Monday, August 17, 2009

Squash Bugs

Nothing is quite as ugly, smelly and destructive as squash bugs. Squash bugs, Anasa tristis, are a difficult garden pest to control, but there are options. Squash bugs prefer yellow crookneck summer squash, and they prefer this variety over zucchini and other squashes, although I don't find them very discriminating. They also favor pumpkins, and spaghetti squash. Squash bugs will thrive in, on, under, and around all squash plants, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and all cucurbits.

In my garden they seemed to favor the squash (crookneck and spaghetti), and avoided watermelon. Since my watermelons turned out quite good, I may plant more watermelon next year.

Sylvan Wittwer suggested to me, to use drip lines, and as the plants grow, move the lines further away from the plant base. Squash bugs like moist areas around the base of the plants, so removing the moisture from that area greatly reduces the attractiveness of the plant base. So this year, with a drip system installed, I tested this theory. My first row of garden, next to the lawn, had a Toquer Squash, a pumpkin, and a spaghetti squash. This was my control because it got overspray from the lawn sprinklers and the base of the plants were usually damp.

The remaining rows of cantaloupe, crenshaw melons, crookneck, zucchini, watermelon, and spaghetti squash, received the benefit of my moving the drip lines away from the base of the plants, as the plants grew. The drip lines ended up about 1 ft away from the base of the plants.

Clearly, the squash bugs preferred the first row of vines that tended to remain damp from the lawn overspray. Some of the other rows of melons, etc, where the base remained dry and open to the sun, squash bugs were much less prominent. So this does help--but the bugs will still come, they just won't be as "happy" and don't seem to reproduce nearly as fast in the dry conditions.

In addition to the above cultural practice, I also did the following:

1. Each day, I would scour the vine leaves for the eggs of the squash bugs, and squish these with my fingers. I was interested that the bugs laid eggs both under the leaves, and on top of the leaves. As the garden got bigger (quite a few melons), examining all the leaves became a bit of a chore, but I still tried to spend a few minutes each day looking for eggs, and eliminating them before they hatched.

2. I would also lift up the ends of the squash plants, every morning, and look for bugs, and squish them on the spot. This works well with the crookneck because you can lift up each vine all the way back to the base and see the bugs, and get rid of them. If you're squeamish, wear gloves.

3. Later in the summer, the squash bugs will accumulate under and on the fruit of the plants. As the foliage of the plants deteriorates through the summer, they will begin eating the squash, melons or pumpkins, etc. So I would lift or turn each squash (spaghetti), melon (cantaloupe and crenshaw) and expose the bugs, and squish them enmasse.

Historically, pesticides are not effective against adult squash bugs, and sprays or powders must be sprayed on the under side of plants and leaves to get to where the bugs are, and this is difficult to do. I do not even attempt to spray for squash bugs, and I tend to avoid using pesticides generally.

Strong, healthy, vigorous plants will withstand the effects of squash bugs better than weak or less thriving plants, so this should always be strived for. My experience is, doing nothing is not a good option--the bugs will win, your plants will lose, and you won't get much production.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mid-Summer Report

The Miracle Corn I planted in May was a huge success. It was easily the best corn crop I've ever grown. I really liked the variety, large stalks, large leaves, not too tall (6 ft), two large ears per stalk, full rows of kernels, great flavor.

You'll notice in this picture there are no worms. I treat the newly emerged silk with two drops of vegetable oil, which prevents worms and other bugs from entering the growing ears. This is an easy, non-pesticide method that works 100%.

This crop is finished, but I have a fall crop of Miracle Corn on the way.

I have never had success growing watermelon, but thought I'd give it another try in Toquerville. I planted Crimson Sweet, and this melon was the first one I harvested, about 20 lbs, the flavor was very good, juicy, and I'll probably grow watermelon again, although I think I'll try the seedless variety next year.

I harvested my Sweet Spanish onions, had an excellent crop, with nice medium sized onions. I'm not satisfied with my drying methods yet. I have tried laying them on the ground, in the shade. This worked pretty well, but you have to keep turning and moving the onions until the tops are completely dried. I have tried tying the leaves together over a line, in the shade. This worked pretty well too, but they would sometimes fall down, or blow down if there was a strong wind, and squirrels or animals would take them. This year I tried pulling them and just leaving them on the ground (dry ground). This worked ok for some of the onions, but too high a percentage "cooked" and were spoiled by the sun.

We have been eating cantaloupes for a month. I plant only Ambrosia cantaloupes, by far the best flavor of any cantaloupe, but they have a very short shelf life (which is why you won't find them in any grocery store). The cantaloupes are not as large this year, as last, but still of normal size and excellent flavor. Curly Top killed about a third of my cantaloupe plants.

Summer Squash
My zucchini, crookneck and spaghetti squash all produced well. The curly top took both my zucchini plants, and both my crookneck plants, but I replanted both and have not been without summer squash yet. Quality has been excellent.

Curly Top killed my one pumpkin plant, but we still got three pumpkins off it before it was gone.

The Curly Top eventually got to all my potato plants, but I still got a fair harvest, the potatoes just did not get as large as they should. The red potatoes did much better than the white "gold" variety. We've been enjoying the potatoes, and the flavor is very good, potatoes are just small.

Toquer Squash
I have a Toquer Squash vine growing in my garden that has become very large, spreading far and wide (I was warned it would do this). It contains several large, maturing bell shaped squash, and does not appear to be affected by Curly Top. When mature, this squash weighs 20-30 pounds. I got these seeds from my neighbor who grows the squash also. I'm impressed with the sweetness and flavor of this squash, plus it being a winter squash, should store well for some time.

Curly Top
Curly Top has damaged my tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, crenshaw melons, pumpkin, and cucumbers. Harris Seed is sending me a sample bottle of "GreenCure" which is effective against all blights (Curly Top is a blight), but they don't guarantee it. I am going to try it next spring. I am unwilling to give into the widespread damage of Curly Top. If anyone has experience with "GreenCure," I'd love to hear about it.