Squash Beetles Have Also Arrived

I posted yesterday about my first vine borer sighting of the year.

I’ve noticed quite a few batches of squash beetle eggs too.

I kill adult squash beetles without much mercy, because they’re pretty terrible in terms of rapid reproduction and spreading plant disease. Their recently-hatched nymphs kind of gross me out too – they hide in clusters and move like robots together.

 

Known vector of plant diseases and pure stink.

Known vector of plant diseases and pure stink.

But I’ve also found that I can drastically reduce beetle populations pretty late into the growing season by getting rid of eggs before they hatch.

My approach is to carry some tweezers every time I go out in the garden, and burst the eggs one by one. It’s kind of gross (pro tip: keep your mouth closed).

Here’s what it looks like before and after:

Are there better approaches to removing squash beetles and their eggs without using pesticides? Let me know!

 

Garden Tour, Part I

Since starting this site a few days ago, I’ve been posting daily harvests and haven’t had time to describe the overall layout. So now it’s big-picture time.

I have three main garden areas, and today I’ll cover the one I call “the hill.” There’s a valley (ravine? gully?) near the edge of our yard, but the terrain rises up to a nearly-level space next to our property line. It’s a pain to mow up there, so I started gardening it last year.

I hope eventually to expand it down the slope, or convert it to a stepped retaining wall, so I don’t have to mow the slope either (sounds like an offseason project to me).

First, a photo of the whole area:

The Hill, with the ground sloping off to the right.

The Hill, with the ground sloping off to the right.

That’s a big cucumber vine in the foreground, with several tomato plants behind it in the same row. There’s actually quite a bit of variety as you go down the row, which I’ll show later in this post.

There’s a second row too, which starts with a completely unruly lemon cucumber vine. It has already grown through three vine supports and is looking for more space.

In the near foreground on the right, there are a few happy strawberry plants that are unfortunately getting engulfed in weeds. I have to pull them by hand since mowing doesn’t spare the berries.

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Pretty sure this one was in yesterday’s daily harvest post.

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Interpret the presence of bugs as a sign of healthy plants. Then, kill the bugs (by hand, not with pesticides).

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Booming tomato plant.

I’m a proponent of varied planting. I don’t like when each row contains one species, especially when it attracts a flock of specific bugs that then mow down the entire row like a buffet line.

So check out the photo below. In the bottom left, a sunflower and a cherry tomato plant are helping each other out. Just past them is a butternut squash vine, and just past that is a young okra plant, trying to get out of the shade of a bigger tomato plant. To the left of that okra is a radish. Directly behind all of this is a watermelon vine reaching for the fence, and to the right is that massive lemon cucumber vine mentioned above.

Everybody’s getting along, everybody’s green, and so far, so good on bugs.

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Here’s another example from the reverse angle. Tomatoes are in the cages on the right, with a couple of cabbages growing underneath. In the foreground center, a pumpkin vine is lining the walking path, and behind it, two more watermelon vines are journeying toward the sun.

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At the end of that front row, a yellow squash is just getting started. There’s one squash ready for harvest, a growing one behind it, two small female flowers about to open, and the MVP of it all, a bee pollinating a female flower in the foreground.

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At the end of the line, I have some red potato plants growing. They’re in a mix of soil, leaves, and wood chips. This is my first attempt to grow potatoes – as with everything we’ll see!

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Coming back through, here are some growing monsters:

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The uglier the tomato, the better the flavor:

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Around the border of the hill, I have five or six sweet potato vines. They’re just getting started since it hasn’t been very hot yet this summer, but I’m excited to see what happens. Sweet potatoes are yet another first-time crop for me this year, so if we even get a few, I’ll be happy.

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That’s it for the hill right now – I plan to come back and do another post about how this plot was built, since it’s a cool mini-hugelkultur setup. I wish I had taken photos while building it, but I plan to do a few more like it this winter, and I’ll remember then.

Vine Borers Have Arrived

I was going around checking plants for bugs last night when I noticed a couple of leaves near the base of a pumpkin vine had wilted.

On a really hot day, that wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was only about 80 degrees.

Not good.

I inspected the base of the vine and saw what I didn’t want to see: evidence of a vine borer.

This one wasn’t the worst I’ve seen, but still, this vine wasn’t going to last much longer, so I pulled it.

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Call it what it is: bug poop.

 

There were even some larvae further up the vine:

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So, down one pumpkin vine, we move on with summer. This particular vine had yet to produce any fruit, and it was encroaching on several other plants, so all in all, this will be okay. My gardening philosophy includes planting too much stuff and allowing some to get eaten or die of other causes, so this doesn’t hurt too much.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to be complacent about this. I was probably too cavalier about ignoring the vine borer threat to all the vines I planted, so I just went around with a toothbrush and some neem oil, hoping to:

  1. Brush off any eggs on the vines that haven’t hatched.
  2. Apply the neem oil to kill or deter any borers interested in laying new eggs or trying to break into the vine.

I did see a few spots on other vines where borers might already be inside. If they progress I might try a little vine surgery and see if I can extract them. We’ll see!

Daily Harvest – June 24, 2017

I have a lot to write to get this blog up to speed, but let’s start with a simple daily harvest post.

Today’s haul: four cucumbers, and two yellow squash.

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Kind of a dramatic shot in the morning shadows!

That brings this year’s total to seven cucumbers and four yellow squash, which is way ahead of pace compared to last year (more on that in posts to come).

This is my first year growing cucumbers, both green and lemon varieties, and I couldn’t be more impressed by how easily they climb and produce fruit – I’m really loving having a nice cold, crisp cucumber in the fridge ready to eat when I come in from the yard.