Garden Under Attack

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Of course, I spent so much time worrying about the groundhog that I was little late picking up on the army of bugs attacking the garden.  I have never had significant pest damage in years past but this year is off to an awful start.  I have found Cucumber Beetles, Potato Beetles, Squash bugs, Slugs, Snails, Chipmunks, and a host of smaller things I am really not sure what they are.   The garden is under attack from pests.

The biggest thing I saw standing in the way of a diversified, bountiful garden was that damn groundhog.  I now see the biggest problem is the Cucumber Beetle.  I saw these little black and yellow bugs for the first time about 10 days ago.  Their population exploded and within days most of my youngest squash plants were decimated.  So I now know I have a problem and I have been working to remedy it.

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Problem #1 is the Cucumber Beetle.  I have already killed well over a hundred of these things and I find more every time I walk into the garden.  They lay eggs in the soil near plants and feed off of the leaves and stems of plants.  They can spread wilt and viruses through the garden as well.  Right now my summer squash and cucumbers are the plants affected.  I might have lost as many as 10 zucchini plants.  The small seedlings I started from seed and transplanted seem to be succumbing to bugs while the larger greenhouse grown plants seem to be bouncing back and putting off new growth.

I have 30 zucchini plants in the ground and I might lose a 1/3 to this beetle.  I have also lost 4 cucumber plants- I am not sure if it was 100% cucumber beetle or something else.  I didn’t see them on any cukes until I started to get them off the squash plants.

So how do I rid my garden of these bugs…

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With a hand held vacuum!  This was a first for me but after spending a day trying to hand pick all these bugs I needed some extra firepower.  I had heard about this being done before and it is mentioned in my favorite gardening book (The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Ed Smith).

This was something I tried when Em was out.  She loves this handheld vacuum and I wasn’t sure how she would react to me filling it with bugs.  This was an ask for forgiveness not permission situation.  In the end I didn’t even have to ask for forgiveness, it turns out she appreciates vacuuming in any form!

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Right now I am on a twice a day bug vacuuming mission to rid my garden of these pests.  The vacuuming also works on the Squash bug, Colorado Potato Beetle, and the really small snails.  Once I go through the garden, I open the vacuum and quickly dump the bugs into a mason jar with water and a little soap.

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Colorado Potato Beetle – they eat leaves of potato plants and they are really enjoying my Russian Banana Potato Bags right now.

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Eggs of a Colorado Potato Beetle – these get scraped off into the soapy water jar

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These little Snails can get vacuumed up – like slugs they feed on soft tissues of plants.  They seem to especially like my Kale and Chard.

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Larger Slugs are handpicked and dropped into the soapy water jar

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Squash bug- I have seen and vacuumed up about 5 of these guys from around summer squash so far.

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Now switching gears from bugs, I found a few of my green bean plants with the leaves chewed off.  Luckily it was only around 5 plants but it was enough to notice.  I do not know what animal did this.  I do not believe it was the groundhog.  I am thinking Skunk, Raccoon, Chipmunk, or Squirrel.  I have seen or had issues with all 4 of those things.


Like my former greatest garden pest the groundhog, I can use my animal trap and fencing to stop the Skunk and Raccoon.

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I have 4ft hardwire cloth fencing around the garden with recycled railroad ties at the base to keep the larger animals out.  The only spot one of these animals could get in with doing a lot of tunneling is down the steps from my front yard.  I have seen the groundhog use those steps as his personal entryway to garden feasting so I have set my trap at the base of those stairs to try to catch him.  So far unsuccessful but I also have not seen him or saw any damage from him in weeks.

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I have been seeing a lot of these guys…

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These garden pests I have seen recently.  I had no idea Chipmunks did so much damage to gardens until I started researching them.  They can get into everything and bean plants seem to fit in as something they would eat and tear the little broken open seeds away to store.  I have seen squirrels go through this fence so it is not keeping chipmunks out.

So my options as I see it are to set traps for these little guys, try to keep them out with something like deer repellent, or provide a food source away from the garden- birdseed perhaps.  I will probably just keep an eye on the situation for a few days and see if any other plants get eaten.  I am leaning towards providing them an alternate food source as I don’t really want to trap them and I am unsure of the effectiveness of repellent.

On the bright side I have been routinely seeing these wonderful creatures…

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This little toad does wonderful things for the garden.  They eat a number of garden pests including slugs.  Providing them with suitable living space is part of my plan for ridding myself of garden pests.  In the coming weeks I plan to create some “toad houses” from broken pots in each end of my garden.

Aside from toads the other thing I am looking to attract is the ladybug.  They eat cucumber beetles and a number of other garden pests.  I have planted Morning Glory seeds around my fence and I will most likely purchase some seedlings to plant as a way to attract them to my garden.

Lots of work to do to keep the garden running smoothly and I will keep you posted on the progress.  If anyone has a great ideas on keeping garden pests out, we would love to hear them!

Jeff McIntosh

About Jeff McIntosh

Jeff's family lives in his childhood home on a 1/4 acre in town lot. Despite the small space to work with, they have challenged ourselves to produce as much of our own food as possible — and cook it! They document their journey at Blogging with Apples.