4 Harmful Insects You Must Get to Know to Protect Your Home Vegetable Garden

In our last article and podcast we talked about insects that were beneficial to your home vegetable garden. Unfortunately not all insects are good, in fact most are bad. They will eat your vegetables, destroy the stems, tear up the leaves and even worse, bore themselves into the plants you are trying to grow.

You can arm yourself to protect your garden if you can identify them and come up with a remedy before the harmful insect problem turns into a complete infestation. Here are four common harmful insects that you will encounter in most home vegetable gardens.

Aphids
These bugs are the most common and with good reason. They eat everything! Nothing is immune from an aphid. They come in a wide range of colors and sizes but are in large part all shaped the same, sort of pear-like. Aphids will form their population on one plant and when that population increases in size to the point where the plant is overwhelmed with them, some of the aphids will form wings and fly off to the next plant where the process starts over. As you can see if you do not take the necessary steps early enough, you could have an infestation. Use yellow sticky traps and neem oil for immediate solutions, but if you want a long term solution start attracting ladybugs. They eat aphids!

Corn Earwoms
They will affect mostly your corn and tomato crops as well as a few other vegetables, but they can do a tremendous amount of damage. They are about an inch long and are usually green to brown in color with dark stripes. They feed on stems, leaves and the fruit of your plants. They don’t spread as fast as aphids, but can do equal damage. Immediate solutions include a Btb spray, and for long term get some Trichogramma wasps in your garden as soon as possible.

Cucumber Beetles
Cucumbers, melons and squash are three of the many plants that these pesky critters will go after if you do not take care of them early enough. They are only about a ΒΌ” in size, but they can wreak a tremendous amount of havoc on your home vegetable garden. They have yellow wings with black spots or stripes and their larvae are whitish grubs. An immediate solution is to spray with neem oil soap, however, if you want to get rid of them, you need to start by destroying the larvae in the ground. Milky spores and beneficial nematodes will do the trick. Visit your local garden center or co-op for more information.

White Flies
Tomatoes and cucumbers are the two most popular items that people grow in the home vegetable garden and therefore white flies are well known to many. They love to feed on these two plants, among others, so if you aren’t careful, you will become a victim to them. They are very tiny and as their name implies, they are white in color. Using yellow sticky traps will help immediately as will a garlic spray, insecticidal soap and neem oil. For long term prevention, attract ladybugs and lacewings to your garden. They will feed on the white fly.

To better protect your fruits and vegetables in your garden from harmful insects, it is best to know what they are so you can plan out your attack and prevention. These are just 4 of the many you will encounter. Take the necessary steps to start protecting your harvest today.

Three Safe Methods to Get Rid of Ants in Your Home Vegetable Garden

I recently watched the Disney Pixar movie ‘A Bugs Life’ with my son and if you haven’t seen it yet (yes I know it has been out on video for a while now), it is very entertaining. In the movie a colony of ants has to work to gather food for grasshoppers who act as bullies over the ants. During the course of the movie the head grasshopper says, “if the ants ever realize there are more of them then there are of us, the days will be gone when they stop collecting food for us.” I won’t give away the rest of the movie, but just know for now that there are more of them, ants, then there are of us.

Ants may not be a common problem to many home vegetable gardeners, but it can be to some, and if not taken care of quickly the problem can escalate into a full garden infestation. With a little research I came up with three safe answers to this problem.

War
Although not my first immediate choice, but apparently to some members in the group and confirmed by some research I did, many ant species will actually go to war with other ant colonies. The suggestion is to pick up some ants from one colony and place them on top of the other colony and vice-versa. The ants will go to war with one another killing each other off. This however is not a full proof method of actually getting rid of the ants as the “winner” will still be left behind and you will still need use on of the other two methods mentioned in a few moments.

Grits and Cornmeal
Feed the ants! What? You say! Apparently grits and cornmeal (I have used cornmeal in the past), when consumed by ants will make the ants swell because they can not digest the food even though they eat it anyway. This causes the ants to die. Both are good for the environment and safe for your garden, just not so safe for the ants.

Borax
A quick Google search on “borax to kill ants” will give you plenty of recipes to use borax (boric acid) to kill ants. The ants take this stuff back to the colony and eventually will wipe the colony out. I read one recipe where you combine borax and cat food to attract the ants even better. I haven’t tried this method myself but from what I read it worked great and in a few weeks all of the ants were gone.

The best part of these methods is that they are safe for your home vegetable garden. Because you are sprinkling the items on the colonies themselves or close to them, the ants do the work of bringing the deadly items back to their colonies themselves and keep it away from your plants.

If you are having an issue with ants in your home vegetable garden, give these methods a try. Your ant worries will be gone in no time.

Secure Those Cucumbers in Your Home Vegetable Garden With These Four Methods

Cucumbers are the second most popular vegetable grown in a home vegetable garden according the United States Department of Agriculture. Who can argue? They are a great vegetable to eat and easy to grow. They have but one drawback. They require a lot of space if you just let them grow and vine out (indeterminate varieties of course).

You are in luck though. Cucumbers will grow wherever you direct them and if you are limited with horizontal space that means you can send them vertically. Here are four methods you can use to make sure you have plenty of room for all of your other vegetables.

Tomato Cage
Most people do not think about using a tomato cage for their cucumbers. You can pick up tomato cages at your local home or garden center for just a dollar or two. These work very nicely because not only can you get them to grow up, but by directing their growth you get them to grow in a spiral upwards direction. The cucumbers will latch onto the cage and then you simply direct the vine to go where you want it to grow.

Pole/Stake with Fencing
Another good method is to take a garden stake or pole at least fifty inches in height and wrap it with some fencing. Poultry fencing seems to work the best. As the cucumbers grow they will latch onto the fencing and continue to grow upwards. You may have to do some directional help here but not as much as with the tomato cage. This method will require taller poles for the cucumbers, but is a great space saver.

Trellis
This, the trellis method, is probably the most popular of the four. You can build or buy a variety of different trellises for your garden. Do a Google search on the word “trellis” and you will see what I mean. Just put a trellis near your cucumber plants and they will do the rest. Depending on which type of trellis you go with, the amount of work you put into it could be as little as none to as much as the tomato cage. More than likely it will be somewhere in between the two.

String and Poles
Finally, this is the method my dad used all the time and that was to have two poles at each end of the garden row that the cucumbers were in and then tie multiple rows of string to each end of the pole making sure each row was very tight. As the cucumbers would grow he would direct them back and forth and up the rows of string. It worked very well for him and kept the row of cucumbers in their own rows.

These 4 methods are nothing new and have been around quite awhile. If you are new to home vegetable gardening I would recommend experimenting with all 4 of them to find the one that best fits your needs and growing style. You will be amazed just how much room you can save by growing vertically.