective.
But you get the idea.
Previously we have used boxes to protect our winter squash from the groundhogs (don’t even get me started) but they get wet and have a tendency then to attract bugs.
So instead we placed the baby melons in these plastic buckets, being sure there was drainage.
out of sight, out of bite
The idea is that the garden invaders won’t see the fruit and therefore won’t go after it.
affordable and natural protection
In just a few days they have doubled in size, with no additional bite marks.
a few days later
The scars have healed and the melons are doing well.
So well in fact that we’re going to need bigger buckets, and soon.
...and then the stars came out.
The song reference.
Categories: faq's, pests
31 July 2012, by gj
cute little garden destroyer
Our warmer that usual winter weather led to a boom in the wildlife population.
It’s one thing to deter a rabbit from the garden, we’re pretty used to that.
This year we also have squirrels, and they’re worse.
the first tomatoes were not enjoyed by us
Not only did they do the damage you see here, they also ate all the plums, all but one peach and most of the pears right off the trees.
Not wanting to harm them, finding a way to keep them out and do it safely was a bit difficult.
I read moth balls work, or giving them an alternative water and food source. But our gardens are too big to surround with the former, and the latter could very well make the problem worse.
not so cute to me
We also wanted something that was relatively safe, and we found this:
This is made up of all kinds of mean and nasty smelling things and it seriously stinks.
I applied the granules around the perimeter of the garden, and sprayed the trees and posts the squirrels use to get in.
The next morning a squirrel did get in through the fence (I’ll have to repair that!) and ran up one post and across the grape arbor towards the peach tree.
Normally they run, then stop, then run again. This one shot like a bat out of, well, you know, and out the other side of the garden.
So far, so good!
What’s your worst garden pest?
28 April 2012, by gj
So you have done everything you can to prevent critters from damaging your veggies, but they are doing it anyway.
The most natural way to deal with it is to remove them, when possible.
pick the buggers off
Many bugs, such as tomato hornworms and Japanese beetles, can be picked off by hand and dropped into a pitcher of sudsy water.
Okay- I admit, it is kind of gross- the beetles grab onto your finger, yucky.
It still beets the alternative.
If a plant’s leaf or branch is heavily covered, you can cut the whole thing off and drop it into the pitcher- as long as you don’t need to prune so much that it would kill the plant (never more than 1/3).
There are many ways to deal with critters that are specific to that pest; for example, you can place some aluminum foil around the base of a plant’s stem to prevent cutworm damage.
There are three links to good pest-specific info sites at the end of this post.
For some of the larger critters, like rabbits and groundhogs, you can trap and relocate them.
Of course, if you are infested with any pest, you will need to deal with the problem differently or at the very least- diligently.
natural pest solutions
There are also many natural ways to deal win the battle in your garden- just remember that when you use even everyday home products to eliminate anything, it may also get rid of the good critters at the same time.
One thing I do use is a homemade mixture of garlic, onion and hot peppers. Simmer them together, then strain. Let cool before pouring into a spray bottle.
If something is taking out my veggies, and nothing else worked- this spray lightly applied to plants will help in a lot of situations.
Not only do many bugs not like it, neither do bunnies. I prefer this because it is not applied directly to the soil, so at least a lot of my worms and other friends are not as affected by it.
Neem Oil is a natural insecticide that can also be applied in spray form. This is pretty much my last resort, actually because it is so effective- it takes out more little life forms than I really want to get rid of.
Vinegar is also shown in the photo, even though I use it primarily as a preventive method of killing weeds and thereby not attracting bugs and other critters.
Applied just around your garden fencing, vinegar will also make ground pests think twice about trying to get in.
So, don’t let the critters get to your garden if you can prevent it, and deal with them the least intrusively you can when they do.
Notice, I said “When”.
The Battleground, Part I- Prevention
Organic Pest Control Guide
Organic Garden Pest Control
Dealing with underground pests
27 April 2012, by gj
Of course the best and most organic way to deal with pests is prevention.
Know your enemy, know what they like, and how they attack.
Probably the easiest thing you can do is plant veggie varieties that are resistant to certain pests that are common in your area. This works pretty well for a number of veggies.
Around here though, the phrase “Deer Resistant Plant” is a bit of a joke-
the plant can resist all it wants, the deer will eat it anyway.
Another, and one of the simplest, ways you can prevent pests is to keep your garden clean.
Many unwanted critters will spend the off season happy and snug in weeds or other loose debris, such as straw or hay mulch; others will be giddy to be able to to live there during the summer months and have their supper close by.
Consider using newspaper and cardboard to mulch plants instead.
If the appearance bothers you, try cedar or another wood chip mulch on top.
Remove all weeds (as is humanly possible) and other remnants of the season before you put your garden to bed.
(Don’t just wait for the frost to get it!)
Compost all of what remains of any healthy plants, and remove any diseased ones- as both can attract critters too.
should you do this?
You can also cover many plants from the top- just be sure you use a lightweight fabric that will not weigh the plant down if it gets wet, or support the fabric; use netting to keep out larger pests.
Know how your plant will grow its veggies, and if it needs bugs to pollinate it before you cover with fabric.
The netting will let the bugs in.
This is the ingenious way my son and daughter-in-law protected their strawberries from squirrels:
critter proof strawberry bed
The underground critters are more difficult.
In this picture you can see that I laid down cardboard to prevent weeds as well as smaller critters from getting in, then covered that with a wire mesh. This should keep the groundhogs and rabbits out of my potato bed, which I assembled on top.
Laying wire mesh down in all but the root crop areas of the garden should help save a lot of veggies.
I’ve also had friends say they buried their potted plants to keep the groundhogs away from them- we do what we gotta do.
wire mesh under a potato bed
Did you know that one female rabbit in spring can lead to 800 rabbits by winter?
Mandolin and I finally took the problem in hand and built a few bunny proof and groundhog proof beds for the root crops.
They won’t be digging up through this:
desperate times lead to this
Another great way to prevent bug problems is by attracting beneficial bugs- such as Ladybugs and Lacewing to your garden.
I highly recommend the book Good Bugs, Bad Bugs -it will help you prevent and deal with the bad bugs, as well as attract the good ones.
keep the bad bugs out
I know this is just touching on a vast amount of information, but I hope it is giving you some insight into different things you can do.
Tomorrow we will look at The Cure side of dealing with garden pests.
Here are the previous posts, in case you missed them:
Creepy Crawlies-on bug damage
Know Thy Enemy-larger critter damage
It’s Four O’Clock Somewhere -just a little about flowers and critters
20 April 2012, by gj
We think we plant our gardens for ourselves, family and friends- unfortunately that might include some uninvited guests of Mother Nature.
Every gardener has lost some veggies to pests. We learn our lessons the hard way sometimes.
This is just a little ‘head’s up’ to refer to if you get hit with some new muncher during your gardening season.
good bug or bad bug?
Bad bugs in the garden do damage in three main ways:
1. The Miners
In this group I put some of the bugs, primarily wormy caterpillar types, that will bore into a veggie:
Tomato Pinworms and Tomato Fruitworms, Cabbageworms (as they eat the leaves, which is the veggie), Pickleworms, Pepper Weevil, Pepper Maggots.
These guys and girls will eat into a veggie, either for the food or to lay eggs. The signs are obvious holes in the fruit, and occasionally eggs inside. Gross.
how many bugs do you see?
2. The Lumberjacks
There are only a few bugs, thankfully, that will destroy an entire plant.
Killing just veggies is bad enough!
Cutworms and Slugs are the main culprits that will eat a plant straight through at ground level, killing it.
Slugs can also eat an entire seedling overnight.
Cucumber Beetles, Asparagus Beetles, Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borers are multiply talented, and can kill a veggie in many different ways. Nasty buggers!
damaging even with a disability
3. The Lace Makers
The majority of bug damage occurs to the leaves of the plants. Since part of how your plant feeds itself is through it’s green leaves, damage there can mess up everything.
The following bugs either eat holes in the leaves, or through them; or simply deplete the leaves of their juices:
Aphids, Earwigs, Flea Beetles, Japanese Beetles, Leafminers, Mexican Bean Beetle, Spider Mites, Tomato Hornworms, Whitefly, Sawfly.
guilty- or just an innocent byflyer?
Keep in mind:
1. Bugs don’t follow rules- although the Tomato Hornworm is said to only eat the leaves and plant stems, gardeners that have been infested with these mini-monsters know better… they will eat the fruit as well, and can kill a small plant overnight.
2. The better/longer your growing season- the more bugs are available to you. I’ve never actually seen a Tomato Hornworm, and I hope to keep it that way. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make (like I have a choice!)
3. Bugs like family- a ‘Tomato’ bug may also feed on that veggie’s relatives- mainly, eggplant and peppers. Likewise, cucumbers and melons are family; cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi; & summer (zucchini and yellow) squashes, winter squash, and pumpkins.
Please note too~ that there is way more info on this subject, here I’m trying to condense it some, especially for the new gardener.
And never let it discourage you~ after all, you will end up with produce when all is said and done.
Next Friday- How to arm yourself!