The Return of the Squash Bug! (Cue Horror Film Music)

Here in Central Indiana, there is one thing that is a near-certainty for every garden: the inevitable infestation of the squash bug. Each year it never fails: your summer squash plants are gigantic and producing like crazy. And then one day, you might notice a handful bugs. The next: a few more.

The next day? Your once-beautiful squash plant is crawling with bugs, and the entire plant has died, apparently overnight. Not only can they do a crazy amount of damage to squash plants, but they can also attack other cucurbit varieties (cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins).

 

Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension

So what can you do about these evil little jerks? We decided to take a very scientific survey* to find out what area organic farmers and gardeners do to beat squash bugs into submission. Since this issue will likely befall your garden at some point, we thought we’d share everyone’s feedback here for future reference. Enjoy, and may your squash plants live long and prosper!

Tips for maintaining your squash plants – and sanity – against squash bugs, straight from Central Indiana farmers and gardeners:

  • “So far its daily physical intervention, inspecting leaves, removing eggs, and adults, and treating with Diatomaceous earth around base of plants where they hide. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap with peppermint will work mixed with water and sprayed directly on insects. You can also use floating row covers early in season (you will have to pollinate yourself).”
  • “I pull all leaves with eggs or midges on them and throw them in the trash. The chickens seem uninterested. I second, or third, the drowning them in soapy water method. Hand picking seems the best way.”
  • “I recently purchased a book called “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.” The author, Tammi Hartung, is great and one of the ways she suggests repelling squash bugs is to sprinkle black pepper around the plants. I haven’t done this yet but did spray the plant with neem oil mixed with dish soap. That has helped.”
  • “I have a spray bottle filled with soapy water and cayenne pepper and spray the leaves. So far it’s kept them off this year. If I find one I just squish it. Same with the eggs.”
  • “Transplant as early as possible is my tip. Squash bugs are inevitable.”

Have you had issues with squash bugs? What’s your favorite method of saving your plants?

 

*”Very scientific” means we asked our Facebook friends – but, hey, many of them are organic farmers and gardeners with extensive firsthand squash beetle experience.

Calling All Home Gardeners: Apply Today for Our First Neighborhood Garden Tour!

Calling all home gardeners: would you like to be featured in our first neighborhood garden tour? We need you – contact us at kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com today!

On August 20 from 2-5pm, the Keystone-Monon Community Garden will host a garden tour highlighting some of the amazing, quirky, fun, and productive home gardens we have right here in our neighborhood!

Keystone-Monon Grows will be part neighborhood garden tour, part community gathering, part garden fundraiser, and ALL fun. The event will feature a bicycle tour (automobiles also allowed) of 5-6 different home gardens in the Keystone-Monon neighborhood, a tour of the community garden at Arsenal Park with gardeners on hand to answer questions, and a closing community gathering at the Arsenal Park picnic shelter.

DETAILS: Please consider applying to be one of the main stops on the first of what what we hope will become a beloved annual garden tour.

Date and Time: Sunday, August 20, 2-5pm
Garden Location: All types of gardens are welcomed! Gardens must fall within the Keystone-Monon boundaries – 54th St. to the north, Keystone Ave. to the east, 38th St. and Fall Creek to the south, and the Monon Trail to the west.
Commitment: Each garden stop will feature a brief tour for attendees, including Q&A with the homeowner/gardener. This should be a fun conversation, all about your garden! All gardens should submit 3-5 photos and a brief bio about themselves and their gardens for use on our website and marketing materials.

To Apply: Send a brief statement of interest/email, your address, and 3-5 pictures of your garden space to kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com. We are looking for all types of gardens and all levels – our goal is to show anyone that a home garden is within their reach!

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GARDEN 101: Decode your seed packet and begin planning your spring garden

Spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris. I wonder where the birdies is!*

It’s the first day of spring, and here in Central Indiana, the buds are popping out on the trees, and we are itching to dig in the dirt! But when should you start? What should you plant? And hoe? I mean, how?

DECODING YOUR SEED PACKET:
The secret to finding out when and how to plant your garden? The seed packet.

Here’s an example of the amazing amount of information contained in just one little seed packet. Key things to pay attention to:

  • Days from planting to harvest and recommended season (front of package)
  • Planting information (depth, spacing)
  • When to plant and recommendations for indoor seedling starting vs. outdoor direct seeding (really, this and the depth/spacing information tells you everything you need to know to get started)
  • Date packaged (the germination rate, or the number of seeds that will successfully sprout, decreases with age, but don’t chuck your seeds from the last season or two! Just plan to plant extra seeds)

For those new to gardening, sowing seeds directly into your garden beds can be such a beautifully simple, rewarding way to plant. You might be surprised at how many crops grow wonderfully just from dropping seed into soil (and actually prefer it), particularly some of the more cold hardy crops planted in early-spring or later in the fall.

Some of our favorites, which we will start seeding sometime in mid- to late-April:

  • Lettuces
  • Greens like kale, spinach, chard, and collard greens
  • Root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips
  • Cabbage
  • Peas

THE NEVER-ENDING HARVEST
The cool thing about lettuces and greens: once they start growing, you can harvest them forever (or in the case of lettuce, until it gets too hot and the plants bolt, or go to seed). With lettuces and other delicate greens, just give them a “haircut” when harvesting, trimming off what you plan to eat and leaving the bulk of the plant and center leaves in tact. Come back a week later, and you won’t even be able to tell you trimmed them.

With greens like chard, kale, and collard greens, harvest the outermost leaves, breaking the entire leaf and stem off from the primary plant stalk. Always leave several of the innermost leaves in tact, and your plants will continue to grow and produce. These types of greens are cold hardy, but they will also last through the heat of summer!

(This is maybe one of the dorkier things I’ve ever searched for on YouTube, but if you’d like to see the technique for harvesting chard, kale, and collards, check it out).

BUT WHEN DO I PLANT WHAT?! MEET YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND, THE GARDEN CALENDAR
Okay, so we’ve identified some cooler weather crops above, but what about our heat loving plants, like tomatoes, squash, peppers, delicate herbs, and other more exotic plants?
The biggest thing: you’ll want to learn your average last frost day (in the spring) and your average first frost day (in the fall) to understand your growing season. Here in Indianapolis, we’re looking at the following:

  • Average last frost day (in the spring): Area C – April 26-May 5
  • Average first frost day (in the fall): Area F/G – Anywhere from October 6-October 25

Again, a good place to start is your seed packet OR check out the following amazing references:

ONE LAST THING…
One of the funnest things about gardening is uncovering your own gardening philosophy and seeing how it aligns – or differs – from what you consider to be “you.” 

For a beginning garden, consider purchasing some of your plant starts. And on that note, here’s your shameless self-promotion warning:

  • The Keystone-Monon Community Garden is hosting a seedling sale on 4/23 from 10am-4pm at Indy Urban Flea, 1225 E Brookside Ave, Indianapolis!
  • Come pick up a few of these beauties, grow your own food, and support the garden, a completely volunteer- and community-driven endeavor!

*Every spring, this pops into my head. It was one of my late, great grandmother Mildred’s favorite quotes each spring. Grandma Farm, as we called her, also had the most amazing backyard garden in the south suburbs of Chicago when I was a kid!

Meeting Minutes and ONE MORE BED Available at Arsenal Park!

Minutes are now available from last week’s organizing meeting! What a productive, awesome get-together: not only did everyone get as many seeds as they could use, we made huge strides in getting ideas for our educational workshops and community gatherings. We will post a full calendar of events soon!
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JOIN THE FUN THIS SPRING – Join a work group! To accomplish our goals in 2017, we need your help. Any in our community are welcome to join our planning team, even if you aren’t gardening with us! Contact us at kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com to be part of our community.
  • Education and Community Gatherings Team: Plan social gatherings and educational workshops throughout the growing season. Work with lead organizers to line up speakers, set calendar, and advertise events to the community.
  • Construction and Site Maintenance Team: Make design suggestions and plans for future site development (must be approved by IN City Parks). Work with volunteer team to establish regular work days and bigger construction events as needed.
  • Fundraising and Partnerships Team: Seek out funding sources, donation drives, and in-kind partnerships with assistance from lead organizers.
  • Volunteer Management: Organize volunteer days to work in the garden and serve as point of contact on work days (will likely work with construction/maintenance team closely).

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APPLICATIONS: We have one more garden bed available! 

  • All garden beds will be assigned by early March 2017. If you are interested in gardening with us, submit your application and waiver ASAP to be added to the waitlist!

Meeting Minutes Available: Join a Work Group and Apply TODAY to Garden in 2017!

Minutes are now available from last week’s organizing meeting! The two big takeaways: it’s time to sign up for a work group to make our garden even more fantastic in 2017 AND applications are now available to garden with us next year! Join us!
WORK GROUPS: To accomplish our goals in 2017, we propose establishing teams to focus on primary garden tasks. Ideally, one or two gardeners would take on the “lead” position for each with other gardeners serving as part of the team to assist.
  • Co-Lead Organizer: Serve as primary point of contact alongside Christie K, especially for meeting planning and during get togethers. Having at least two folks in this position would be tremendous!
  • Education and Community Gatherings Team: Plan social gatherings and educational workshops throughout the growing season. Work with lead organizers to line up speakers, set calendar, and advertise events to the community.
  • Construction and Site Maintenance Team: Make design suggestions and plans for future site development (must be approved by IN City Parks). Work with volunteer team to establish regular work days and bigger construction events as needed.
  • Fundraising and Partnerships Team: Seek out funding sources, donation drives, and in-kind partnerships with assistance from lead organizers.
  • Volunteer Management: Organize volunteer days to work in the garden and serve as point of contact on work days (will likely work with construction/maintenance team closely).

APPLICATIONS: We are now accepting applications for the 2017 growing season! Gardeners in good standing from 2016 will have first priority and will have until2/15/17 to submit their application. After that date, additional garden beds will be assigned to new gardeners on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • All garden beds will be assigned by early March 2017. If you are interested in gardening with us, submit your application and waiver ASAP to be added to the waitlist!

Community Garden Work Day: Raised Bed Building, Sat., 3/26/16, 1 pm

Things are getting very exciting this spring at Indy’s newest community garden, thanks to the efforts of our garden construction team and many, many volunteers. Mountains of mulch have been moved, a garden border now defines our new community garden space, and 10 raised garden beds have been built!
This Saturday, 3/26/16, starting at 1 pm, help our garden construction team finish building our raised garden beds at Arsenal Park! This year, we will be building 20 raised beds, which will be used by families and individuals in our community to grow their own food.
WHEN: Saturday, 3/26/16, starting at 1 pm
WHERE: Arsenal Park, 46th and Indianola (the garden is just south of the picnic shelter)
WHAT: Bring yourself, your friends, and your neighbors. If you have them, please also bring a cordless drill, 7/16 socket driver, and drill bits.
Interested in gardening with us this summer? We have four beds still available! Contact kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com for an application.
We hope to see you on Saturday!
Liz, Christie, and the entire Keystone-Monon Community Garden coalition12790966_1727383137539385_8439212500620661450_n10378077_1727383127539386_6626189050709743902_n

Grow With Us in 2016! Garden Applications Now Available, Due 3/15/16

Thanks to all who were able to attend our launch meeting on Wednesday, 1/20. It was so energizing to get everyone together to talk all things green and growing! If you weren’t able to attend, there will be plenty of opportunities this spring to meet and get involved as we work to have Phase One built out by this April.

MEETING MINUTES AND UPDATED GARDEN DESIGN DOCUMENTS:

Garden inspiration!

PICK YOUR WORK GROUP: Please email kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com and let us know what work group(s) you would like to join.

  • Construction and Worker Bees (the biggest need this spring)
  • Specific Task Completion (lining up mulch or soil delivery, planning a garden border, building garden beds, etc.) – especially great if you have limited time but want to make a big impact!
  • Seed Starting Group (individuals willing to start seedlings to share with others in the garden)
  • Fundraising and Partnerships
  • Education (including lining up workshops and speakers)
  • Volunteer Management (helping to organize or be point of contact on work days, etc.)

NEXT MEETING: Seed Giveaway, Seed Starting, and Initial Construction

Stay tuned for more details – our next meeting will be mid- to late-February,

APPLY FOR YOUR GARDEN PLOT: Garden applications are due 3/15/16; download your application here

  • Our official garden launch will be in May 2016 at Arsenal Park (46th and Indianola). We will need everyone’s help to accomplish this!
  • Garden plots will be FREE this year as we work to build the garden; however, donations are always welcomed. By applying, you commit to assisting with building the garden (building raised beds, moving soil/compost, building partnerships, etc.)
  • Garden plots will be assigned on a first-come first-serve basis with those who applied in 2015 having first priority.
  • Be sure to also complete the participant waiver (one for every member of your family) and review carefully the rules and regulations.

Thank you to everyone, and stay tuned for details on our next meeting; we are amazed by the support this project has received and are thrilled that we have the funds already in place to create a neighborhood resource for years to come!