It’s been a few weeks since we had a chance to write something for this blog. With more produce coming online, and harvesting that produce, not to mention the excessive heat, (can you believe up until Saturday we had over two weeks of 95+ degrees every day?) it’s hard to find time. But, it’s important for us to showcase what we are doing. For today, we would like to focus on pest control. It you are like us, you probably have seen Japanese Beetles, furry caterpillars, slugs, and maybe a hornworm or two. These pests can devastate a garden and make ones mind just spin. In some cases, you can go inside at night seeing everything is fine and wake up to a half eaten pepper plant or green bean sprout (true story). We use an array of products that are organically approved and each has been helpful in pest control.
Neem oil comes from a bark from a tree in Asia. It’s purpose is to repel certain insects as it does not kill. We typically use need on our green beans as Japanese Beetles have taken a liking to these over the past two years. Last year, and we must have started spraying earlier, we seemed to control these pests better. This year it’s been a lot more difficult and the leaves at the top of our trellis look like lace. Neem should be applied in the early A.M. or before dusk as it will also kill bees. We mix four tablespoons with water in a two gallon sprayer, shake well, and spray the leave top to bottom and try to get coverage on front and back. Neem is an oil so you have to be careful not to apply it too often or the leaves can be coated too heavy and not do their job in the growing process. So be careful.
B.t., another organically appoved product, is harvested from the soil. We traditionally us B.t. for tomato hornworms. I will will mix three tablespoons of B.t. to two gallons of water, shake well, and spray each tomato plant about every 7 days. If you have a dedicated sprayer that you use, we always wash the sprayer out when we go from one product to the next. Fill it and let the water run through the spray hose too. We try top be proactive and start spraying about June 1st, but sometimes sooner if you see evidence of fruit with holes. B.t. works great with tomatoes, peppers (bell), and okra. (Dipple Dust is a powder form of B.t. and works well too. We have only used it once though as the liquid mixture is just easier.) You can use B.t. as well for squash bugs and should be very proactive in doing so if you want your crop to extend. We know some farmers who said their entire squash and zucchini crop is done due to these pests. So be diligent.
New this year to the slate of pest control products is called Pyganic. It’s a bit more expensive. Pyganic is also a broad spectrum product, which means it kills on contacts a laundry list of pests. We have been using it to control those Japanese Beetles. We are just inundated with the Beetles, so our efforts are more reactionary now. Next year, we plan to add Milky Spore (to kill the initial grub phase of the Beetles) into the soil where we will do beans. Pyganic is good as you can also add B.t. in the same solution for one less step. It’s also good to rotate between Pyganic and B.t. for squash bug control as the bugs will be less likely to build up a resistance to it. We add three tablespoons opf B.t. to two gallons of water in a prayer and shake well. You will want to get a nice covering as well and make sure you hit the pests you want to rid. Just be careful of the bees. Most box stores are carrying Neem and B.t. now. You can also get it at most garden supply stores or online at Amazon. Both are about $8.00 for a small container. Pyganic is a bit more difficult to order as you can get it Online through garden supply stores. The cheapest I have seen it is in a pint size for $45.00.
A lot of the success we have is catching this fast or being proactive. For example, we planted a hedge of marigolds all around our squash this year, which seems to have helped deter squash bugs, which have decimated our squash by this time in previous years. Also, when picking squash every day, we carefully examine the leaves for squash bug eggs and then remove those. Given the farm is a full-time job, but secondary to another full-time job, just try to balance the time and be diligent. If you put as much work into farming as we do, then you want to reap your rewards. Pest control is vital to a healthy garden and good yield.