Saturday, August 13

garden series: dealing with pests

[disclaimer] all of this info is from shaun because he's the one who takes care of this around the casa. he grew up on a farm & works in agriculture, so he's pretty knowledgeable & reliable. any inaccuracy in this information is probably due to my misinterpretation of what he's shared with me! 

whenever you have plants that you care about, you'll naturally have pests of various kinds. a garden is no exception.

i don't know what kind of pests you have to deal with because each state & region are different, but in indiana, in our yard, we mainly have problems from squash vine borers, bean leaf beetle, flea beetles, japanese beetles, & those cute fluffy-tailed deer. some of these can wreak havoc on a garden & destroy your crop if you don't take any action.

squash vine borer

[squash vine borer egg groups -- taken in casteel garden, august 2011]

[squash vine borer adults -- courtesy of jeffrey hahn & university of minnesota]

[squash vine borer larva -- courtesy of]

squash vine borer has been the pest we struggle with the most here in indiana & even back in north carolina. they are vicious when it comes to our zucchini plants, but they can also attack cucumber, pumpkin, & of course, squash. 

this is also the pest we [shaun] know the least about how to deal with. [we welcome any tips from ya'll!!!] but so far, we have found that insecticide is not the most effective method. two things that we have tried that are more effective are:

[one] cut off any sections of foliage that have the egg groupings. you can see on the picture above that the eggs are always in little colonies, so it would be easy to snip off that portion & leave the majority of the leaf in tact.

[two] once you have a larva in the base of the vine [as seen in the picture above], you can cut/pry it out of the stem. then, you can bury that portion of the stem to protect it from disease, & hopefully it will sprout new roots & the plant will survive. we've been able to do this successfully before, but this year we didn't catch it until it was too late, & we lost two zucchini plants.

flea beetle

[flea beetle on eggplant leaf -- casteel           [close up of flea beetle -- courtesy
garden, august 2011]                                   of utah state university]

this is the second most difficult pest we've had to contend with this year. it mainly attacked our eggplant. we generally don't like to use insecticides, but we're of the mind that sometimes it's necessary. however, we use them sparingly. [shaun's only used insecticide this year maybe three to four times for any & all plants in the garden.] in this case:

[one] shaun applied insecticide to all of the eggplant once he noticed the leaves riddled with holes. 

[two] he only applied additional chemical to any individual plants that seemed to be struggling [like the ones closest to the house because they're smaller]. 

he only did this at the beginning until our plants became well-established. now, there are still flea beetles all over, & you see the above picture with the damaged leaf, but now the plants are big enough & there are plenty of leaves to be able to "absorb" the damage. 

the insecticides he uses are malathion & seven dust [please always use as directed by the manufacturers]. both can be found at your local gardening store. he alternates which one he uses, as needed, to prevent build-up on any one particular chemical & to prevent the pests from becoming resistant. 

it is important to know that if you choose to use an insecticide to wait at least one week before harvesting any crop & to wash it thoroughly once picked. 

again, we use these sparingly & only if it's necessary to save the plant.

bean leaf beetle

[bean leaf beetle on green bean plants -- casteel garden, august 2011]

the bean leaf beetle is a nuisance, but it generally doesn't cause any problems beyond making your bean plants less than pretty. shaun decided not to treat these plants at all, even though you can see how much damage they've done to the foliage. it hasn't hurt our green bean crop in the least!

if you do have a particularly bad infestation, malathion & seven dust are effective.

japanese beetle

[courtesy of the arbor doctors]

i don't have any pictures from our garden of these because the heat has driven them away. but we did have problems with them earlier in the summer. they were all over most of our plants, but they nearly killed the basil & our two new fruit trees. these were the only ones shaun sprayed in order to save the plants. since then, they have been a minimal nuisance & now they seem to be gone. 

deer & rabbit

last year, the deer ate all our tomato plants down to the ground, & we didn't get a single tomato from the 8-12 plants we had. they also ate all of my hostas to the ground. frustrating, to say the least.

we actually like the fact that we live in the city & still have deer in our neighborhood & in our yard. it's really cool! but we'd prefer they eat things like the apples off our neighbors tree [he's okay with that!] rather than our tomatoes & hostas.

we planned on building a fence around the garden this year, but since we got a late start, shaun's just been using a store-bought deer & rabbit repellant [basically liquified egg solids -- stinks to high heaven!], & it's been super effective.

i hope this helps any of you home gardeners. and like i said, if anyone has other suggestions on how to deal with these pests, especially the squash vine borer, we'd love to hear it!

in the meantime, happy gardening!
[last week] garden series: our 2011 layout
[next week] garden series: the bountiful harvest

No comments: