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.

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Hello, Soil. Pleased to Mulch You!

This morning, we were lucky to have a visit at the garden from Kevin Allison, urban soil specialist with the Marion County Soul and Water Conversation District. Kevin is a wealth of knowledge, and we are looking forward especially to doing some fun things with cover crops this fall at the garden, using his guidance and expertise.

Yes, we get excited about things like cover crops around here. Hey, they are really cool! Cover crops = happy soil = happy plants = less work for us = more delicious veggies.

Kevin also had a really great, really simple tip for our gardeners and anyone growing their own produce: add a light layer of straw to any exposed soil in your garden. As your seeds and seedlings go in the ground, the straw keeps moisture from wicking out of your soil and has a moderating effect on soil temperature. Both of these things limit stress on your plants, make your life easier, and help your plants focus their energy on growing awesome produce for you and your family. It also adds more organic matter to your soil.

And as temperatures broke 80 degrees here in Central Indiana, conserving water and protecting plants from heat will be increasingly important!

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Kevin will be leading a FREE educational workshop, “Healthy Soil, Healthy Garden,” for us in conjunction with the seed library at Glendale Public Library on Sunday, June 11 from 3-4pm. Please come geek out over soil health with us!

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