Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
August, 2011
Regional Report

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This young summer squash plant in flower was boosted with kelp and sprayed with herbal insecticide to combat pests.

Wake Up and See The Beetles

I've been happily eating small, sweet, fresh cucumbers for about three weeks. And sharing them with friends, of course. Watching the 'Black Krim' tomatoes for signs of red ripeness. Weeding the purslane from the romaine patch. Planting successive rows of beans and hills of squashes. All good.

This morning, though, was a sad reckoning. The first cucumber vines to flower and produce were mostly wilted with a lot of dead brown stems and brown or yellow speckled leaves. Last week the green mound flowed over and through an upright plastic grid -- once a window lattice. When a leaf was lifted, cukes of various sizes dangled with the promise of picking sooner than later.

To my distress, it was time to face the elusive enemy -- insects taking advantage of the drought, heat, and my neglect. I looked closer at the younger Persian cukes on the bamboo tripods, the green bush beans pushing their first slender filets. Trouble....

Ornamental Beds Are Different
In my clients' mixed ornamental beds of perennials, shrubs, annuals, and trees, pests are few. The soil is well-prepped and nutritious. The gardens are carefully mulched to protect roots, preserve moisture, and smother weed seeds.

Vulnerable Vegetable Garden
My personal veggie garden got a head start on me -- and literally continues to out run me. Despite good gardening intentions, I've been on and off and on crutches since April while healing from leg injuries. Weeding, hoeing, planting, and watering have been unusually challenging. To paraphrase filmmaker Barbara Gordon, "I'm gardening as fast as I can."

In the meantime, pests of many sizes, shapes, and colors have been eating as fast and as much as THEY can! Black flea beetles, aphids, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, mites, white flies, leaf hoppers!!! Those are the insects I watched sluice away while spraying veggie leaves -- tops and undersides -- with a natural insecticide, miticide, and fungicide mix from Veggie Pharm made from cottonseed, peppermint, garlic, and rosemary oils.

Though I pulled out and disposed of the infested cuke vines, the various beetles have likely already invaded neighboring, new, succulent summer squash plants. A distant four feet away, I spot a striped cucumber beetle in the 'Tricolor' bush beans. Foreboding! Can the Mexican bean beetle be far behind?

Fortunately yellow bush beans ('Pencil Pod' heirloom) -- my most favorite -- are maturing in a far opposite section. I sprayed them next, high and low. Will the garlicky concoction protect them?

One liter of natural insecticide covers the tomatoes, compact winter squash, younger and climbing cukes and beans, and bush green beans. I'm worried though. Is this too little, too late?

Kelp Too
Liquid kelp to the rescue. Kelp gives plants a boost by providing growth promoting hormones, trace elements (Fe, Cu, Zn, Co, Mo, Mn, and Ni), vitamins, amino acids, and the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. I'm zealous about this two-punch approach to insect control -- internal and external. Kelp helps the plant rally its own natural resources to resist insects and diseases. Liquid kelp feeds through leaves, green stems, and roots. Naturally-based insecticide repels or kills invading pests. Gotcha!

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