Plants are disappearing at the E.A.T. South farm! From bugs to rabbits to even dogs, we’ve lost some plants in the past few weeks. Let’s call this a teachable moment. Maybe you’re seeing some of our pests in your garden too?
Cucumber beetles - You’ll see these on your squash or cukes. They’re kind of pretty, green with spots or stripes. Fast flyers, they are hard to catch, and if you have a lot of them, they’ll eat your plants and spread disease.
Squash Bugs - These will go after your squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes too. They fly, they eat, they lay eggs on your squash. I try to keep an eye out for the eggs (look under your squash leaves), and rub them off of the leaves into a bucket of soapy water.
Tomato Horn Worm - These suckers look like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. They’re just not as mellow, and they eat everything! They blend in so well with the tomato plants that they’re hard to spot. You know you’ve got them when you’re leaves and tomatoes start getting chewed.
So what is a gardener to do?! First, get familiar with Alabama Extension’s Integrated Pest Management site. They’ll help you identify your pests and next steps.
On the farm, we occasionally use naturally-based pesticides approved for organic use (OMRI approved), but we also:
Rotate - When we create our garden plan, we try to make sure that we don’t put the same plant family in the same spot. We want at least a two year break for the garden bed between each plant family.
Use insect netting/floating row covers - For things that fly in for lunch, we might put a floating row cover between the plants and the bugs. (For squash or cucumbers, remember to remove the row cover when the plants start to bloom or you’ll exclude the pollinators, too!) And bird netting over the beds seems to be keeping out a hungry bunny.
Time plantings - Plant your veggies at times when there aren’t so many bugs around. This takes a little research (remember the Alabama Extension IPM site?), but it will also save more of your plants.
Welcome beneficial insects - Farmer Jetson built a bug hotel and created a habitat to attract both pollinators and predators. The pests give the predators something to eat.
Squash them! I squash the ones I can catch. Tomato horn worms provide an especially satisfying squish.
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