Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

My question is how to naturally control cucumber and squash beetles. I haven't planted cucurbits for a couple years because of the past devastation these little creatures did. I thought I'd be "safe.” I got off to a great start this year, but right now everything is withering and dying. They got me again. I was hand picking them but I wasn’t able to keep up with the sprawling vines. Can you recommend any strategies for the future, such as plants that may attract beneficial insects?

Thanks,
Paul Milenkowic
Pennsylvania

 

DEAR PAUL:

Here’s what our own experience and the textbooks tell us:

Cucumber beetles The little buggers overwinter in crop residue and adults emerge to lay eggs in spring, so clean up the plots good in fall (don't compost diseased plants), and rotate with a cover crop such as alfalfa. You can also try covering seedlings and early maturing plants with row covers.

Squash bugs Same as above with regard to overwintering and removing garden debris. You can also support vines off the ground with trellises and attract parasitic flies with pollen and nectar plants. Row covers will also help (but remember, depending on how long you leave them on, you might have to hand-pollinate flowers).

And here’s what our CSA farmer Aimee Good tells us (check out Quiet Creek Farm on our Farm Locator):

For cucumber beetles, we have found that row covers work great. Once they flower, we take the covers off and then we rely on Surround, which I believe is available in garden centers now. If not, you can definitely order it online. It’s a fine porcelain clay powder that you mix with water and spray on the plants. It gets in the skin of the beetles and they leave. You may have to respray after rains. This stuff works amazingly well! We love it. As for squash bugs, we have not found a great way to deal with them except by trying to keep plants healthy and through crop rotation and succession planting. They are buggers, but they seem to mostly go after stressed-out plants, and at the end of the season they are usually around for the harvest party.

NF

 

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