Category Archives: Garden Bugs

The Attack of the Cucumber Beetle!

Ugly cucumbers with scars, chewed holes in cucumber plants?  What is going on?  Take a look around your cucumber plants, near the base, in flowers and on the leaves.  You may find this devastating beetle wrecking havoc on your plants and cucumbers ~ The spotted cucumber beetle and striped cucumber beetle.  Melons, summer squash, gourds, winter squash plants and fruits can be affected as well by these little buggars.

Make no mistake!  These are not insects like the likable lady bug you want around.  These disease carrying cucumber beetles will feed on rinds of fruits causing ugliness..aesthetic injury, bacterial wilt, squash mosaic virus, stunting, and even killing young plants.  They become more active as the weather warms, feeding on blossoms, pollen, nectar, fruits and leaves.

Managing these cucumber pest require a bit attention.  Left along they can ruin a entire seasons of harvest.  Pure neem oil sprayed twice a week will slow and eventually stop any further invasion.  Spray in the evening, when the bees have gone, being sure to spray the base of the plant, basically used as a soil drench to treat eggs and larvae.  Persistence, I say!

Try companion planting!  Radishes, calendula, catnip, nasturtiums, rue and tansy all work well.  Marigolds are great, but plant the right kind or you may be attracting them rather than repelling them.  Varieties like African, french or Mexican marigolds are your best bet!

This year we took our overgrown tansy plant and chopped (made a mulch, sorta speak) it up, sprinkled it around the base of our cucumber plants and saw a decline in beetles within a few days. However we still had to treat with neem oil.

Mulching also helps.  Mulching can deter cucumber beetles from laying eggs near the plant stems, in the ground, but this does not deter beetles from feeding on flowers, fruit and leaves.

This year we have planted several different varieties of cucumbers.  Muncher is top of the list of attack, while Marketmore fruits and have not been affected what-so-ever and the leaves are in the best shape.

Okay, with a little more fast knowledge of cucumber beetles and ideas to control them~ Go get um!

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Kelp and Its Many Uses

Kelp is derived from sea plants and is completely sustainable.  It grows quickly in the oceans along the shores.  Kelp comes in a liquid, powder or pellet form. Although kelp fertilizer contains only small amount of N, P, and K (highest in Potash) but adds valuable micronutrients, growth hormones (of course natural), and vitamins that help increase yields, improve soil structure, reduce plant stress from drought, and increase frost tolerance.  Kelp also increases resistance to pests and diseases.  It just simply makes plants healthier.  It can be applied directed into the soil or as a foliar spray.  All seaweed products are good for supplying major and micro-nutrients, but kelp seems to provide even more benefits over other seaweed products.  It supplies over 50 minerals. Kelp Meal is a perfect compliment to organic gardens, and is suitable for all crops.


Easy kelp meal tea:  ¼ cup of kelp meal to 1-gallon water, let steep for 1-3 days and agitate daily.

Use kelp meal tea to drench plants before transplanting to help with transplant shock.

Use kelp meal tea as a soak for garlic 1 to 2 hours before planting.

Soak Asparagus Crowns in a kelp meal tea 1 hour before planting for healthier roots.

Sprinkle a small handful of kelp meal early in the growing season around and on the base of squash plants to help deter squash bugs.  Do this every 10 days where squash bugs are a problem.  You have to stick with it, but it really does work!

Use liquid kelp as a spray to increase yields by promoting bud formation, overall health, and to slow transpiration.  We sprayed out tomato plants this spring every 10 days and saw a BIG difference!

Use liquid kelp over dry kelp meal on stressed plants for quicker absorption and response.

Use liquid kelp as a foliar spray to help protect plants from cold and hot temperatures.  I personally think it coats the plant!

For vegetable gardens and flowerbeds Apply Kelp Meal at 1-2 pounds per 100 square foot and mix into the top 3” of soil.  For transplants, add 1 teaspoon per hole and mix with soil and water in.  To feed established plants, side dress 1-2 teaspoons per plant 1-2 times throughout the growing season to promote plant growth.  For container and houseplants: for new plantings, mix ¼ lb. per cubit foot of soil.  For established plants, side dress 1-2 teaspoons per gallon of soil 1-2 throughout the growing season to promote plant growth.

I have use Kelp Meal for years in my garden and I would have to say Kelp Meal is indispensable in my garden!

Garden Kelp Meal

Dry Kelp Meal

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Spider Mites In the Garden…Urgg!

Spider Mites! How can something so small be so destructive?  Gardens in our area are very susceptible to spider mites.   Spider mites are also called web-spinning mites. They commonly feed on fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables and ornamental plants. Spider mites look like tiny, moving dots, smaller than 1/20 of an inch. They live in colonies, mostly on the under-surfaces of leaves. Webbing is an easy way to distinguish them from other types of small insects, but you may not always see the webbing. These little buggers produce rapidly in hot weather in the months June through September. If temperatures and food supplies are favorable, a generation can be completed in less than a week! So you can see how they can get out of hand very quickly! They prefer hot, dusty, conditions. They will also attack plants that are under water stress. Wind is also another way spider mites disperse to other plants. When cooler weather hits mites will start to decline.

Spider Mites suck the life out of plants causing light stippling dots on the leaves. Most of the time you won’t even notice you have spider mites until the plant starts to decline. As feeding continues, leaves will sometimes take on a bronze color. Yellowing and leaf drop will follow. Damage will worsen if plants suffer water stress.   Greenhouses, even though it’s a humid environment, can get overtaken quickly, especially on tomato plants.

Even though spider mites in small numbers won’t do to much damage, I still have to get a hold of them quickly. They seem to damage vegetable crops much quicker than ornamentals. Sprays of water will help keep the moisture level up by removing the dusty conditions they like. Don’t forget to spray the ground around the plant to. Insecticidal soaps are a safe way to eliminate these bad guys, but you have to get the underside of the leaves or they will just continues to reproduce. Don’t use insectididal soap on water stress plants or when tempertures are higher than 90 degrees or you can damage your plants. A second application may be needed. The chances of getting them all and their eggs can be rather hard the first go around.

Here is another reason to go organic! Spider mites frequently become a problem after applying insecticides. Outbreaks are commonly a result of of using carbaryl (Sevin) because it simulates mite reproduction. This product favors spider mites by increasing the level of nitrogen in leaves. Sounds rather odd, but I have seen it!

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Good Bug? Bad Bug?

Many of times have I had  people come into my shop bringing in what they were sure to be a pesky bug about to emerge from their egg and create havoc on their gardens.  When I tell them how lucky they are to have such a wonderful insect egg of the Praying Mantis, their mouths drop and let me know they have been trying to eliminate them.  Well, that brings me to this blog!  The Good Bug, Praying Mantis.  I have kept a twig on the counter with the egg of a praying mantis just to let people know these are  the ‘Good’ guys.  When I trim my fruit trees and see the mantis eggs on the twigs I have just cut I make sure to weave the twig with the egg into the nearby fence so these little guys can hatch and become my little workhorses in the garden during the summer months. 

The life of the Praying Mantis starts in an ootheca egg mass. Taking place usually in the fall on a small branch or twig, the egg mass then hatches in the spring or sometimes early summer as the temperature rises and helps facilitate the time for the hatching of the numerous eggs.  Some eggs look like  a carmel colored packing peanut while others  have a harder type egg that are typically smaller like the picture below.

File:Praying mantis egg pod1.jpgPraying Mantis feed on grasshoppers , ants, moths, crickets, spiders, dragonflies, butterflies (yes, they eat beneficial as well), gnats, worms, meal-worms, grubs, termites, maggots, katydids, aphids, most flies, and some types of water bugs. They are great for eating pests in gardens and yards.

Nurseries carry the egg cases during the spring time and they are great to get mantisbabiesaas long as you don’t spray chemical pesticides that will harm these beneficial beauties.  Just set them out in a protected area and wait and watch for the very tiny babies to emerge and begin feasting on pesky bugs.  So the next time you see these odd-looking egg casings, know that you have help on its way with bug patrol this spring and summer!

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