Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chomp, Chomp, Chomp

A few days ago a friend and commenter asked if I had much trouble with insect damage on any of the things I grew in the garden.

Well, it seems like there is usually something every year but it certainly doesn't always mean total death and destruction to the plants. Supposedly, the better shape your soil is in, the less the insects will bother your plantings.

When we first started gardening on this piece of land, we had a lot of trouble with cut worms for several years. And I mean A LOT! So far this year (knock, knock), I have yet to see my first one.

Then there was the year the grasshoppers ate just about everything. Now that was depressing.

This year there is something that is taking big bites out of a lot of different things. Something else is making little holes in some leaves. Then there is the sneaky creepy-crawly that is stripping the leaves completely off my Moss Rose plants. So far I haven't been able to spot any of the insects that are tormenting me . . . and my plants.

Big bites are being taken out of ---

This was my very first cosmos to bloom and it immediately got chomped on.

More bites out of some potato leaves.

The Red Kuri squash is not being left out of the taste testing.

Nor are the Morning Glories.

All the little pickling cucumber sprouts have these tiny holes in them and some have bites taken out.

This is the second planting of slicing cucumbers I've made. I'm a whole month behind on them because the first ones were about three inches high when something started munching first on the leaves and then went on to the stems leaving only about 1/4" of stem sticking up out of the ground.

This is what Moss Rose plants are supposed to look like. See the spikey little leaves on the red stems?

These are Moss Roses in a different part of the garden. Something has stripped all of the leaves off the stems.

These pictures probably make my garden look like a total disaster area but it's truly not. I could show you maybe fifty or more pictures of healthy, vibrant plants that haven't been bothered by anything.

So, to answer your question, Jen, there is usually one insect or another each year that seems intent on spending their summer vacation in my garden. But most of the time if the damage looks as if it's going to be too great, there is some safe, organic spray or solution or remedy that I can use to discourage them.

Also, even a very harmful insect won't be bothersome for the whole summer. They have their life cycles and if a plant can just make it through the critical stage, it will go on to thrive and produce a harvest. And in most cases, as I had to do with my slicing cucs this year, I can replant at a later time and avoid the destructive stage of that particular insect.


Erin said...

You are so right! I find sometimes I get research and get ready to battle a certain insect that foiled me before, only to have it never show up! And plants can actually survive quite a bit of damage before fruit and harvests are severely affected. Some laugh that I have grapevines but never get a harvest out of them - I keep them because along with providing me enough grape leaves to line the bottoms of my pickle jars, in late summer they are a magnet for Japanese Beetles, keeping them all off the rest of my garden. Same with eggplant - I don't eat it but I plant it all around my potatoes since if given the choice, the flea beetles and potato beetles prefer it and leave the potatoes alone! Last year something ate all the potato leaves off and just left bare stems, I thought they were toast, but at that time of year, when I dug they were done anyways and I got a decent harvest. Great post!

Susan said...

Insects are a fact of life, and there are so many good ones, you just have to suck it up sometimes and do what you can. I was wandering outside looking at my plum treelets yesterday and there were at least 5 Japanese beetles on a leaf! Ack! Seems everything is three weeks early this year. I never know what I'm looking for, but I do check plants carefully just in case I can catch them in the act. Do you think that slugs/snails are doing most of the damage, Mama Pea?

Mama Pea said...

Hey, Erin - Thanks. What you do is sorta like companion planting. One plant helps the other one!

Hi, Susan - We don't have any snails (that I know of) and the only place I've seen the slugs are in the strawberry patch and in the lettuces. But I suppose they could be coming out at night and hiding on me during the day. Do you think I should sleep in the garden some night with a flashlight at the ready to see if I can catch the sneaky devils?? Nah, I'd be dead by morning from getting bitten so much. I just went out after dinner to do a little weeding in the blueberries and before I could even do one bush, I got so many no-see-um bites I feel like I've got the heebie-jeebies now.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Doesn't beer attract (then kill) slugs? You could leave little saucers of it out and about and see if they are in the mood for a midnight party ;)

One year we had a large flower bed in a rental house in NC so I decided to grow a few things. I planted bell peppers and cherry tomatoes but also planted garlic and nasturium and marigolds as natural pest repellants. I had done my research and was totally ready for any pest that appeared...and then none did. I suppose if I'd had more or had done it more than one year something would have shown up. (As it was, we weren't even in the house long enough to harvest anything!)

Alison Russell said...

I don't mind sacrificing a few leaves on plants where I'm primarily interested in the fruit, but for plants where I want the leaves it's more problematic! Right now SOMETHING is gobbling up all my basil and sage (while virtually ignoring the rest of the garden)! I don't have a big enough garden to plant more to make up for it, and it kind of defeats the purpose of having those plants in the first place!

I really wish I knew what it was. I posted pictures on my blog, so if anyone has any helpful advice I'd sure appreciate it!

Jody M said...

I've never (knock wood) had a problem with cutworms. Slugs, however....holy cow, they seem to thrive here. This year wasn't as bad as the last two, but...

My worst problem right now is flea beetles, any suggestions on how to get rid of them? They made their appearance last year on the potatoes. I don't know where they came from, I'd never seen them before. This year, they are going after the bok choy and other greens that are in the same beds the potatoes were in last year.

I also have a problem with vine borers and squash bugs on the winter squash, and some but on the beans. I don't know what it is, though.

Mama Pea said...

Hey, Jen - What with this rain (again!) today, I may just set some pans of beer out in the strawberry patch to lure some of the slugs. I was scheduled to pick again today but now the rain has made it impossible.

Hi, Alison - I didn't know anything would chew on sage! It truly is so frustrating when you lose your harvest to pests. I'm not very good at sharing my hard work (and food) out there.

Hi, Jody - The flea beetles seem to disappear as the summer progresses . . . at least around here. Other than waiting them out, I don't know what to suggest. Anybody else?

Erin said...

Hi Jody! The only thing I have found to work well with the flea beetles is giving them eggplant, they prefer it! I planted eggplant all around my potatoes and they left the potatoes alone. I don't like eggplant, so it doesn't bother me! May not help this year, or in your climate, but there's my experience! I read about it last year somewhere and decided to try it this year, worked like a charm. Now the eggplant is decimated, but my potatoes are ready to harvest, so that's okay!

Mama Pea said...

Hey, Erin and Jody - But, but, but, what about us eggplant lovers? Talk about a sacrificial lamb!!