Weird Question...

thekingjpAugust 21, 2014

This may seem like a weird question and believe me I'm not mad about it; but I've been gardening for about six years now and I've never once had an issue with pests in the garden. I don't have the best soil and I don't even use compost. I really just use any yard waste I have left over from various things, and I also mulch with real wood chips and pine straw (which I have an abundance of). But yeah I see some pests on my vegetables from time to time but they never cause and substantial amount of damage. Not really even a little. A great problem to have but why do you think that is?

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people with garden problems seem to have louder voices than those who don't. Not a weird question at all. But don't get complacent, there are many pests yet that may cross your path, and your voice might get louder also, lol

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 5:43PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

You may have just jinxed yourself. hahaha
Just kidding. Just consider yourself very lucky! :)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:20PM
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Yeah, you jinxed yourself ;-) I didn't see any SVB, SWD, squash bugs of cucumber beetles until last year, and I had a small garden in RI from 1996 - 2006 and here at this house 2008 - 2010 before I started selling at market in 2011.

And I was *just* saying I hadn't seen any hornworms this year when the next day I found a huge moth on one of my plants (I hope I got her off before she laid eggs).

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:38PM
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Haha thanks for the advice although I'm not too worried. A wise man told me that insects attacks plants that are stressed. So if that's true, I guess you keep your plants happy and the bugs won't be able to desecrate them.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 6:18AM
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Haha thanks for the advice although I'm not too worried. A wise man told me that insects attacks plants that are stressed. So if that's true, I guess you keep your plants happy and the bugs won't be able to desecrate them.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 6:56AM
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The only pesticide I own is spinosad and some years I don't even need that. When healthy plants are grown in weather they like, they just do well, except in areas dominated by Big Ag, where natural balances among insects are way out of kilter.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:28AM
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Healthy plants are more resistant to disease, but I don't know that the appearance of pests has anything to do with it. I had squash bugs and cucumber beetles this year as soon as I set out my transplants. I'm not sure where the cucumber beetles came from (in droves!), but I read that squash bugs overwinter in the woods and we have lots of woods around. I was hoping the cold winter would have killed them off but no. At least it appeared to kill off the SWD but since we ripped out a lot of the wild blackberries last year due to them, and the squirrels got my raspberries this year, they might have had no place to go, haven't seen any in my Triple Crown blackberries.

Now, if healthy plants would just be able to defend themselves against the furry pests....

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:42AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I also think alot depends on your location. I live in the middle of farmland, on acreage with alot of woods. If certain bugs can't find food on all the chemically-treated acreage around me, they probably come here. I really think it's a variety of factors, that we're not even aware of.

And the types of winters too. Last year I had an overwhelming number of squash bugs. Then last winter was extremely cold and snowy. This year, zero! (oops..........did I just jinx myself??)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:05AM
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Yep, you did. Last winter was really cold, the previous winter wasn't too cold but lots of snow (collapsed at lot of farm buildings around here), and we still had squash bugs.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 9:26AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

We have all kinds of bugs. We don't spray and we had our best year ever in the garden.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:21AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The, that can be true some of the time but don't be led astray into thinking that healthy plants will always be resistant. In many instances, the genetic drive to either feast on or lay eggs on certain plants is very strong for some pest species.

It is important to know that healthy plants are more resilient if not resistant, if attacked by pests.....and that's important! They are also less likely to fail due to secondary problems.

My plants have not been pestered much by pests, either. Part of the reason is that I try to avoid highly susceptible varieties of plants entirely. I'm also pretty religious about doing the little things, on time, that can help prevent a major problem from moving in.

Plant selection, housekeeping tasks, and understanding and applying good horticultural practices all work together to make gardening less frustrating.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:23AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I believe that healthy plants may have more resistance, but bugs gotta eat if they are around. I find that learning the bugs habits helps to keep their numbers down. For example, I have not seen one Colorado Potato Beetle this year. Last year I killed 5 that came out of the ground to feast on some volunteer potatoes where potatoes were the year before. I also mashed one clutch of eggs then too....proactive, see....looking for them from the get-go.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 10:39AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

There are so many factors involved that we humans aren't even aware of. As for my not having squash bugs this year (knock on wood), it might be that their predators responded more favorably to whatever winter/spring/summer weather we've had. We might not ever figure it out. (And I like not being able to figure everything out all the time.........go nature!) :)

This year, though, I have an over-abundance of young green stink bugs. They're all over my beans, but don't seem to be doing alot of damage. (knock on wood again).

I love the mysteries of nature! (But I also like having a successful garden). We're just lucky we don't starve to death if our gardens fail.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 12:21PM
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I call BS on the whole "healthy plants resist pests" thing. Don't get me wrong... I believe healthy plants have a better chance of withstanding the damage. But, my tomato plants are some of the healthiest plants I've seen until every year they get nailed by a pest called the Tomato Suck Bug. And then it's a slow death that ends my season way too early. I just wish there was something bio or organic that actually controls them. I get plenty of maters... I just miss the old days when I used to be able to pick in December/Jan.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:11PM
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Ahhhh... The mysteries of nature. And you may be right Kevin. It has to be something you could do for your potatoes.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 2:36PM
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I don't get many bugs either but then everything's in huge decorative resin containers and I keep a daily eye on very plant. OK, on every leaf really ! Kevin, wasn't that freak thunder fun? I wish we'd get cloud bursts and downpours and showers and... can you tell I like rain?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:57PM
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The worst pest problems I ever had were in urban areas. After moving to the country, I have far fewer pest issues. I believe the imbalance of predator/prey populations in urban areas due to uncontrolled insecticide usage may have something to do with it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 5:01PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

KingJP, you probably have a good combination of:
- fertile soil
- good weather
- varieties well adapted to your climate
- a balanced insect population, with plenty of natural predators
- low surrounding insect pressure

Count yourself lucky, and enjoy it while you can, because chances are that it won't last forever.

There are so many factors involved in insect attacks & integrated pest management (IPM) that it is a very deep topic... I'll try to limit myself to 2 cents worth. ;-)

I'm also a proponent of the "healthy plants resist bugs"... to a point. Many insect pests find their host plants by scent, ironically often by the same chemicals the plant creates to defend itself. Solanine and cucubitacin are two of those compounds. Plants under stress can produce these chemicals in larger quantities, which will attract insect pests from greater distances, and in larger numbers. I've mentioned elsewhere that I can tell when my young squash plants are under attack by an adult squash bug, because striped cucumber beetles will swarm on those plants. I find & kill the first squash bugs that way, then kill the swarm of beetles, and the plants can generally protect themselves from that point on.

But I believe that plants can also be too healthy. Over stimulation of plant growth (such as by fertilizers, chemical or otherwise) can also increase the chemical signals which attract insects. I have had far fewer insect attacks on my squash & cucumbers since I stopped fertilizing them. I get smaller yields, but with fewer problems. The benefits of this philosophy have become more pronounced in the years since I first began using it.

Gardening organically tends to avoid some insect problems... but you can over fertilize organically too, and sometimes the surrounding pest pressure is too intense to be successful without chemical intervention. Personally, if I can't grow something organically, I generally won't grow it... but I recognize that choice is not for everyone.

Others have already mentioned a healthy, balanced ecosystem as a factor in reducing pest damage, and I concur. If you encourage natural insect predators - or at least don't discourage them by destroying their habitat - some problems will be self correcting. A healthy wasp population will control many caterpillars, and lady bugs (among others) can control aphids. Sometimes all that is required is patience, since the pest population might need to rise to a certain threshold before predators are attracted to it.

And while you want to encourage beneficial insects, you also need to reduce habitat used by insect pests. Cleaning up debris in & around the garden helps to reduce the number of pests which will over winter. Tilling in the Fall helps also, since many insects hibernate underground (such as SVB). Tilling helps to reduce disease pressure as well. I tend to disagree with no-till gardening methods for this reason, because regardless of their benefits, they can foster persistent insect problems. I am a big proponent of mulching, and use it heavily on many vegetables. But I won't mulch under squash, because that can make management of squash bugs or cucumber beetles very difficult. Likewise, if crickets or slugs were a major problem in my area (they are not) then I would be less inclined to give them mulch to hide in.

But nearly all of the methods used for pest control will only be effective if your garden is in a relatively isolated location, or if your neighbors also use similar methods. A single uncontrolled bug sanctuary in your vicinity, or the imbalance created by development or intensive farming, can cause overwhelming insect problems. And while I have focused on insects, uncontrolled animals can be a problem also. If your neighbors (garden or otherwise) have gopher problems, or have habitat for rodents, those problems will overflow into your garden as well. One of my most frustrating gardening experiences was in SoCal, where a neighboring gardener let his plot run wild, and it became gopher habitat... which persistently tunneled into my garden.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Deeby: Yeah. Broke my heart that with all that humidity and so much promise of rain, all I got was about 22 drops. :(

zeedman: You must be living in my head or next door! All that you mentioned about IPM, organics, fertilizing, gophers, everything! fit me to a tee.

I thought I had it all licked this year. Like any year, till in fall and spring... done. Compost and an occasional sprinkling of organic meals... done. Mulch... done. Planted alyssum, marigolds, zinnias, bachelor buttons, sunflowers, coreopsis, cosmos, yarrrow, cilantro, poppies, borage...done. Clean up weeds except a couple nettles that were housing aphids and ladybugs... done. So, the lone insectary in a neighborhood where everybody does nothing... done. Went to Celebrity and Roma toms because I read that this bug tends to cause more damage on indeterminate varieties... done. Grew beautiful tomato plants with tons of fruit... done. Have made 3 huge harvests... awesome! But then in the last month, the plants have had the life sucked right out of them... DONE!!! They won't last another month :(

I saw when they first started and I've been out there killing some of the adults with an electric fly swatter, but the nymphs don't fly. So, it's been an ongoing battle that I knew I would eventually lose.

Don't remind me about the gophers -- a couple of my beds abut my neighbor's fence line and they've done absolutely nothing to their yard in the 3 years since moving in.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:19PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I might enjoy using an electric flyswatter. I'd love to kill some of the many leaf footed bugs that fly all around the tomatoes. I can't see where they do any damage. Just annoying. I think the stink bugs are taking small bites out of the tomatoes. I guess Walmart would be the place to buy such a gadget?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:32PM
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I got mine at Harbor Freight. $5 Cheap, but they're So cheap, I picked up 2.

Maybe Walmart, definitely Home Depot.

Yes. It is sorta satisfying.


This post was edited by woohooman on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 22:20

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 9:58PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I needed one of those hand held bug zappers just to walk near my tree line... the deer flies were horrible this year. Bought another to carry with me in the garden; now that everything has grown, the mosquitoes are horrible. Had wasps in the play set, bumped their nest & zapped them as they came out. A couple of swipes wipes out anything flying in the vicinity. IMO, one of the better recent inventions for gardeners & those who spend a lot of time outdoors.

I guess the really weird question is how I put up with the bugs for so many years without one. Sure beats putting a butterfly net over my head. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:15AM
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