Vermont Garden Journal: Big Bad Beetles

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What do wool, the color yellow, and kaolin clay have in common? Find out on The Vermont Garden Journal when Charlie tackles tiny garden invaders.

I’m Charlie Nardozzi and here are some thoughts from my garden journal. The beetles have arrived. This is a different fab 4 than who I grew up with. Flea, cucumber, potato, and asparagus are all beetles that love your veggies. Here are some organic controls.

If you have the time, handpicking all these adult beetles in the morning while they’re sluggish helps reduce the population. If you can’t do it, pay the neighborhood kids. It’s a great summer job! The larval forms of beetles are the easiest to control. The red asparagus beetle lays eggs that hatch into fat, gray worms that munch on asparagus ferns. They can quickly defoliate your plant and reduce production. Spray spinosad or pyrethrum to control the larvae.

Crush the clusters of orange Colorado potato beetle eggs on the undersides of leaves and spray Bt San Diego on the red, soft bodied larvae. Don’t worry about killing them all, potatoes can lose up to 1/3rd of their leaves and still produce good crop.

Flea beetles are small, black, and yes, they hop like fleas! They chew holes in the leaves of chard, spinach, beets, and young veggie transplants. Cover your plants with a floating row cover to protect them and spray spinosad or kaolin clay on the leaves.

Cucumber beetles are perhaps the toughest to control. Not only do they feed on the leaves and flowers, they spread bacterial wilt disease, too. Hang yellow sticky traps above young plants to catch the adults. They’re attracted to the color yellow. Cover plants with a floating row cover until they flower, periodically checking under the cover for any beetles that slipped in. Spray kaolin clay or pyrethrum on plants to kill the adults.

Remember to always use sprays as a last resort and clean up old plants well in fall to reduce the pest numbers. Check the Vermont Garden Journal Facebook for more information on organic sprays.

Now for this week’s tip, got slugs? Place raw sheep’s wool around plants to ward them off. Slugs don’t like to cross the wool to reach the plant.

Next week on my garden journal, I’ll be talking about the woodchucks. For now, I’ll be seeing you in the garden!



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