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Being Rid of Squash Bugs

Prevention is the key.

You must start in the fall – that said I am starting in June. What can I say. If you start in the fall (and I will this fall for sure) it gets things off to a much better start with lower numbers of bugs ready to spring from the soil in the spring and do what nature intended – lay eggs – or go forth and multiply!

Once the squash are done (and that may be sooner than later if you had an infestation of squash bugs) clear up all the refuse and mulch and burn it! Yes burn it. Get rid of those eggs that will lay waiting all winter to attack in the spring. Many sources additionally recommend hot composting but I’m not taking any chances and we will burn the refuse about a month after the squashes are all dead and done.

Then plant a cover crop for the winter so the soil is nicely covered. You don’t want to mulch the squash ever again. More on this later. Also plant cover crop where you plan on growing your next summer crop so it is ready to go.

In the spring make sure your squash plants are big and hearty if you are transplanting them out. I’m going to transplant and will start my own. No spindly plants because they are too easily knocked down by just a few bug bites. There could be a whole conversation on seed starting so we won’t go there today.

It is without a doubt recommended by many if not all reliable sources that the single most effective deterrent to squash bugs is to cover those baby plants as soon as you plant them. Most sources recommend lightweight row cover. I also read about people using mosquito netting. It should work if you are in a pinch and that’s what you have. Make sure the covering is tight to the ground and as close to the plants as possible. You will have to reposition the cover as the plants grow.

You might be asking “what about pollination?”. One of two solutions; the first is to remove the row cover and start using other measures to keep the bugs at bay. The second, and this is my favorite because we are small time gardeners, is to lift the cover occasionally and hand pollinate. It’s easy (once again that is another conversation we won’t go into).

So about those “other measures”. There are some serious “must do’s”.

The second single most effective thing you can do is hand pick squash bugs off the plants along with any eggs you can find. Leave a lidded container nearby with an inch or so of soapy water. The bugs will expire in the soapy water. Here’s my favorite part… buy a pair of wooden toaster tongs for a couple bucks and use those as bug pinchers. We bought a dozen pack and hang them in handy locations all about the garden. They last for many seasons and take the ick factor right away. Great for tomato hornworms etc.

Do NOT squash squash bugs. The scent they exude attracts more squash bugs so I understand. And squash bugs can find a patch of squash as far away as half a mile.

Boards; a small thin board placed on the ground right next to each plant will provide a place for the bugs to take cover at night and every morning early you can lift it and kill the bugs. Use the soapy water in the lidded container. This method works best when nights are cooler. Here’s a neat trick I read about. Adhere a sticky trap to that thin board. Then lay the board sticky side down on a very short riser so it is just barely above the soil. It still gives the bugs a place to hide and a lot more squash bugs will be caught. I haven’t tried this yet.

Water; water somewhat vigorously in the morning around the base of the plants and see the bugs come scampering out and climb to the top of the plant. You can then easily pick them off. Remember the soapy water… 🙂

Chemical treatments include;

diatomaceous earth – kills squash bugs but do not apply it near the flowers as it kills a lot of other bugs including a lot of beneficials. It needs to be reapplied every time it rains or there is a heavy dew. It is safe for all pets etc as long as you do not breath it in. Please use a mask if it is windy.

insecticidal soap – kills squash bugs especially well if they are young (not so much for adults) and also especially well if it also contains pyrethrum which comes from the Chrysanthemum.

sabodilla, and neem oil – once again these can be dangerous to your garden

Sevin dust is now of little use against squash bugs and not environmentally healthy.

Other stuff…

Tape a small mirror to a hoe to easily inspect the underside of leaves which is where the eggs are most likely to be – we have two long handled mirrors that we bought a few years ago and this is a really handy tool!

CHECK YOUR PLANTS DAILY or at least every couple days and stay ahead of those squash bugs!

Praying mantis eat squash bugs but they also eat ladybugs so it’s your call. They are available commercially.

Tachinid flys also eat squash bugs – I have not seen them for sale.

Some anecdotal evidence that lizards eat squash bugs. Lizards eat a lot of insects. They also like bark mulch hence our lizard population with all the shredded wood and bark in our garden walkways.

Companion planting may have some benefit. It is reported that the flowers of alyssum, calendula, daisies, dill, fennel, and mustard greens all attract tachinid flys. Marigolds, nasturtiums (which can be somewhat invasive), radish (especially white icicle), tansy and mint are reported to be offensive to squash bugs. 

A bug collection funnel/containment can be made from two gallon milk jugs. See the link below.

DO NOT MULCH SQUASH PLANTS – unless it is with fresh hot composted compost and only a light layer.

ROTATE your squash plants on as long a rotation schedule as possible and as far away as possible. Some people claim skipping a year will help but we didn’t grow squash for about five years and then had squash bugs, so who knows.

One person stated on a board that she used a dab of clear nail polish on squash bug egg clusters because it was too much effort to remove them. I see some validity there.

OVERVIEW

Prevention is the most important thing you can do. Handpicking bugs and eggs is the next priority. Resort to chemicals only if you have to (even organic ones have negative effects).

The best comprehensive article I have read lately about growing squash without squash bugs is at this link, Squash Bug Controls . It is best to use preventive measures rather than wait until there is an infestation and then have to resort to harsher methods. I hope you read this article as it is quite comprehensive and very readable. https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/download.php?id=138

Wikipedia, pyrethrum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrethrum

https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening-blog/beetlemania

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A Garden Update

It’s May and finally there is warm weather. It has been a cool, dry, windy, cloudy spring. Things were trying to green up but it was taking a lot of effort. Then it rained. It rained over three inches in a couple days and the sunshine came out and it was a balmy 80 degrees (F). It is now officially green and spring and summer is fast on her heels.

My favorite garden plant – peas. They have started blooming just the last couple of days. Last year we were eating all the peas we could stand by now.

The garden is a full month behind what was happening last year because it has just been too cool/cold and dry.

A view of the Kitchen Garden and Hugel Section from above. Onions, potatoes, kohlrabi, several kinds of greens, Brussels sprouts bolting, cilantro and fennel and peas.

A side view of the herb bed. Several varieties of thyme, dill, sage, chives, lovage (yes it will need to be moved when it reaches full size), parsleys, lavender, French tarragon, winter savory, Mexican oregano and ageratum will fill it to overflowing by summer. Lemongrass will be planted in the big black pot.

We had some creatures getting into the garden very early this spring and eating onions of all things and the lettuce and kale. These are scarecrow bunnies. I think the bad guys were either mice, rats or voles. We did catch and release a racoon but everything else took the bait and escaped the live trap. ALSO – important to note – we have not seen our in house black snake this spring. Not once. The vermin are rampant. We may have to import a snake.

Onions; Candy, Red Candy and Copra. You might notice the close double row. Those will be pulled first for green onions leaving enough space for the rest to bulb out.

Our first red strawberry this year. Now that the turtles aren’t eating them all up it looks like we will get a great harvest this year. They are covered!

The last handful of parsnips and carrots until more carrots are ready.

That headboard looks crooked. Don’t tell Gene.

I believe the potatoes have grown over a foot this week.

Still a couple dozen tomatoes and a few peppers to plant. The extras have mostly been adopted out. Mostly started from seed this year, they did great.

The last of the leeks and broccoli (under cover). Tomatoes will go in this bed soon. You know we haven’t seen any cabbage moths since the last cold snap.

Peppers planted today. They were very happy to set their feet in the soil. I planted these with all the bells and whistles I could find reference to – Azomite, bone meal, aspirin, and a pinch of Jobs Organic vegetable fertilizer. Scattered compost around and stuck three wooden matchsticks head first into the ground. Topped them off with a small tomato cage because they will be needed. Don’t mulch much if at all until the soil warms more. I have made that mistake before. A great lesson – tomatoes – cool feet, peppers – warm feet.

The far bed in the Cornfield garden, L to R more peas, collards, beets.

If you look carefully there is a big bumble bee (I think) upper right hand corner. Doing his job.

This Purple Russian was about three inches tall and a bit frail but well grown when we acquired it in February at the seed swap. I have taken six cuttings from it and started new plants which are also hardy. It will likely need to be planted plenty deep or have the top cut out to make a new plant. It is being passed on and I’m keeping the midsize plants to set out. We also have Black Krims, Green Zebras, San Marzanos and Atomic grape to grow this year.

There’s more to come soon! What’s going on in your garden this spring?

 

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It’s A Keeper

A few garden vegetables continue to give me fits but not the leeks. No, not any longer do they challenge me. Starting them from seed a few years ago was challenging. Then my friend Pat gave me a bundle from her garden to plant and for some reason it’s been smooth sailing since.

Leeks went to seed last fall and are now self sowing here and there and I just transplant those wispy stray plants to a suitable location and leave them be. The slips given to me are Giant Musselburgh and they send up little side plants that can be transplanted. I have conflicting info about these plants actually doing this but mine do so, maybe they are a different variety??? It’s a puzzle.

I dug seven leeks this morning.

So I went to the garden yesterday to harvest some leeks for a Quiche. I ran across a recipe I remember writing down many decades ago but had never made. Now seemed the time to make it.

Aren’t these beautiful!

After trimming and washing the leeks on the potting bench outdoors they got a more thorough cleaning in the kitchen sink. Once they are chopped up you should give them a good rinse in a colander and let them drain well. They do tend to pick up a bit of sand and soil as they grow.

After the final rinse.

This is my original hand written recipe copied from a magazine, most likely in the late 70’s or 80’s.

You might notice I take a lot of shortcuts when copying a recipe. Sometimes that can be a problem…

Leeks sauteing in butter in my favorite cast iron skillet.

The pie plate collection. They aren’t much to look at but they each have a story.

The only recipe I use for pie crust – either savory or sweet – comes from the 1974 edition of Better Homes and Gardens cook Book and this is what it looks like ready to go in the oven.

I always pre-bake the pie crust when making a Quiche or a custard type pie. You know there are a LOT of ways and recipes for pie crust and many claim the only proper crust for a Quiche is made with butter but use what you like. I grew up using Crisco and it makes a fine pie crust. But I love using lard and we make our own from some well raised local hogs. If you are very careful with the making of that lard the best of it will give you pie crust to talk about, even for a fruit pie or a Quiche.

Here you see the partially baked crust with the sautéed leeks piled in.

The custard filling is poured in and the whole mess is topped with a bit of Swiss cheese to bake.

Fresh from the oven!

Lets talk about this recipe which has a lot of fat in it and what changes I made.

The crust: use a frozen crust if you want or your favorite pie dough recipe. Do pre-bake the crust for about ten minutes at 350 F to avoid a soggy bottom crust.

The leeks: I did not cook them in water! Instead they were sauteed in 3 tablespoons of butter for about 15 minutes on low to moderate heat. Stir them so they don’t burn. A little browning is fine.

The custard filling: I saw no need to use 1 1/2 cups of cream! My goodness! I did use 1 cup of whole milk and a half cup of cream. Next time I make this Quiche I will use 1 1/2 cups of milk and expect it will still be rich and delicious. Do scald the milk and let it cool before mixing with the eggs and seasoning.

The topping: surprisingly the 1/4 cup of grated Swiss was a perfect amount of cheese (that is about 1 ounce of cheese). About that 1 tablespoon of butter dotted on top – there doesn’t seem to be any reason to add more fat to the top of this pie with all that it already contains unless it is to brown the top. I left it off and will continue to do so. Not needed.

Baking: The Quiche was done in thirty minutes to my surprise. I owe that to the amount of eggs. There is a big difference between a scrambled egg pie and a Quiche! This one turned out a little “eggy” by my understanding of Quiche which is usually of a jiggly custard like consistency and quite delicate. A scrambled egg pie is more hearty and dense. This tended toward egg pie a bit. I think cutting back on the amount of cream (maybe none) OR using one less egg would do that. That will likely increase the bake time some also.

Eating of the quiche:! Oh my gosh we loved this pie! It was so delicately flavored and divine! If one can say rich and delicate it was every bit that. I served it with a garden fresh salad dressed with an herb vinaigrette and some fruit at the end of the meal. The next day’s leftovers were even better – cold with a hefty side of asparagus and some fruit.

Gene declared of this recipe, “It’s a keeper!”

Click here for the revised recipe.

In other go’ins on I made a batch of peach butter from the last of the frozen peaches and the leek stems went in the freezer to be added to the next batch of chicken stock.

What’s go’in on in your kitchen!

 

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April Starts Cold

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Every year in a garden is different and this year is no different in that. It has been a cold dry windy winter. Plantings are several weeks later than the last few years but it will all come together one way or the other.

Our focus this year is on more cool weather plantings and that we have even though running late. The peas are barely starting to climb and the brassicas (including Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi and collards) are all still pint size. All manner of alliums, radish, lettuce, potatoes, carrots and beets (not up yet) are in the ground and the herbs are springing back to life.

You might notice the colorful wire basket cloches over some areas. I found these at a discount store and bought them out for a buck fifty each. They are perfect for small plants when you have a rabbit sneaking into the garden and nibbling on things. We aren’t sure it’s a rabbit but there was plenty of nibbling going on. We also relocated two raccoons that we caught in a live trap. They may have been helping themselves. And it could just be mice. In a normal year there would be several black snake sightings in the garden by now but we haven’t seen a one and I fear the rodent population is expanding. These basket/cloches are also tight enough to keep out damaging butterflies until the row cover goes on.

I take that no snake comment back as just today I turned up a baby black snake from under some leaf mulch but he was so cold he wasn’t even moving. Gene tucked him back in.

The leaf mulch went on the potato bed as we are expecting a couple of nights of hard freeze over the next few days. Most everything should be fine with a little cover which we will apply tomorrow.

The walkways have been lightly dug out this spring thanks to Gene’s strong back and fresh sawdust is applied. It sure makes for a soft place to work and we especially like the tidy look of it. A few walkway areas have shredded wood which is fine also. The whole garden was built on the principle similar to this – remove any large rocks, lay heavy cardboard, cover with two or three shovelsfull of soil in the spot a plant is to be placed, poke a hole in the mess and drop the plant in. Add compost, cover with straw mulch the first year. It works. The earthworms come and take care of the rest. Most of our garden spot is 3 or 4 years old now and we have fairly rock free dirt 8 – 10 inches deep in most of it.

My biggest concern this year is getting the cool weather plantings mature and harvested with enough time to put the hot weather plants in afterward. Almost every square foot is taken up right now. So, late planting all the way through the seasons this year. The tomatoes and peppers will likely be up-potted at least once more if not twice and will be pretty big when they hit the dirt so that will be a help. It’s all an experiment.

What are your garden plans this year?

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Spring Has Sprung

THIS is what I wait for, what announces Spring, this. These bright yellow jonquils say Spring to me more than anything else. Combined with a few rains, the first croak of tree frogs and a hint of green in the fields jonquils scream Spring. The last many years we have had Jonquil bloom before the end of February, and that is often joined by horrid leftover winter winds which drive the pretty flowers right to the ground and shorten their showy spell. Every year is different.

The past year has seen less rain, some fierce wind for sure – but prolonged cold temperatures have kept them from blooming too early and they are now languishing in their finery. I also discovered upon picking these that about 20% of the Jonquils came up at least a week later and are just now developing flower heads. That too will prolong the Jonquil bloom.

Now we wait for the flox, iris, narcissus and our most beloved dogwoods.

On to the vegetable garden!

It’s been a bleak winter since December passed and all the cabbages and broccoli were harvested. Very little overwintered due to extreme temps – weirdly warm and very cold, often just days apart. Neither warm nor cold lasting long but long enough to send things to bolt.

Most of the herbs are jumping out of hibernation with the lengthening days. Chives have self seeded in several places which is okay by me as there never seems to be enough.

Surprisingly the French tarragon survived this Ozark winter. Its close proximity to the house offered the protection it needed.

A new favorite to me, sage, is coming back nicely. I wasn’t sure if I wanted sage in the garden but ran across a recipe for fried sage leaves and thought what the heck let’s try it. Oh my gosh.. fresh sage is so delicious. I find myself crumbling a few leaves in all things chicken and turkey. I will dry much more of this savory summer treat for winter use.

I should have thought to photograph the celery before cutting it back for today’s potato salad. It needs plenty of water, some nitrogen fertilizer and protection from bunnies. I grew these (and four more) from organic celery butts. Yes you heard me right. Cut off about two inches of the bottom end of a fresh head of organic celery and place it in an inch of water. New leafy growth should appear within a day. Once it is well established and the weather is warm enough, set it into rich garden soil and keep it watered. This is the first year I’ve done this and it’s working out so far. The celery has made enough shoots to grace potato salad a couple of times lately.

These pots of dill and fennel are a little pathetic looking I know! But they will perk up and do just fine once they get in the ground. So much to plant!

So the cool weather plants are almost all in the garden. That includes broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, kale, cabbage, green onions (grown from seed), onion butts, bulbing onions (hundreds), radish, lettuce, choy, carrots, snow and English peas, and cilantro.

The potatoes will go in in a few days along with more carrots, radish and beets. Then we start thinking about summer veg. But not today, not much.

Except maybe this look at the first tomato and pepper seeds. Don’t read the labels! Some of them are only correct on the other side! I’ve started Black Krim, green Zebra, Atomic grape and will get San Marzano tomato plants from Joey. We have also started four kinds of peppers  –  Canary, Ozark Giant and Etiuda bells, and Estacena chili pepper.  We will buy Jalapeno M for its robust size. I don’t know why we didn’t save seed last year!

You can see I have broken with tradition and am trying some new varieties this year. For all my wanderlust and my Piscean nature I have been stuck in a rut with seed varieties for years and it’s a little scary wandering off into uncharted (for me anyway) seed company.

This is how bare most of the garden looks right now today. In the middle are overwintered leeks. On the far end is broccoli planted earlier today. On this end, Tokyo Longs,  which is a really fine green onion.

We will put hotcaps on the broccoli since it looks like a few chilly nights coming up. Then all the Brassica will be draped with lightweight row cover to protect them from cabbage moths. On the right is garlic also from last fall. A surprising number of garlic plants were lost this winter and I filled in with some kale plants.

Last but not least is this Russian Purple tomato plant that we got at the seed swap in West Plains a couple of weeks ago. It has tripled in size under the new plastic clochs during the day and in the kitchen at night. Gene got six of these clochs for my birthday and I love them! Made in the USA and sold by the man who invented them himself direct from his factory they are vented on top and have holes around the bottom so you can secure it to the ground. The literature says they will raise the temperature by 30-40 degree on a sunny day with the vent open. I’m growing carrots under two of them… but I did fry a batch because it got too hot. Yikes. They work. Greenhouse Buckets

See that pot in the back on the left? Thai pepper pant we overwintered in the house. I cut it down to about 4 – 6 inches and no leaves at all. It re-leafed, flowered and has several full size peppers on it now. It goes outside on warm days.

That’s all I got peeps. The potatoes are ready to plant Monday. Chiting, cut up, and dusted with bone meal we just need to turn the rotting wood chips back and lay them in on the soil beneath and cover them up. I need a nap.

What’s going on in your garden?

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