Monday, June 30, 2014

Controlling Squash Bugs

Pest Patrol:  Squash Bugs


This is everybody’s worst pest and the one I get the most questions on- the dreaded squash bug.  Infestations will make even the most committed organic gardener want to reach for chemicals.  However both organic and non-organic people seems unable to win their battle against this insects.  I've heard a lot of people says they are just not planting squash this year.  Sad to say this will not do the trick.  They will come back the next time you do plant so you need a more consistent effective plan.  The key to conquering is consistency. 
You must know your enemy if you want to defeat it.  So a lesson on the life cycle of the squash bug is essential.  The adults overwinter in garden debris, under dirt clods and other protected areas. They lay bronze colored eggs on the underside of squash and pumpkin leaves. In our areas we can have two maybe 3 generations.  The key to conquering is recognizing the squash bug in the nymph stage.  It may be greenish, grey, or black and is much smaller than the adult. (I will put pictures on the blog) It will molt 5 times before becoming the dreaded creature you recognize.  They are easily controlled as nymphs and very difficult to control as adults.  Most insecticides are not very effective on the adults. They have very few natural predators because of the odor they put off when squashed.
So what is the plan of attack? Consistently monitor for eggs and adults. Crush eggs or cut off. Squash adults or get a shop vac and suck up adults or throw them in a bucket and feed to your ducks. They love them. 


 It's been helpful to me to follow a preventative spray program.  Every 2 weeks in a 1 gallon sprayer put 2 Tbs Neem, 4 Tbsp spinosad, and a 1 1/2 cups of kaolin clay.  I spray this on squash, pumpkins, cucumber, and melons, everything in this family.  If I see any nymphs or adults I add Pyrethrin.  Pyola is the only organic form of pyrethrin I have found.  It's available at Garden's Alive. It's mixed with an oil which also helps suffocate eggs.  Some formulas add additives or use a non-organic form of pyrethin. This can be sprayed early morning or evening (to avoid pollinators) every 3 days when the bugs are present. I grow a lot this insects favorite crops and refuse to lose the battle.  The key is consistency.  You have to check for eggs and spray on a regular basis and then you not the squash bug will enjoy your harvests. I hear a lot of, "I sprayed" but after learning about this pest you can see that one spray is not enough.  The key to getting rid of a pest is knowing its life cycle and when it is most vulnerable and attacking then.  Insecticides do not kill all insects at every stage.  The key is applying them when the pest is most vulnerable and when the insecticide is designed to kill.


So what's does each of these sprays do in your arsenal do?  Neem will kill the eggs and nymphs it is also a fungicide.  It must be ingested to cause damage so it doesn't harm beneficial insects.  It does not immediately kill the nymphs but interferes with their ability to molt so they die. Spinosad is a broad spectrum insecticide that kills on contact and when ingested by overexciting the nervous system.  It is toxic to bees if sprayed directly on them.  So don't spray when the pollinators are out. It is not toxic when dried. Not sure how effective it is on squash bugs but great for other pests.  You can leave this out if your only focus is the squash bug.  Kaolin clay is a deterrent not only to squash bugs but grasshoppers and other pests.  They prefer a plant without a sickly clay to munch and crawl around on.  Pyrethrin is a nerve toxin and does kill immediately but must make contact in order to do its job.  There is no point in spraying it if you have no pest to kill.
Other helpful hints.  Plant squash late.  When the adults emerge to lay eggs there is nothing to lay on.  Also clean all debris out of the garden at the end of summer.  Leaving plants in the garden over winter is a perfect squash bug condo to help them survive the winter.

Preventive Spray:  Every two weeks use on all members of the cucurbite family

Spray in evening when temperatures cool down and pollinators aren't around.

Mix in one gallon sprayer with water
2 Tbsp Neem Oil
1 1/2 cups of Kaolin Clay
4 Tbsp of Spinosad (optional)

Spray when nymphs or adults present:

Mix in one gallon sprayer with water
2 Tbsp of Neem Oil
1 1/2 cups of Kaolin Clay
Organic pyrethrin
4 Tbsp of Spinosad

You can respray in 3 days with just the Neem and Pyrethrin

Early Summer Harvests

Beets.  The golden beets are my favorite.  Be sure to replant beets  and carrots for a continuous harvest.

Killarneyy Raspberries.  Very sweet and abundant crops.  They are my earliest raspberries.  This variety take a few years to give you peak harvests so be patient. 

Pink Champange Currants.  About the only currant I can eat off the bush.  I will be making jelly and juice from these.

Jostaberries which are a cross between a currant and gooseberry.  Makes beautiful jelly.
Chard.  I've been juice chard with fresh pineapple and apples.  Also great added to pasta dishes.

These are St. Valery and Atomic Red carrots both are heirlooms.

More rhubarb.  Some varieties the entire stalk is red others only the bottom will be red. I'm using this in a raspberry rhubarb freezer topping for ice cream, waffles, or muffins.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Gardening naturally leads to cooking and preserving. I love finding delicious ways to prepare my produce. This one of my favorite salads with spinach, green onions and strawberries from my garden.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
1/2 cup of a healthy oil like olive, grapeseed, or avocado
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cider or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds

6-8 cups torn spinach leaves you can remove the stems
3 green onions sliced
2 pints fresh strawberries
Silvered almonds or chopped pecans you can candy them if desired.
Raw sunflower seeds

I mix the dressing in a small slicer or you can shake it up in a canning jar. Pour the dressing over when you are ready to eat. Enjoy!!

Mix dressing this way or shake in a canning jar.

Even better with fresh strawberries from your garden.  Real strawberries are red all the way through.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The "Cool" Crops

Cauliflower and peas.  I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower ,but I do like it roasted. Put it in a Ziploc bag with a healthy oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and coat the florets.  Put on a tray and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and roast at 425.  It's also really good roasted with smoked paprika.

So I'm close to finishing my harvesting of the cool season crops.   OK so the last few mornings I've had to wear a jacket and thoroughly enjoyed the break from the heat but the heat will be back.With the warm weather, these are the perfect crops to attract aphids. The warm weather also signals these crops to bolt or go to seed.  This produces chemicals which make these crops unpleasant and bitter tasting so don't hang on to any cool season crops past their prime.  Harvest and get them out of the garden.  My chickens, goats and rabbits love these treats.  I still have some cabbage heading up, peas, kale, chard, spinach, lettuce,  broccoli rabi, and broccoli.  Keeping a close eye for aphids and smashing  them or if its a bad infestation just sacrificing the whole plant. Although it's sad to pull out crops, it makes room for other summer crops.  Melons, winter squash and second planting of beans will take their place.  I will also be starting from seed more cool season favorites to be put out in the fall garden. I will probably begin that in July.  I also have some OP peas that will be left to go to seed.

Cauliflower heading up.  I inter planted with dill this year and it seems to do a great job of keeping cabbage moths and aphids away. In the fall I plant alot more cauliflower including the green and purple varieties.  My husband likes pickled cauliflower.  It looks like canned brains.  Not one of my favorites.  It is a beautiful plant especially the cheddar and graffiti varieties.

Nothing is better than fresh steamed peas. 

Chinese cabbage.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Blooms

I enjoy spending the evening on the porch with my husband enjoying the beauty of our yard.  Everyday spend time enjoying the beauty of what you are doing.  Don't be so caught up in the work involved that you don't stop and smell the roses or whatever else in in bloom.  So grateful for a Creator that loves beauty and variety.

May and June Blooms

Snowball Bush with Irises

Snowball Bush

Sweet Williams


Homeysuckle.  So Fragrant!


Preventing Curly Top in Tomatoes

 I lose more tomatoes to curly top than any other disease.  To deal with curly top you need to understand how the disease is transmitted to the tomato.  As the grasses in surround areas dry up leafhoppers, who are the lovely little vector for curly top virus, leave the fields and come to your much greener garden to feed.  They feed on the juices of a plant and can infect your tomatoes with curly top. 

Curly top is a virus that spreads throughout the whole plant and unfortunately there is no cure.  You must ruthlessly remove the plant.  Leaving it in the garden will allow other insects to feed on the infected plant and spread the virus to other plants.

Leaves of infected plants twist and curl upwards.  They become stiff and leathery.  Sadly they eventually turn turn yellow, then brown and die.  Curly top can also effect melons, spinach, beets, and beans. 

To help prevent curly top remove weeds around your garden and control pests. 

Since most of my tomatoes are heirlooms that I start from seeds, it is very discouraging to have to tear out a plant.  I do usually plant 2 or 3 of every variety to hopefully ensure I get at least one or two plants.  Generally I only lose 2 or 3 plants out the the 30+ tomatoes I plant to curly top

I do use a preventative spray to discourage leaf hoppers and various diseases. The sprays are organic and safe for beneficial insects if used properly.  If you don't want to spray you can cover your tomatoes with a row cover.  Some studies have shown that putting a shade cloth over the tomatoes makes it more difficult for the insect to find them.

Disease preventing strategies

Today I weeded around the tomatoes, sprinkled a little bone meal around each plant,  gave each plant a drink of fish emulsion, and spread a layer of mulch around each plant. Prune off any lower leaves that don't look good. Put them in a plastic bag in the trash just in case they have a fungus or bacteria. I did my first spray this morning which will ward off leafhoppers, tomato horn worms, and prevent some diseases if done relgularly.

In a 1 gallon sprayer I add the following:

     1 1/2 cups of Kaolin Clay  this is a deterrent for any chewing or sucking insect. Add this first with half the water and shake. Then add the remainder of the water and the following.  If you do not have all these that's fine.  Use what you have.

     2 Tbsp of Neem/ gallon-  Neem is an insecticide and fungicide.  It is systemic and taken up by the plant an spread throughout the plant tissues.  When insects feed on the plant, they are inhibited from molting and laying eggs.  It is also a repellent.  It kills a wide range of insects and is not harmful to beneficial insects because they must ingest it in order to be affected.

     4 Tbsp of Spinosad-  Spinosad is bacteria that is very effective on caterpillars, thrips, aphids and other pests. Good for tomato hornworms

     4 Tbsp of Serenade- Serenade is a bacterium,, bacillus subtilis, that prevents fungal diseases.  It must be used prior to the pathogen being present. Fungus diseases include mildews, blights, wilts, and anthracnose. Only use if blight is a problem

     2 Tbsp of Kelp  a great foliar spray

Mix all this and you are ready.  I also use this on potatoes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons and corn. 

These are the organic options for disease and pest control. Please do not buy the Pyrethrin brand shown it has an additive that makes it not approved for organic gardens.  Garden's alive and Peaceful Valley have one that is only Pyrethrin.