My garden is supposed to be a place of peace, a botanical wonder of fruits and vegetables destined for my table or pantry. I work hard to give all my plants the care they need. The other day, I spent three hours pruning my tomato plants and spraying with fungicide to save them from the dreaded Septoria Leaf Spot. It wasn’t work to me; it was part of the loving relationship I have with my plants. But yesterday, I realized the springtime honeymoon for us was over when I caught two varieties of insects using my garden as their sleezy hotel to mate!
Upon my cucumbers, I found half a dozen leaf-footed bugs, two sets mating. I encountered these nasty critters last year, and they wreaked havoc on my tomatoes (the few I had left after the rain killed most of my plants).
These ugly specimens suck the juice out of tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits. And their nymphs are even worse.
If that wasn’t enough, I found strange black and red bugs mating on my tomatillo plants. I had never seen those before, so I furiously searched online to identify them. I discovered they were the deadly squash borer!
These curcubit terrorists lay eggs at the base of the squash vine, and the hatched grubs bore into the stems and destroy the entire plant. Although I never saw the insects last year, a local farmer told me about them when I described the damage to my plants. I lost most of my squash to these enemies!
If I wanted to keep my garden from becoming my own personal Jurassic Park, I knew I had to do something quickly! I searched online to determine the best organic method of attack. Aside from capturing them and killing individually (as if that is going to happen), I read that neem oil can be effective against both leaf-footed bugs and squash borers.
After completing my web research, I grabbed my ever-ready spray bottle of neem oil and ran back to the garden. Like a jealous lover, I streamed (not sprayed) neem oil directly onto a mating pair of leaf-footed bugs, disrupting their tryst upon my cucumber leaves. [Segue villainous laugh here.]
I couldn’t find any other bugs, but I sprayed all the leaves and stems of my cucumber plants. I then sprayed heavily the bases of my squash, pumpkins, and melons (where the squash borer likes to lay the eggs). I will have to do this every three days – more often if it rains.
Today, I will spray my tomato fruit, to be sure they don’t get sucked on. I also read that they should be harvested before fully ripe, as riper tomatoes are more prone to be eaten.
I’ll stay vigilant, always prepared, ever ready to attack. After all, I’m a gardener.
What are you fighting in your garden?