Mid-summer and the pests have found the garden. Utilizing one of the most effective organic controls, a container of soapy water is always at the ready to capture squash bugs, harlequin bugs and Colorado potato beetles.
Vigilant scouting is important this time of year to keep populations from getting out of control. Unfortunately, the harlequins are winning the fight for the Brussel sprouts and broccoli so they are receiving squirts of pyrethrin, an organic control derived from chrysanthemums. Sprays are a last resort as they are nonselective, equally killing the pests and the beneficial insects. One rule of thumb is if the crop is going to be lost, it is time to spray. It is best to use the very least amount of pesticide possible and spray the pest as specifically as possible.
Another difficult pest to control is the striped cucumber beetle. Very small and sneaky, they hide out under the squash leaves and fly off when harassed. They hang out in the soil at the base of the plant and are easy to detect by lightly scratching the soil surface and seeing if they move when disturbed. They are perhaps the biggest threat to cucurbits as they are a vector for bacterial wilt. Your plants are toast if wilt hits. A squirt of pyrethrin takes care of them though.
Flea beetles were enjoying the lettuces, Brussels and broccoli for awhile but it seems their numbers are decreasing.
In addition to flicking adult pests into the bucket of soapy death, rubbing eggs off of leaves can be a very effective control. Right now, it is taking daily searches to keep up with the squash bug eggs but they are easy to spot and destroying them seriously cuts down on the population of adults.
No list of top garden threats would be complete without the squash vine borer. The larvae of this evil little nemesis can kill a beautiful thriving zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber or other cucurbit in three days. There is nothing more disappointing than plucking four or five vibrant crookneck squash one day and noticing a worrisome wilting of the leaves the next day which quickly increased until the whole plant is limp on the soil. Supposedly, gardeners can carefully slit the stem and remove the white grub, piling moist soil and compost back around the injury but generally this visits quite a bit of violence on the plant from which it can’t recover. A trick is to wrap the stem of the squash plant with pantyhose to create a physical barrier to the larvae.
With care, the small to mid-size organic gardener can foil the plans of the insect pests.
Check back as we will provide updates on who else is competing for our garden goodies and if the panty hose trick works to protect the squash plant.