Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Battle of the Bugs

Welcome to monsoon season in Ohio!  Seriously, I've rarely seen as much rain in one season as we've had this year.  We've been walking a very narrow line between happy garden plants and a total washout.  So far, the garden is plenty happy with the wet, but we could certainly use a few sunny days to encourage those tomatoes along.

It's so wet that half of our obsessive-compulsive neighborhood has their yards half-mowed at all times:  you just go outside when you are able and mow until it starts raining, then come inside.  It kind of gives the neighborhood the overall look of lawn mange.

Along with the wet has come a bumper crop of bugs.  Now, I thought I had outsmarted the bugs this year.  I spent all of the past couple of years battling cucumber beetles, but this year I moved my cucumber crop and installed yellow color-bait traps early on.  So far (knock on muddy soil), I've only had a few cucumber beetles munch my plants.

What I "lack" in cucumber beetles I make up for in Japanese beetles, unfortunately.  Thee copper-colored menaces, also called "June bugs" in some areas, will eat the daylights out of your bean plants.  While I've always gotten a few destructive pests, this year has been nearly out of control.

So, last week, I took action.  I bought two scent-bait traps to hang in the garden, and I rapidly caught several hundred (several hundred!) bugs, but there were more to eradicate.  Since I don't want to use pesticide on my garden plants, I tried spraying with organic insecticidal soap and with garlic oil, but to no avail.  Mostly, it just rains too often for those solutions to be effective.

Therefore, I've been battling the bugs by hand.  I take a small container full of water and Dawn dish soap out to the garden, and I knock the bugs from the leaves into the soapy water.  This kills them pretty quickly.  I have found that it's better to do this in the evening, when the bugs are more sedentary and less likely to fly away.  Then, you can pretty much just shake the leave lightly and watch the bugs fall into the soapy water.

The soap helps kill the bugs, but it isn't meant for gardens, so I am not dumping it in compost.  Instead, I'm taking the opportunity to flush the bugs, with the knowledge that Dawn is also a good way to clean your pipes.  The grease-cutting action is very helpful in making your toilets run smoothly; I learned long ago that a couple of tablespoons of Dawn and some patience will unclog a toilet without a plunger or a plumber.

So, that's the romantic life of a micro-farmer these days, with me out on the hunt to rid the garden of the little copper menaces.  Who could have ever dreamed life would be this good?  (Snicker!)
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