GardenTips From a Tipsy Gardener – Shutting Down The Bug Buffet

June 9th, 2010

Last year, I stumbled across a few techniques on how to outwit the bugs in my garden in a book called  something like “Gardening for the Weak and the Shaky ‘or maybe it was called ‘Gardening Know How for Those Who Don’t Know How”.  After reading the book I found out that I had  unwittingly employed a few of the techniques to keep bugs at bay without even knowing it!  It’s like I am a clairvoyant gardener or something!

Here!

Let me list them alongside a few shots of my awesome garden!

Tip #1 – One of the easiest things you can do to slow down the damage of pesky garden pests, is to confuse the hell out of them!
Don’t plant all your peppers in one tidy patch! Instead, sprinkle them in amidst your tomatoes and your lettuce and your heirloom rutabagas!  This stops the insects from mowing down your entire crop in one fell swoop.

While confusing your garden pestilence, you may want to take advantage of something called ‘companion planting’. This is a theory by which one plant does another plant good just by being in close proximity to it.  So consult a good resource and companion plant away!  I have yet to master the intricacies of companion planting as I subscribe to a competing garden theory called ‘planting like a giant behemoth twitchy spasm’ which means that I just randomly stick things in the dirt wherever I think that they will look good, and possibly fit. Sometimes I accidentally ‘companion plant’ but far more often I tend to plant two things side by side that are forsworn enemies and they battle with each other all season long over who is going to thrive.  BUT while doing so – they do confuse the HELL out of bugs, so at least I am winning that battle!

Tip #2 – Randomly and generously plant eggplant all over your garden.

Many predatory bugs prefer eggplant to any other vegetable on earth and they will chew it down to a nubbin before they even consider your other tender veggies.  Fortunately, in my family, I am the only one with a penchant for eggplant so the three or four that I harvested last year after the bugs took the lion’s share was more than enough.

So stick in some random eggplants.

It just might save your pattypan squash.

Tip #3 – Mix up some homemade goop.

I recently made up a batch of garlic spray.  I did this by steeping one entire chopped garlic bulb into a cup of mineral oil for two days.  I then added 1T of the strained garlic oil to 1T of dish-washing soap and mixed it up with a small sprayer full of water.  This concoction’s potent smell, strong taste and soapy goodness, supposedly keeps the bugs at bay.  I’ll let you know if it works.  I found the garlic spray recipe here.

I used the garlic oil to spray down my squash plants and my cucumber plants.  Last year, after a gorgeous harvest of cucumber supermodels, my plants were sucked to death by an infestation of either cucumber beetles or squash bugs.  I have yet to determine which.  If it was squash bugs, the garlic should hold them at bay.  If it was cucumber beetles, I am going to have to get a bit harsher.  I also moved my cucumber patch from one side of the garden to the other to slow down the little buggars who overwinter in the soil, hatch, crawl to the surface and happily find a brand new crop of cucumbers to feast upon.  Which bring me to my final tip of the day…


Tip #4 – Move your vegetables around every year.  It’s hard to think of a gardener not knowing this one – but I am stating it here to cover my bases.  I have had more than one customer at the Garden Center tell me that their tomato patch has been in the same spot for twenty five years and they don’t understand why they aren’t producing very well anymore.  One woman told me that she catches a fish from her pond for each tomato plant that she grows and actually sticks it in the dirt JUST LIKE THE NATIVE AMERICANS!  I had to give her an extra big A PLUS for effort, but I think moving her vegetables around would be just as effective in boosting her garden’s performance.

After maybe shaking on a bit of composted cow manure…

Which is LOADS easier than catching and burying all those fish!

Update!

I took a blurry photo of one cucumber beetle humping another cucumber beetle on a cucumber plant!  This means I have to up the ante against these pesky pests as the cucumber beetles laugh in the face of garlic spray.  I have been hand picking them whenever I see them, but the durned things have wings and can fly away if I am not fast enough.  The organic people suggest neem oil which will probably be hard to find.  I may have to go all chemical bad-ass on them if they get too thick.  Dang it!

Comments

  • inga:

    Your garden is looking great! We should do a garden tour across Eastern KS, then we could get some cheese in Alma and some milk in Tecumseh, and visit Grandma Hoerner’s for some samples. Doesn’t that sound like a plan?

    I’m sure all our boys would love it!

    Inga

  • Mo:

    Neem oil isn’t too difficult to get, at least online – a lot of naturally-focused pet supply stores will carry it as a flea/tick remedy.

  • Alison:

    Thanks for the tips AND the picture of the humping bugs. My husband and kids came home with 20 seed packs and 40 pounds of top soil stuff so I had to hoe out a garden. With a hoe. It sucked. I’m pretty sure we planted them all way too late for our area but we’ll see what happens. I can kill pretty much any plant in my care so I don’t have high hopes.

  • I found neem oil at Home Depot at some point, but generally buy the organic stuff I need online (Planet Natural at http://www.planetnatural.com is quite good for various things). I’ve yet to find any humping going on in the garden, but I did snag over half a dozen stinkbugs off the zucchini the other day, tossed them down and stomped them, then found a cache of eggs and did the same. Buggers. There is a certain joy in either snatching them off the plant or swatting them out of the air to the ground to meet their demise under a boot. Especially if it means more food for the rest of us.

  • Action Squirrel:

    You can also find neem oil in Indian or larger Asian groceries if you happen to have one nearby.

  • NcGal:

    Oh, the joys of burning the tomato hornworms on the sidewalk with Grandma’s Navajo lighter!!! LOL That is the preferred method of an old friend. I am curious as to how your garlic/soap/oil concoction works out. The only things I have in the ground are the pumpkins. I have grown so tired of fighting the battle so this year I have limited amounts of tomatoes, peppers, zuccs and herbs all in containers on the deck.

  • Hey! Guess what! I found some neem oil at the GARDEN CENTER where I WORK! I didn’t even know we carried it!

  • susan:

    I know Kansas is dry -so do you get snails? The scurge of most plants here is 100% humidity Houston. They are IMMENSE. Not just size but the amount can boggle your mind. You find them on your front door, the side of the house, sidewalks and everywhere. And my kind-hearted – albeit misguided – son in law wouldnt let me squish a particularly large one the other day. He also did that a while back with an enormous cockroach which I abhor more than snails or slugs. His theory is that they wouldnt be here if they didnt have a purpose. And no it doesnt have anything with God – its the scientist in him.

  • Cassie C.:

    We have neem oil at the garden center, but spray with caution, not on a sunny day, as it can be a little stressful to the plant. My pepper plant took a hit when i sprayed it with neem…

  • Susan – we get snails, but they are ‘Texas’ sized.

    Cassie – I found it! I had no idea we had it. Do I even work there?

  • I suck at companion planting and give it up. And I know I ought not to plant in packs, but dagnabit, it’s so much easier that way! : )

    What do your sources say about grasshoppers? I hear we’re in for another bad ‘hopper year round here…