"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it". Genesis 2:15

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Bugs Bite Back, Weeds held in Check

This year has been a real battle against bugs. 

Last year I had a battle with cucumber beetles. They devastated squash and cucumber seedlings and spread disease in the garden. I made some changes to a few things and so far this year I have seen very few cucumber beetles.

First of all I covered all of my seedlings with fine row covers. This protected all my crops form cucumber beetles as well as from all kinds of caterpillars, and it really reduced aphid problems. Covers can be left on indefinitely for plants that don't need to be pollinated. The only thing I don't like about them is that it is more trouble to check your plants to see how they are doing. I like to check things everyday. To get around that I want to make some kind of hoop system that can be lifted up easily for checking plants.

My squash grew like gang busters under the row covers and did fine for a while after I uncovered them for pollination. Unfortunately last week I discovered hundreds of stink bus on my squash plants! These bugs can quickly kill a plant as tender as squash. I wasted lots of time trying to find some organic way to kill them (being a little squeamish about touching the stinky things) but nothing worked. Finally we resorted to hand picking and squashing the bugs (with gloves on.) The bugs have managed to kill two thirds of my squash plants and so far we have had no harvest. 
: (

This plot shows all that is left of once tall healthy, lush squash plants.

The good news is that our combination subterranean watering and mulching has kept weeding down to a minimum. Whereas before I spent a great deal of time weeding, now I only pull a few weeds here and there as I go about other garden chores. By applying water lower down to the roots of the plants and keeping the soil surface dry, weed seeds do not sprout. A few spots even that have no mulch are weed free. 

This picture shows a buried coke bottle next to a lemon balm plant. The bottle has small slits cut in it. I fill the bottle either with collected rain/or laundry water using a watering can, or I use the adapter shown hooked up the a garden hose. The hose can be hooked up to a rain barrel or the city water if necessary. You can see the snap fittings I use on all my hoses. This saves a lot of time moving the hoses around from place to place. 

In addition to bottles I also bury porous clay pots which slowly seep water to the surrounding plants. This one pot watered all these surrounding plants. I still have swiss chard growing next to this pot even though the temperature has been in the hundreds!

Part of the garden showing lima beans, okra, swiss chard, carrots. Tomatoes are on the right out of the picture. Garry has access to lots of used cardboard boxes at his work and he brings them home for me to use as mulch in the garden. The back half is waiting to be used in the fall, so it is completely covered with cardboard to keep down weeds.

Tomatoes. The bottoms show the fight with spider mites, but the tops are still growing. As soon as I finish harvesting these I will pull them and replant for fall.

One more bug story. We have some very persistent wasps who have been trying to build a nest right on the lintel of our front door. We have knocked their nest down four times. We DO knock the nests down, but they always seem to be back again by the time the kids music teacher shows up each week. I am sure he is getting leery of our front door! 

Anyway I was in the vegetable garden the other day and I got to watch two wasps hunting for bugs in the holey and spent broccoli patch. One wasp pounced on something on a broccoli leaf. I saw something fall to the ground and watched the wasp land on the ground and zoom around looking for his bug. Wasp chew up bugs and feed them to their larvae. The adult wasps feed on a nectar the larvae exude. They will even steal nectar from other wasps nests! The wasp in the picture above is very alert and warning me not to go near the two larvae you can see just under her legs.

It was very interesting watching these wasps hunt. Not all bugs are bad, even ones that sting. I welcome wasps in the environs, just not on my front door!


  1. Interesting I didn't know that about wasps. I have a few that built a nest in my garbage can lid, and I'm too scared to try to knock it out of the crevice it's in. It does make me feel better to know they are productive when I see them in the garden. I do with I could throw away trash without all of the running and freaking out though :)

  2. Wasps pheremones are so very strong. You can use pesticides where they have nested and trust that even still they WILL come back time and time and time again to set up shop on or near the same place that you sprayed!!! They are persistent creatures!!! I also found that they seem to pollinate plants in my garden or at least it looks like what they're doing sometimes! I was looking at one the other day and it looked like a bee pollinating a plant. OR maybe it was sucking the nectar from the plant. lol! Great post!!!

  3. It is true that wasps will pollinate things. I dont know if this is just a by product of their hunting for bugs or if they sip nectar. Once I complained about how there were always wasps in by black-eyed pea plants and was told that they are the main pollinators of black-eyed peas.

  4. Nice garden! Like you, I am also planning to make a drip irrigation in my garden. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post. I've got an idea.