It is the beginning of July and there have been all sorts of events happening in my garden already. There have been beetles, squash bugs, moles, bolting lettuce, cabbage worms, and spotted tomato leaves ….
Let the battles begin!
From a distance, it looks great. Once you get inside, you'll notice my garden has plenty of problems. We have been enjoying many fresh foods already.
If anyone says they have a perfect garden without any problems they are either:
1. A liar.
2. Using lots of chemicals.
3. Know some magical gardening secret and need to tell me what it is.
I do not know the magic garden secret. I don't use chemicals. Therefore, I have plenty of problems.
Here are three of the top problems I deal with yearly in my garden.
Garden Problem No. 1: Squash Bugs.
Squash bugs are not partial to squash plants. They are also happy to destroy your cucumber, watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin, cantaloupe and pretty much anything in the "curcubid" department.
Squash plants are easy to grow. They will be the size of a Volkswagen in no time. They will also give you enough squash to feed a small village … as long as you don't have squash bugs. Ugh.
Squash bugs are little, gray beetles that are also referred to as, "stink bugs." They look like spiders when they are babies.
If you aren't sure if you have squash bugs, here are a few signs to look for:
1. Your enormous, blossoming squash plant is suddenly wilting, dying and shriveling.
2. You have seen gray beetles on the stems and at the base of the plant or on the ground near the plant.
3. There little patches of bright orange (or red) bubbles on the back side of the leaves.
These are all signs of a squash bug invasion. The red-orange bubbles are squash bug eggs. If they get the opportunity to hatch you will be raising squash bugs for the next five years. Don't ask me how I know this. Cringe.
There are 100 chemicals you could spray on a squash bug and none of them would make him blink. There is, however, a chemical-free, all-natural, organic way to kill, destroy and annihilate all those pesky bugs.
You can exterminate the squash bugs before they launch their take-over, but it takes persistence. All you need is a bucket, a squirt bottle and some dish soap. (I've been told Dawn works best.) I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. Squash bugs will laugh in the face of Seven Dust, but will keel over and die as soon as you squirt them with a water and dish soap solution. Unbelievable.
To stop the squash bugs before they get their army hatched you need to do two things.
1. Squirt the live bugs with dish soap solution.
2. Remove the eggs and take them far, far away.
As long as you are in your squash patch every few days removing eggs and squirting, the squash bug population will dwindle to nothing.
Garden Problem No. 2: Spotted Tomato Leaves
I was very adventurous this year with my tomato growing system. I built a sturdy A-frame structure out of cattle panels for support. The tomatoes are loving the A-frame. Thanks to the rain and wonderful spring we have had, my tomatoes had a growth spurt while I was out of town.
I came home to tomato branches on the ground. A tomato branch on the ground is against the law in tomato-growing land. Very bad.
Once the tomato plants have had a chance to lay around on the ground, you will be plagued with spots all over your tomato leaves. Left to their own devices, these spots will creep their way up your plants and spread like wildfire.
Take heart, there is hope!
To avoid dealing with this icky problem altogether take these preventative measures:
– Tie up tomato plants early and often.
– Break off any low branches so they can't touch the ground.
– Be sure there is plenty of air circulation between and around tomato plants.
If you are already seeing spots don't cry. Do these simple steps to save your tomato plants:
1. Immediately break (or cut) off all the branches containing spotted leaves. Don't worry, the plant will grow new, healthy branches and leaves.
2. Get your squirt-bottle back out and fill it with 1/3 milk and 2/3 water, and spray on the tomato plants. This is a natural way to fight fungus.
3. Continue to keep an eye on the tomato plants and keep the branches tied up so they can't find the ground.
Garden Problem No. 3: Bolting
Lettuce, spinach and radishes all like to bolt when the weather gets hot.
What is bolting? When your lettuce plant turns into a Christmas tree, it has bolted. Another sign of bolting is the white, milky substance that oozes out of the plant when you pick it. Bolting happens when the plant is fully mature (it is preparing to send out seeds). The bolting process is accelerated when the weather gets hot.
Once a plant "bolts," it is (typically) extremely bitter and inedible unless you are a rabbit or a pig. They don't seem to mind. To learn why we have rabbits go here. To see what life is like with stinky pigs go here.
There is a simple solution to the bolting problem. Yipee!
Start a new row of seeds!
I start new rows of radishes and lettuce throughout spring, summer and fall. It's easy to recover from a bolted crop – just put in another row. To see how I grow lettuce from seed go here.
Part of gardening is overcoming challenges and struggles. Just about all of us are battling something this time of year. Whether it's slugs, beetles, blight, mildew or something else, take heart, you are not alone!
To stay up to date on all the happenings in my garden and homestead be sure to visit my website.
Keep fighting the good fight!