Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

There are so many reasons to love gardening. Most of mine have to do with the tasty reward at the end of all the hard labor. Another thing to love is the garden is a constant puzzle to figure out. There is always a challenge. Always something new to learn. 

The past few years learning about bugs has been my challenge. We all know that bugs can destroy your precious garden work in a matter of a few days. If you don't want to just mass blast your garden with chemicals, controlling different bugs requires different challenges. Controlling caterpillars on cole crops is best done with light row covers. Forgetting to put them on (ahem) causes much frustration, and cabbage with lots of holes. Hornworms are easily controlled by handpicking unless you see this:

Let those parasitic wasps do their work when you see a hornworm covered with larvae. 

We battle Japanese beetles every year. Every year I fight the losing battle by hand picking to try to control them. This year I learned that guineas love beetles. Guess what will be the next fowl to come to live on our farm? 

They may be ugly. They may be loud, but if they eat beetles, they are here!

The battle of early 2013 is aphids. We have a few aphids every year. I normally just hand pick them, but this year there was a huge infestation on the tomatoes. At first I saw a few lady bugs. Lady bugs are good. Then I saw lots of these. 

These, which I've seen referred to as garden gold, are lady bug eggs. Now, there are significantly more lady bugs and less aphids. I also bought some insecticidal soap, but have been a little leery of using it because of the heat. I've also been told that those same wasps who do a number on the hornworms are great for aphids too. Where are they when I need them?! For now, I'm monitoring the situation. Hoping the ladybugs prevail, and standing ready with insecticidal soap if needed. 

But the big lesson of the year, so far, is that knowing the good bugs is not good enough. I nearly wiped out those lady bug eggs. I need to know what they look like through their life cycle. Lesson learned. Now to learn the life cycles of the other good garden bugs. Lacewings, praying mantis, parasitic wasps, are there others I need to learn?

Now, to figure out how to control those blasted vine borers! 

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