Tuesday, August 23, 2011
De-bugging the garden
As an organic gardener, my eyes and hands are two of my most important tools.
When I began gardening, I would go into my rows of green plants inspecting for bugs. When I saw something I had identified as a pest, not a beneficial visitor, I would pull a tissue out of my pocket and squeeze it. Sometimes the invader would squirm out before I had fully executed my maneuver.
Next I tried wearing gardening gloves. Again, without the keen feeling in my fingertips, the bug had a tendency to escape.
Now, I just squish them between forefinger and thumb and let them stink and ooze right onto my skin. Yes, it’s a little gross. But, it’s quick effective and soap really does clean up the mess.
I’ve been doing lots of de-bugging in recent days as I’ve been paying special attention to bugs that like squash plants. After one friend warned her winter squash has been ruined, I noticed that while one my pumpkins looked great on its top side, the bottom side was rotted with a bug infestation. So my own sharp eyes and pinchers went to work. Some of my peppers and tomatoes have suffered because of the shade of climbing winter squash vines. I didn’t want that to be for naught.
When I searched online for pictures of squash bugs to learn more about what I was finding, I discovered there is a different between squash bugs and stink bugs, although they both are gray and smell when smashed. All summer I've been trying to check the undersides of the leaves for the eggs they lay to head off the problem before it fully developed. I also discovered that late in the season they aren’t supposed to be harmful, but I’m not taking a chance. When I see them, I exterminate.
I haven’t yet located pictures of the other bugs I’ve found that don’t seem to kill the plants but do eat on the leaves. Nonetheless, until I find out they aren’t harmful, I’ll be squishing them, too.
Sure, I could buy some chemical spray and give it a whirl. I’m sure there’s an organically-made treatment, too. But I like being with my plants and providing protection as the Guardian of the Garden.