domingo, 31 de mayo de 2009

natural born killer?

Organic Farming is a concept that, for me, has always conjured up associations like healthy, natural, ecologically-friendly, for the most part peaceful images. Well, I'm only a few months into this, but i'm learning fast: organic gardening is BRUTAL. by brutal i mean bloody. If you want plants to grow, other things have to DIE, it's cut-throat, people!
This is coming from a gal who consciously avoids ants on the sidewalk; who painstakingly removes spiders from inside the house in a jar in order to release them outdoors; a firm believer in karma!

Everything changed when i met Enemy #1
Anasa tristis

Enter the aptly if not creatively named Squash Bug: a pest who lives to suck the juices out of poor innocent squash, cucumber, and melon plants, reducing them to shriveled yellow shells of their former selves. In larger more-developed plants, the squash bug may only cause minor damage. However smaller, weaker plants are lambs to the slaughter, which i fear is the case with my yellow saffron summer squash, pictured here:
At first hesitant to blame the colorful cheery little buggers, internet research left no doubt: my squash was under attack. And the squash bugs were not acting alone. oh no.
Enter Enemy #2:Acalymma vittatum

Besting any of James Bond's femme fatales, Striped Cucumber Beetles dazzle and distract with their showy good looks all the while eating to death beloved yellow squash and zucchinis.

According to online garden advice, both of these pests are formidable enemies. Though i advanced with chemical warfare (my homemade garlic/chile spray) it was apparent that hand-to-hand combat was in order.


HA! with rapid response time and spot-on hand-eye coordination, a squash bug meets its demise
A once-timid bodhisattva, i am transformed into a bloodthirsty killing machine.

From what I understand, organic pest control is not hugely successful with either of these pests. In the squash foto above, see the wooden boards i set out as traps--if i get to the farm early enough in the morning, the squash bugs that were lured into my trap are an easy kill. Otherwise, i really am spraying a yummy garlic/chile mixture that is washed off every night in heavy rains :(

Anyone have advice? Is there any more i can do? In a climate where the season never really "ends," i'm nervous that the pest populations may continue ad nauseam....

5 comentarios:

alissa dijo...

just remember, your karma is being balanced by the plants you save. don't they have feelings too? i'd just declare all out WAR. gear on. nica is back on the table, btw. inspiration my strike at any moment.

Dan R-M dijo...

I am really enjoying your blog - it's right up my ally.
We always talk about the idea that, if your garden is a healthy system, everything exists in balance. You make a great observation with the "larger plants unharmed" statement. Our healthiest plants always do best in the face of plague and pest, so we aim at each stage for growing the strongest plant we can get.
Do the squash beetles or cucumber beetles have any natural enemies?
Just wait till I post the aftermath of the aphid-ladybug Fava Bean war. You will see that what they say is true: no one wins.

Liz dijo...

thanks for the support :)
Of course! the old "what's the predator of your pest" trick! i will research. and i look forward to hearing about the Fava Bean War!

Jennifer dijo...

such a fun blog. the butterflies are great - I am lucky enough to see some like this, as I live on a mountain in El Salvador, some cucoons even hung from our patio ceiling. the sense of humour in your writing makes this so much fun to read!

Liz dijo...

Gracias Jennifer! Do you do any gardening in El Salvador? I imagine we have many of the same plants.