New Squash Bug Tips

We’ve talked about squash bugs in the past. We talked about finding them at the base of any squash family plants including zucchini, acorn delicata, butternut, cucumbers, pumpkins and spaghetti squash. Even luffa is considered a squash. Crushing them or dropping them into a cup of soapy water is the best method to get rid of them. They are a hard shelled insect so most insecticides don’t work. And we wouldn’t use any chemicals on our plants anyway.

This year I made it my mission to eliminate the squash bugs before they took over the garden. Since I have been working from home due to Covid, I was excited to spend lunch time working on garden pests. Interestingly enough I rarely saw the squash bugs. Instead I was stripping eggs off leaves and crushing them. It was helpful but with the number of plants I have it was taking a long time! Inevitably I’d find eggs on most plants the next day.

One day I was too busy with work to get into the garden at lunch so I decided to put my headlamp on and go hunting in the late evening. I was astounded to find a ton of squash bugs the darker it got. Apparently they spent their days napping under the weed block and then came out at night to breed. This was my aha moment! That same night I came back around to first plant I checked when there was still sunshine. Sure enough, while I had not seen the squash bugs the first time around, they were now out and having a little fun! A lesson that reminded me of “Which came first, the Squash Bug or the Eggs!”

From then on I caught those bugs BEFORE they started laying eggs and eliminated the source. Early mornings and sundown were the magic times. Taking my time looking for not only the bugs, but also looking for eggs on the bottoms of all the leaves. We had a very successful year and hope to get started even earlier next year!

Tomatoes and Basil

Tomatoes and Basil. They sound like they were meant for each other. In your spaghetti sauce, in your caprese salad and now in your garden!

Tomatoes are so prone to pests and disease. Aphids and a variety of caterpillars and beetles can take out a crop. There is a technique called companion planting in which certain plants that are known to deter certain pests can be used to reduce infestation. For tomatoes, Basil is just one of those companion plants.

This is the first year we tried companion planting by alternating tomato plants with basil plants. It really worked. We had far fewer pests problems. The issue we did have was the basil grew so fast it shaded some of the tomato plants which resulted in fewer tomatoes. Luckily we still grew enough to meet demand.

Next year we will plant the tomatoes farther apart and give them a head start before we plant the basil. We may also plant garlic and/or onion in a few spots as they are also considered great companion plants for tomatoes as well. Stay tuned because we may try companion with a few other sensitive plants.

Trellising Cucumbers

We’ve always grown cucumbers on the ground since the beginning of the farm. We struggled climbing through vines that overflowed between the rows. When we tried to grow fewer plants, the heat reflecting from the row cover was too much for the plant and as a result had far fewer cucumbers.

This year we are going to try to grow UP. Doing some research online we found that using a trellis for cucumbers saves space, stops us from having to tip toe around the plants and reduces the heat since they will not be sitting directly on the black cover. Another bonus is since the cucumber will be hanging, we shouldn’t see as many arched or bent cucumbers due to the fruit running into an obstacle.

Part of the trellising process is to prune the plant to create a LEAD. How it works is like a tree, you want a firm steady trunk. Cucumbers grow more like a zig zag. Looking at the strongest center vine on each plant, trim off the small branches trying to come out from the sides until you have a wide open base. That will give the cucumber plants a better start.

In the end we didn’t get as many cucumbers as last year since it was a very hot summer, but the quality of the ones we grew were good and we grew enough to keep up with demand. We will try growing this way again next year. We will make use of the large wall we created for the luffa because we know we will have enough luffa from this year to last another year.

See how the actual cucumber plants look after getting their primary pruning on the farm’s YouTube Channel: