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>Soldier Bug Update

>Today I looked closer at what I thought were “Spined Solder Bugs”, which are beneficial insects. I found three of them sucking from a tomato. Well, I was thinking that it didn’t seem like a very beneficial thing to do so I took another look at the Texas Bug Book and found that they are stink bugs. So I now have the trifecta on my cherry tomato plants, Tomato Horn Worms, Leaf-Footed Bugs and Stink Bugs. I will try and get a picture tomorrow while I am removing them.

I like the Texas Bug Book but wish it was organized a little differently. It would be nice if there was an index that was organized by the type of plant the bug was found on. I find that I usually have to look through the entire book a few times before narrowing down the culprit.

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>One of those Days

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Today I got home from work early enough to spend a few minutes in the garden. I wandered around only to find two new pests. It’s one of those days where you wonder why you even bother. Why don’t I just leave it to the professionals?

Here is where the cutworm laughed at my attempts to block him. I caught him in the act, stretching as far as possible to bite just above the straws I put in yesterday. I found a second one, but destroyed them both before taking pictures.

Here are the next culprits. I don’t know what they are, but would appreciate any help. I couldn’t find them in the Texas Bug Book. These little critters eat through the stems on the tomato plants. You can see the droopy end, completely cut off from nutrients. I may have to resort to some organic pesticides on these guys.
Why do I bother? Well … I just finished eating some sauteed okra. Simple olive oil, salt, pepper and whole okra. I also mixed in some zucchini and mushrooms. Mmmm! I agree with a friend of mine that plain old sauteed okra is just as good as fried, as long as you can handle a little slime.

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This weekend I’ve been battling two bugs, the leaf-footed bug and the dreaded squash-vine borer. The squash vine borer took out half of my zucchini several weeks ago, but had not been near the pumpkin. I read that they prefer other squash to pumpkins, so I was hoping mine would go untouched. Unfortunately, no such luck. I did have SVBs take out pumpkins in the same bed last year, so there is always the chance that these came from an overwintering pupae. Just in case, I plan on avoiding pumpkins next year, since I only have one spot to plant 30 sq ft 🙂 

We’re still getting tons of zucchini, so I’m happy with my little survivers. I check for SVB eggs several times a week and still find one or two each time. I’m just waiting for the day that they get past me and I lose another plant. In the meantime I’m just eating, sharing and attempting the zucchini world record. (completely by accident of course).
I’ve found the leaf-footed bugs on both my tomatoes an the pumpkins. They seem to prefer the romas. I believe it is because they have more places to hide. I killed about 10 yesterday. I kept a watchful eye for several hours, waiting for them to emerge. I even discovered two mating, which I put a quick stop to. The ones on the pumpkins are a lot easier to see. 
Leaf-Footed Bug Nymph
I’m not to the point where I can squash a nasty bug w/ my bare hands, so here’s my weapon of choice. I grab the bug with the tongs, throw it on the ground and smash it with my shoe. 

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>After my tough day on Wednesday I started doing some research. These squash vine borers really are nasty little creatures, and not the easiest to prevent. I found some good web pages.

http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=804&bhcd2=1243008843
http://tomclothier.hort.net/page30.html
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2153.html

Here are the main suggestions I’ve found…

1. use row cover until plant flowers
– This one wouldn’t have worked this year. By late April I was already harvesting squash, so covering them until they were blooming would have done nothing.

2. Watch for eggs and remove
– I planted too many squash plants too close together. There is no way I could have seen anything. Next year I’ll create a little more space in between. Now that I have removed several plants (due to death) I can really get in there and have been able to find eggs.

3. Spray / Wipe down plants w/ BTK

– I don’t know much about this. I’ve read that it’s safe, but would like to talk to The Natural Gardener about it.

4. Plant sacrificial squash

– The ohio web site mentions that SVBs like hubbard squash more than other kinds. This would be an interesting experiment to put different types of squash in different areas to see which ones get hit the hardest. Hopefully, the more popular would keep the SVBs away from the less popular ones.

5. Create multiple roots

– I like this one too. You bury different sections of the base so they’ll generate roots. This way if part of the plant is damaged it’s change of survival is higher.

6. Rotate Beds

– I already plan on doing this. This is my first year with a garden big enough to rotate. I definitely plan on having the squash in a different location next year. This year was my first time doing summer squash, so I know that the larvae came from eggs, not from overwintering.

7. Succession Planting

– Keep planting new squash plants throughout the season. If some get destroyed than you should have seeds going in the ground for the next set. This is a great idea. You harvest all of the squash you can before the SVBs hit and once they do just start over. The family could probably use a break from all of that squash anyway 🙂

Update …
I went to the Natural Gardener yesterday afternoon and got one more suggestion.
8. Hand Pollinate
– Keep the row cover on permanently. Instead of having the bees pollinate, do it yourself. At first I thought this was a bad idea, very labor intensive, but after thinking on it a bit I realized it’s much less work than slicing open plants and digging out larvae. I may consider this one next year.

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I’ve been enjoying my squash bounty knowing that it would eventually come to an end. The squash vine borers took out my pumpkin plants last year and I was waiting for their arrival this year. This morning I did my walk through before work and found one plant looking extremely pathetic. All of the leaves were drooping. Once I thought about it I realized that the leaves were a little droopy yesterday but I didn’t think anything of it. I should have known. Well anyway … it was too late for that plant. I ripped it out and started inspecting the others. Turns out I had a serious infestation on my hands. I found these terrible little creatures in all but one of my plants. I spent two hours digging them out. I lost two plants this morning and it looks like another three won’t make it. We’ll just have to wait and see about the rest. I hope I got all of them, but I’m not sure. By then end of my major surgery I was getting pretty good at determining exactly where the SVBs were, which hopefully did less damage to the plants. 

Squash Plant completely eaten through

An early catch. Here’s what to look for. The yellowish substance is called frass. You can’t always see it, since it is often underneath the plant, but you’ll always be able to feel the gooey glob where the SVB entered the plant. The plant feels dry aside from this. 

Carnage
More carnage

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All season I’ve been watching a green spider that’s been hanging out in the basil. I’ve learned to appreciate spiders, so I didn’t bother her. A few weeks back I noticed a nest and hundreds of baby spiders that had hatched. Here’s some cool pics I took. You can even see momma watching over her babies.
I also saw this great butterfly in the zinnias last weekend. Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing any more anytime soon, since the cold weather killed off the last of the zinnias.


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This was my first year with a spring/summer/fall garden. I was able to harvest tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, cantaloupe, and watermelon, but not quite the bounty that I was hoping for. I did learn quite a few lessons along the way.
Overall
1. The seaweed spray and “buds and blooms” really seem to work well. I need to be much more diligent about using them.
2. The raised beds worked well and at 10-12″ seemed to be deep enough.

3. Sugar ants are a sign of aphids. I found about 100 sugar ants on one of my pepper plants. At first I ignored it, but observed that it was odd. A few days later I looked closer and found the plant covered in aphids. A quick trip to The Natural Gardener for some all natural insecticide quickly took care of the problem.

4. Plants being cut at the base, looking as if they were cut with scissors is a sign of a cutworm. This looks like a friendly little caterpillar, but only comes out at night to destroy your lovely plants. In my case, it was the chives. I finally found this guy at dusk, when he was just making his way above ground. If you want to find them during the day, you just have to dig down an inch or two around the base of the plant.
5. Plant more of everything!
Tomatoes
1. Due to the not too brutally hot weather, the season lasted from March through December. Due to this fact, the typical small cages will not cut it. The cage would have been fine had it been spring only, but by the time the second round came, the tomato plants had outgrown their cages, and were falling over. I wasn’t able to get a late summer harvest and had to end up pulling them.
2. The tomato plants grow much larger than you can imagine. I originally planted two plants per cage, and they quickly ran out of room. Next year, one large cage per plant.

3. Marigolds do work. I had no problem with tomato horn worms all spring, and this may have been due to the abundance of marigolds I planted all around them. During the heat of the summer, the marigolds died off. When the late summer tomatoes grew in, with no marigolds to accompany them, I found four huge horn worms.
4. I don’t care for the two types I planted. One was the Black Big Tex. The other was the Beefeater. I also grew romas, which did really well and tasted incredible. I found that I really like the Brandywines that I got from the farmers’ market, that I definitely want to try next year.

5. I did get some cracks in the tomatoes during the warmer months. The research I found suggested that this was due to the tomatoes getting too dry and then getting a ton of water. I need to regulate this better next year. I may look into some sort of drip system.
Peppers
1. Plant more! I planted  9 plants, which was nowhere near enough. I need at least twice as many next year.
2. The spanish spice did the best of any variety and have a great flavor.
3. The purple beauty variety is too small for my liking. The peppers were about 2 inches tall. The red beauty and jupiter bells were perfect. 
Squash

1. Pumpkins are squash, yes it seems obvious now 🙂 and therefore affected by the squash vine borer. If I want to try these, or any squash, next year I will need to take better precautions.


Marjoram

1. It seems marjoram prefers the cooler weather. I didn’t get much production out of this herb all summer, but it has really taken off in November. 

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