I’m not gonna lie. Gardening can be an exercise in exasperation. I think that’s probably why God put certain strains of bacteria in the soil that actually boost our serotonin levels and decrease our anxiety (ie: mycobacterium vaccae)….. otherwise, we’d probably have thrown in the trowel and starved to death long ago!
In years past, my gardening nemesis (aside from too little or too much rain) has nearly always been squash bugs . They are pervasive and will ultimately kill or severely cripple anything that resembles a squash plant. They also stink to high heaven when you squish them (the only way I know to kill them organically). My proboscis so sensitive that I can smell them (dead or alive) before I see them.
I’ve been gardening for about 10 years…. honing my skills every year. Successful gardening is definitely an acquired skill….and you can’t quit learning or something will eat your lunch. Literally! Prior to this year, I didn’t think I could hate a garden pest more than squash bugs, but clearly I’d never met the cucumber beetle. I’m glad I know Jesus, because if I didn’t, I’m fairly certain that my personal h*ll would include these garden pests.
I planted in early April. This last North Texas winter was a mild one, and all the signs indicated that the last frost was behind us. I watched my rows carefully, waiting for the little seedlings to pop up out of the soil. I always get a little extra heart pitter patter when I see them emerge. This year, each morning when I went out to do a quick check and spot weed, my seedlings started completely disappearing nearly as fast as they came out of the ground. What the what??? It took me several days to identify the culprit. While we do have a few of the spotted variety (see above left), the majority of these evil suckers look like the ones on the right. Striped destruction. Right there. They have eaten every single plant in the cucumber, melon & watermelon family, and THEN they started on my squash. Are you kidding me?? Even the squash bugs have their gustatory boundaries.
If you’ve stuck around here for any length of time, you know that we go as organic as possible on the farm. In the garden, we are 100% organic all the way down to our heirloom seeds and homegrown cow manure compost. Unfortunately, all of the resources I found on organically managing cucumber beetles required some serious forethought and planning….. the kind of planning that you do in the fall and winter. Helpful information, but too late in the game.
Organic gardening isn’t so much about destroying the enemy as it is repelling and reducing the numbers of ‘feet on the ground’. In my search, I found a few different general gardening ‘bug be gone’ recipes, but I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for any single recipe. Time was short. The cucumber beetles had systematically moved on to my young squash plants, and there were beetles everywhere. Complete and utter destruction of all things cucurbit was eminent.
I decided to take the ingredients listed in a few recipes, and combine them for my recipe:
“Bug Be Gone” Brew
1 big deep bucket or ‘under the sink’ style trash can
1 old fashioned flour sifter
~3 gallons of food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
~1 cup of premade minced garlic (I will make my own in the future, but urgency required the premade stuff)
~about 2-3 mls each of the following oils. I use Young Living Oils because I know they are potent, pure, and full of health benefits! …. and once again, we are striving to be 100% toxin free, especially in the garden.
I added the oils to the garlic and then added that mixture to the bucketful of DE. Make sure you have enough room in the bucket to mix thoroughly without spillage. It is some pretty potent smelling stuff!
I then began sifting the mixture over the plants, making sure to get the ground around the plant well covered too. Honestly, that part went way faster than I anticipated. I did notice that the beetles seemed to scurry when I started applying the dust, but I decided to withhold my assessment for a few days.
I also went back and replanted seeds on the same day that I spread the initial application. I put some of the DE mixture in each little hole I made for the seeds, and then put some on the top of the rows for good measure.
It’s now 6 days later, and I’m happy to report that the cuke beetle population has definitely made a dramatic turn. While I still find an occasional straggler, for the most part, it appears there has been a retreat by the enemy. My new seeds are coming up, and I am being vigilant about dusting them once they pop thru the upper crust of the soil, and re-dusting them after watering. So far so good….. but for now, I’d call this battle a victory.
My garlic is nearly ready to harvest and I will be making more of my Bug Be Gone with my own cloves in the future. The sifter is a key piece of equipment for this endeavor. Mine came from my kitchen, but you can find ones like it in junk stores, or just buy a new one on line for about 10$.
Enjoy your day!…. and I hope you win whatever battle you’re currently fighting.