Friday, June 24, 2011

Squish, Squash, Applesauce...

I am fighting a losing battle right now. My yellow squash, zucchini, and volunteer winter squash are under attack from all sides. I will continue to harvest what I can and hope for the best in the late varieties I have planted. From the roots to the stems, to the leaves, all my squash is affected in some way. I thought I would post about some of the insects that are causing me a ton of problems this year so folks can see what they look like. As far as how to get rid of them, I am using the brute force. When I see something eating my plants, I kill it! Kill it! Kill it!!!!

Early in the growing season, you might have problems with cut worms. I think I may be having some issues with cut worms right now with my pumpkins, but am in a wait and see mode. If more of my seedlings die, I will know I have an issue. The way cut worms work: they wrap around the base of the stem of a seedling and cut it off at the source. They munch around the stem until the plant just falls over dead leaving a tiny stem sticking out of the ground.

Squash bugs are what most people call stink bugs - they lay their eggs on the leaves (both front and back) and stems of your squash. When they hatch, the voraciously devour your squash and squash leaves. Remedy: Squish the mating bugs and scrape off their eggs. This may not always work. These are pesky little buggers. The babies are small blue things that grow into great big gray stink bugs.



I am also having issues with the Squash Lady Bird Beetle. These look like larger versions of your typical Lady Bird Beetle (Lady Bugs) with lots of rows of spots.

Their coloration and similar spotty appearance to their beneficial carnivorous cousins fooled me this year. I thought they were after the stink bugs. They were really after my squash leaves! Their babies were voraciously consuming my winter squash plants today. Yellow, fuzzy, and kind of cute... After I took some pretty pictures of the cute little evil things, I squished them flat... Check out the damage they did to my poor plants:

Then I discovered yet another victim... This time not just the leaves, but the whole plant. I have had really poor luck with zucchini this year and I am only harvesting a few from one large healthy plant that is producing smaller than last year fruit. I had another stunted plant with a few small zucchini on it, but found its base brown, slimy, and nearly completely chewed through. I pulled up the plant and began examining the cause of the problem. Found lots of tiny black opportunistic beetles, some small mites and this:

Don't see it? Here... Let me coax him out of his hole for you:

Ugh! This guy is the larva of a Squash Vine Borer. I have not seen momma, but I did lose a few plants earlier in the month to the same type of rotted stem. They are apparently not a wasp, as I had found in my research earlier, but a clear winged moth! Kind of cool, when they aren't eating my squash. Anything that wiggled or crawled within this stem is now dead, dead, dead!

Not all the crawling things in my garden are vile and destructive. I did see some "real" lady bugs, a mantis, and this really pretty writing spider:

It is tiny right now, but I am hoping it is a she spider who might leave a nice egg sack somewhere in my garden for next year. I'll keep a very close watch on her and make sure she stays safe, nestled among my tomato vines and corn. Really hoping to see more of her brothers and sisters hanging about my garden soon!

Other beautiful things in my garden right now:

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Early Morning Insomniac Gardening

Late night wings and Dr. Pepper are never a good combination for a tired gardener. But an all night bout of insomnia gave me a new perspective on my beautiful garden. You see, I am NOT a morning person. If I am up before 8 a.m. It is either because one of my children is sick, I am sick, or it is road trip day. Today is none of those things. But since I was up and was showing no signs of falling asleep, I decided to head out to the garden just around sunrise to get some weeds out and some photo opportunities in my yard.

I walked into my front yard first and found my Black Eyed Susan beaming up at me. My Aunt Pat saved these seed for me years ago after a visit where I admired the variety in her flower bed and asked her if she would send me some seed when they stopped blooming. She did and these flowers have come back every year since.

I made my way back to my garden and discovered a symphony of birds singing for me from my pecan trees and bats fluttering about catching mosquitoes. It was melodious and beautiful. By the time I reached my garden, I was thrilled I had decided to come outside. I pulled a few weeds and began taking some snap shots. It was still too dark under all the trees for non flash photos, but the effects of the flash on the early morning dew was pretty pleasing!

I moved to my flower garden in the back yard and found that in the early morning light, the colors of my variegated plants really pop out.

Back out front, the sky was finally dawning from slate gray to a gorgeous Carolina Blue. I love my small town with all the charm and peace for which one could hope. My early foray into my yard was everything I needed to start my day right. I loved it almost enough to become a morning person. Almost...

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Folks have been asking me about the pictures I post on Facebook and here. My garden is doing as well or even better than last year. My low to high planting on my big garden bed has worked out fantastic. My garden rows run in a generally east to west direction. The sun rises over the ends of the beds and comes up directly over top and then slides behind the trees. By five in the afternoon, all but the longest row are completely shaded because I have so many giant pecan trees and a two story house. I have more yard than I appear to when looking at the front of my house. 1.3 acres and I would say 80% of it is shaded at any time of day. The garden is only in full sun from around 11-3 but just about every part receives at least six hours of sun. I have three rows about three feet wide and of varying lengths.

Currently, the short bed from front to back contains grapes, dill, basil, lettuce, peppers, watermelon, and parsley. The middle contains more watermelon, cantaloup, Yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, some volunteer tomato plants, and some fresh plantings of zucchini. The big bed is planted in rows from short to tall for nearly all of its length. The short is bush beans, followed by tomato, then corn, then sunflowers. It also contains some fresh plantings of bush beans, onions, a few turnips, a volunteer butternut squash, and some other sort of volunteer vining squash (maybe a pumpkin).

In addition to all of this, I have a thornless blackberry patch, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and figs. All these are just getting started.

Here are a few photos:

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