Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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The Squash Bug Capital of Tennessee

After this spring, I've dubbed Crab Orchard, or at least Wild Things Farm the "squash bug capital of Tennessee".  I practice crop rotation every year, but seems like the bugs have a radar or a spy at my computer looking to see where the squash and cucumbers are going to be planted.  As soon as a seed germinates and comes out of the ground--wham!  It's eaten.  There are times that I've seen a handful of bugs around one plant.

This spring I sprayed rotenone/pyrethrum on the stem and saturated the roots of the plants every 3 or 4 days just until they could get enough size on them to grow, but the challenge of out-smarting these bugs has been, well, bugging me.  To overcome a problem you have to "become the problem".  So I started thinking like a squash bug.  Get to the stem and dig just under the soil, lay eggs and split.  Eggs hatch, become larvae, pierce the stem and crawl inside. 

I'm always looking for creative ways to use leftover things rather than tossing them, so I had this bag of torn up row cover.  I cut the row cover into little squares, about 6" square,

Then I wrapped the stem of my transplants (I started these in the greenhouse under strict supervision) with the reemay squares,

I then covered the reemay with soil and left the stem-wrapped part in its normal position, above ground.  Yes, it's tedious, but spraying so much isn't fun either.   It's only been a couple of days since this was done, but I think unless the bugs bring scissors with them, they might have a problem getting to the spot to lay eggs.  We'll see.

 
 

Colorado Potato Beetle Blues

Does this insect not have any natural enemies besides humans?  The decision was made that this year the potatoes on the farm would be grown totally organically.   In years past I've always used a little conventional insecticide on the potatoes just so I would have some.  This year I'm experimenting.

Have you ever seen organic potatoes in the store?  I mean think about it....ever?  I haven't.  These potatoes were fertilized with organic manure and hundreds of bugs hand picked and squashed.  I'm able to squash a potato bug larvae with my bare fingers now.....I think that means something in the gardening community.  Well, maybe not an official title, but my nanny used to squash bugs with her fingers and I thought it was gross.  It's really not....it's just handy sometimes. 

In one of the patches I walked through yesterday there were literally HUNDREDS of potato bugs on the plants.  I knocked them off with the magic bug smacking wand (sprayer nozzle) into the pathway, sprayed them with rotenone/pyrethrum, them stomped them.  I realized that in my fit I was killing them twice.  Okay, stop panicking--the potatoes in the rear bluff garden are doing okay--if I keep diligently spraying them. 

I think the price of organic potatoes should be based on the price of gold.  There's probably just as much work goes into producing a bushel of potatoes in spite of this evil beetle as there is to mine more than an ounce of gold. 

Tomorrow the potatoes are getting sprayed with neem oil then dusted with diatomaceous earth.  We'll see how the beetles like that congloberation.

So far, this has been a pretty buggy year.  At least it isn't raining every day like it did last year!

 
 
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