new gardener ... vacation, bugs, help!

westminstressJune 12, 2014

Hi, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I have a brand new raised bed vegetable garden, which I am tending organically. I have three tomatoes, two cucumbers, one zucchini, four peppers, four swiss chard, lettuces, herbs and strawberries. And some questions about bugs!

I see striped cucumber beetles on the cukes and sometimes the zuke. I usually go out every morning and hunt for beetles and squash the ones I can find. Sometimes I do it in the evening too. I usually find a few on each cuke, no more than three, and occasionally one on the zuke. The plants are flowering but I'm not noticing any fruit yet.

Recently I've had trouble with leaf miners on my swiss chard (which was otherwise growing beautifully!). Over the weekend I cut off and threw away all the affected leaves I could identify, and also squashed the little white eggs on the leaves, but I've noticed more damaged leaves since then. The swiss chard is in the center of the bed which makes it a bit hard to inspect it as closely as I would like.

I'm leaving for a one-week vacation on Sunday and am a little worried about leaving these guys exposed to bugs for a whole week. Anything I can/should be doing to protect them?

I was thinking of just harvesting all the swiss chard before I leave -- thought this might deter the leafminers -- but if I cut it all down will it regrow? Anything I can do about the cucumber beetles?

Also - was wondering if I should be applying beneficial nematodes to the soil to kill any potential leafminer or cucumber beetle larvae. Any downside to doing this? Is there a brand or variety of nematode you can suggest?

Thanks for bearing with my new-b questions!

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I'm not sure what to tell you about the bugs but I can tell you your Swiss Chard will definitely grow back... don't cut it right to the dirt though, cut it off about an inch above or so.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:46PM
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The best pest deterrent for the organic gardener is the gardener himself. What you are doing (hand picking) is the best way to control the pest population unless you have an infestation. Then you need some sort of application to apply.

It would be best if you could get someone to stand in for you to kill the pests as you do - got anyone who loves to garden and you could promise some veggies to?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:39PM
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Thank you! There is a neighbor up the street who has a teenage son who likes to garden ... it's possible I could get him to stop by and hunt for bugs. I will ask.

What about the nematodes? I am unclear whether from the volume of bugs I am seeing whether I need to worry about beetle larvae in the soil? While I catch the ones I can I can only assume there are others that I have missed.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:52PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

From the volume of bugs you have described then I'd say no you don't need nematodes. The cost of them is only justified with severe infestations and that isn't the case here.

As for the care while gone, I've never been able to reconcile vacations during spring garden time. MId to late summer works better but spring is just too active in the garden for it to be ignored for any length of time.

It just doesn't work unless one is willing accept the damage that will be done while you're gone. So for the best garden results, vacations are stay-at-home types. :)

Row covers over the bed will help some but they won't prevent all the damage. Just accept that it will happen and psych yourself up to deal with what you find when you get back.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Thanks Dave, that is good advice. I guess I will harvest what I can before I go and survey the damage when I get back. These bugs are crazy! I guess I should have expected this, but somehow it came as a surprise.

Last night I saw two beetles on my strawberry blossoms (squashed them) and discovered my parsley stems literally covered with tiny black aphids. Also a couple of green caterpillars on the parsley, but they didn't look like the black swallowtail caterpillars (which I would have welcomed). I picked them off but didn't squash them as I wasn't sure what they were. And no idea either what kind of beetles were on the strawerries. But they will be back, I am sure.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:34AM
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