Squash Bugs

Although prevalent in many gardens, we never had squash bugs before.
It was only recently in fact that I remarked to Mandolin how lucky we have been not to have them, or worse, squash vine borers.
I guess I spoke too soon.

squash bugs

It was that same day that these showed up, as if they were called in.
To be honest I wasn’t sure what they were, so turned to my favorite gardening group on Facebook for an ID.

It was almost immediate, and all the comments were emphatic.
“Squash them!”

Apparently these are the young nymphs, that will eventually lay their eggs on the undersides of the squash leaves.
The tip of the squash bug iceburg.

So following what I do know and the instructions of my fellow gardeners, I hunted each one down and squished them.
Gross? Yes. Necessary? Again yes.

I did also carefully spray the undersides of the leaves with some diluted neem oil, avoiding all the flower areas so as not to hurt the good guys.
Although all seems well, we will keep a close eye on the leaves from now until frost.

Never trust a squash nymph, apparently they like to hide and sneak up on you later.

Name: Anasa tristis or Squash Bug
Victims: Squash and its relatives, melons and cucumbers
Damage: Adults suck fluids from the fruit. This in turn damages the leaves and in extreme cases can kill the plants.
Your weapons: Prevent damage by squishing the bugs or picking them off. If needed, Neem oil will help kill them. Carefully watch for any eggs and remove them.

As with all pests, keeping the garden clean of dead and damaged plants and leaves is a good preventative action to take.
Plus, it makes your garden look better… which in turns makes you a happier gardener.


Categories: gardening, pests



How to Handle Ants, Slugs and Beetles

Bad bugs. Every garden has them.
It seems the warmer your climate, the bigger and more numerous the plant destroyers are.
It can be tempting to just grab a good pesticide and give the garden a douse.
There’s one sure problem with that:

The good bugs need to be safe.

The good bugs need to be safe.

So here’s what works for us on the pests we are currently dealing with:

With slugs we don’t wait for signs of damage. Once we realize we are having a wetter than normal season, we just fill any type of saucer with some fresh beer. This one happens to be a kitty travel food/water dish. Perfect.

They only get cheap beer though, no Heineken for these guys.

Slugs love beer.

Slugs love beer.

The damage from Japanese beetles is easy to spot; plant leaves start looking like lace.
They seem to favor beans, raspberries, and grape leaves.

Dinner and an afternoon of fun.

Dinner and an afternoon of fun.

They’re easiest to dispose of during the mating season, as grotesque as that is; their minds simply aren’t on anything else.

Put some dish liquid and water in a pitcher or bowl, and easily shake them, two by two, off the leaf.
Some times you can get numerous multiples of two all at once.

A pitcher of Japanese beetles.

A pitcher of Japanese beetles.

This is our first full year growing okra, thanks to last year’s rabbits, so the ant problem was one we had not faced.

We had read that they like to eat cornmeal, but cannot digest it. It ends up filling them up and they pass away.
So we dusted some of the plants, and especially the flower buds where they were hanging out.

By the next day the population was less.
We gave it another pass, just in case.

ants okra flower

If you are concerned about anything GMO in your garden, just use some organic cornmeal like we did.

Okra and corn meal.

Okra and corn meal.

The slugs may not get Heineken, but it’s only the best for our ants.

Day 2 there were barely any to be found.

Day 2 there were barely any to be found.

NOTE: Most often ants are beneficial in your garden. Okra is one of the exceptions. Fireants are not beneficial, and actually dangerous. Just be sure before you act to remove any bug, that it is actually one that will do your plant harm. Just being on a plant does not make a bug bad, it may in fact be going after others bugs you don’t want.

Categories: gardening, pests



9 Ways to Deal with Cabbage Worms and Loopers

Too full to move.

Too full to move.

A cabbage worm is the larva of a butterfly, a looper the larva of a moth. Both are pretty common and the damage they do is the same. If you want to know which one is in your garden, watch it move. If it crawls like an inchworm, it’s a looper.

Although this was over first experience with these pests, I knew what we had as soon as I saw the damage, albeit too late. So many other gardeners had asked me to help identify what happened to their plants, that I recognized the signs.

3 damaged and 1 harvested

3 damaged and 1 harvested

These nasties can do a lot of damage in a short period of time, if you can watch over your plants more closely you may find them before its too late. We lost 2 broccoli plants and 3 out of 6 cabbages. When I found the worms the next morning, they were so stuffed and exhausted from feeding they were napping. Sigh.

So here’s how to protect your cole crops, and in the case of loopers, some of your nightshades as well:

Prevention & Treatment

1. Keep your garden clean of spent plants in the fall, and turn your soil over. This will help prevent many pests from finding a home to hunker down in for the winter.
2. Keep as close an eye as possible on your plants, and check the undersides of leaves.
3. Sprinkle your cabbages with corn meal, which these worms will eat but cannot digest. Corm meal is Worm-B-Gone for cabbages.
4. Use pest resistant hybrids.

The remains of what they ate spattered on the plants.

The remains of what they ate spattered on the plants, adding insult to injury.

5. Use row covers to keep your plants free of infestation, especially in the spring when eggs are laid.
6. Plant a fall crop instead of a spring one, you may just miss them altogether.
7. Attract their enemies by planting flowers that bugs love. These include marigolds and sunflowers, as well as dill.
8. If your garden is relatively small, you can just hand pick the little buggers. Feed them to your chickens, they love that stuff. It’s like caviar for poultry.
9. If you have a more substantial crop, you can treat it with Bt. This is a disease that occurs in nature and kills caterpillars, but does not harm other insects. You can find it in most Farm & Garden stores. We like this the best because it does not harm other bugs like other, even organic, insecticides do.

One beautiful little head for dinner tonight.

One beautiful little head for dinner tonight.

Categories: gardening, pests



7 Common Tomato Problems

critter chewed tomatoes

There are so many diseases, disorders, and pests that can cause problems for tomatoes that it has led to a ton of information online on the subject.

But this can actually make it more difficult to find a quick answer.
So here’s a few of the problems we most often get asked about, and what to do about them.

Blossom Drop
Suddenly your tomato flowers start falling off instead of developing tomatoes.
There are a few causes of this, the most common is high temperatures. Once it gets to be about 90F and above, the plant will abandon hopes of reproduction and just try to stay alive. Don’t worry, it will resume setting fruit when the weather is more suitable.

Lush foliage, no flowers
Your plants look great with lots of green leaves, but few or no flowers.
You probably have given it too much fertilizer, specifically nitrogen. Back off and it should come around.

Splitting skins
If your tomatoes are getting cracks in their skins, it is because they are suddenly getting too much water. Of course you cannot change the weather, but if you are having a dry spell try to get some water to your plants. Mulching them also helps keep the moisture in.
Go ahead and eat the fruit, just realize they won’t store as long.

Blossom End Rot
This is a common problem most often seen early in the season. It shows up as a blackening of the fruit, starting at the end away from the stem, the blossom end. It can end up covering a large portion of the tomato.
It is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant, most often due to insufficient water. There may be enough calcium in the soil, but if the tomato can’t get it through its roots, it doesn’t help.
To help prevent blossom end rot, be sure to plant your tomatoes when the soil is warm and put them in deep to encourage good root development. Many gardeners also use Epsom Salts to help promote the root growth.
Mulch to help retain moisture.

Cat Facing
More common in the cooler regions and most often affecting large types of tomatoes, cat facing is a very disfigured looking, though edible, fruit.
It is caused by temperatures that are too cold when the blossom develops. Covering your plants can help if a cold snap is coming.

Both Early and Late Blight are caused by a pathogen and appear as dark spots on the leaves of your tomatoes. These lesions get larger as the disease spreads through the plant and fruit, and from plant to plant.
Early blight usually occurs sooner in the season, and if treated with a good fungicide is easier to control than late blight, which is pretty much considered fatal to the plants.

If you suspect either one of these diseases, please contact your local cooperative extension for more information on how to treat it. Because the spores that produce late blight travel long distances through the air, it is important to report cases of it to them.

If you find a lot of your leaves are being eaten, you most likely have a Tomato Hornworm. We have never actually seen one, fortunately, but have seen many pictures. The warmer your climate the more likely you have these light green caterpillars, and the bigger they will be.
The best way to deal with them is to hand pick them off and squish them.
If you find any with white eggs on them, move them away from your tomatoes but don’t kill them. The eggs are the larva of a small wasp that feed on the hornworm, and when they hatch kill it and any others they find.

Our biggest pest problem are squirrels, followed by rabbits, with racoons bringing up the end. These critters will take a few bites out of a juicy fruit, then move on to the next one.
See the picture? Yep, critters.
Keeping them out of the garden is the best way to protect your fruit, though stopping a squirrel is nearly impossible.

Since they are mainly looking for water, some gardeners have had good results by making a supply of fresh water available, and inching it farther and farther away from the plants.

Well those are the most common issues we hear about. Hopefully you won’t have any tomato problems at all, just beautiful fruit.
If you do, and you didn’t find what you were looking for here, we would recommend .edu websites as good sources for answers.

Categories: gardening, pests, plant problems


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5 Ways to Know if it’s a Veggie or a Weed

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every skill except how to grow in rows.” ~Doug Larson

You’ve planted your seeds, and patiently waited.
Now things are spouting, how exciting!



But hold on… is that a carrot or something else?
Doug Larson was almost right; but even a weed can grow in rows if you have put mulch in between them.

So are there any indicators to tell which is what you want and which isn’t?



Why, yes:

1. Rows still are the most obvious of course. Especially if you haven’t mulched yet. Then again, if you have been using a trowel or hoe in between rows, you are back in the same predicament.

Beans with seed pods attached.

Beans with seed pods attached.

2. Is there a seed casing attached? Many veggies, when they first poke through the soil, will still show evidence of the seed you planted. Larger seeds are the most obvious, such as beans and squash. Still, look carefully and you may even see a tinier seed still attached to a sprout.



3. Is it only growing where you planted it? Not counting volunteer plants, is what you are looking at confined to the area you would expect? If what looks like a pea or a pepper is in a number of areas of your garden, it’s most likely weeds.



4. Does it have more than one set of leaves? Give it a chance to grow it’s second set, or ‘true’ set of leaves before you write it off or pull it out. Many plants, both veggies and weeds, look so similar at first you cannot tell them apart. Keep in mind that they are often related. Did you know that carrots and parsnips are also related to dill, parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace?


Parsnips, mostly.

5. Experience really is the best teacher. Take notes, make drawings or save photos. After a while you will know what to look for; well, at least you will have a better idea.
There are many seasoned gardeners who occasionally neglect to pull a weed, thinking it’s a veggie… or worse, just the opposite.



Categories: How to Grow, pests, techniques



9 Things You Can Do to Help the Bees

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.

bees and sunflower

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.

bees are a gardener's friends

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


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Cicadas and the Home Gardener

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.

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.

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!

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



Hey Rabbits- Be Glad We’re Vegetarians!

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.

‘Rascally’ is not the word I would use.

They also did this:

Dear heaven, why?

Dear heaven, why?

So last weekend, I did this:

Go ahead... just try.

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.

Hey you… stay out of the garden.

What’s eating your garden?

Categories: gardening, pests



3 Ways to Handle Squash Bugs

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.

acorn squash

Grow this...

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.

butternut and coosa squash

or this…

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.

squash summer yellow

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


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3 Reasons to Rotate Your Crops (Otherwise, Don’t Bother)

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?

potatoes in the home garden

with a veggie garden...

1. Disease.
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.

peas in the home garden

you will have them eating out of your hand

2. Pests
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.

okra and peanuts in the home garden

happy little campers

3. Nutrients
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.

growing tomatoes in the home garden

happy tomaters

“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



Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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