Okay, so being the bibliophile and researching nerd that I am, when I started this garden venture I tried to be very thorough in my studying. But the truth is, while they may have given me a great learning curve, experience is a wonderful teacher. (And perhaps painful, too?) I have lost my entire summer squash bed this year. Again. Georgia has a beautifully long (albeit hot) growing season, so I planted another round this morning.
Last year I surveyed pictures of the basic garden pests so I would be familiar if I spotted one, preferably before it destroyed the whole harvest. As I've said before, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith has been a helpful beginning gardening guide without being too overwhelming. I also love all the pictures - they came in very handy when identifying these unwelcome guests and how to combat them.
While I was disturbed at how big the tomato horn worm can get, let alone how quickly it can devour a plant, I was just plain disgusted with the squash bug fiasco of 2010. *full body shudder* They were EVERYWHERE. I have to admit, these guys really snuck up on me and I lost the battle before I even realized there was one. Fortunately, that attack was more delayed and I harvested quite a bit before calling it quits. Also, the prolific zucchino rampicante (the only vining zucchini) held up the longest against the squash bugs. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of fruit it bore. Seriously.
This year I was ready for squash bug battle. But not for the squash vine borer. I carefully surveyed every day, killing the very few squash bugs I found and crushing any eggs on the leaves. It really never got out of hand...but they were dying left and right and I couldn't figure out why. They went from healthy to wilty within 2 days. That was when I noticed the damage at the base on ALL of them. Most had hollow cores and were on their way out. I realized the very dead ones had no grub in the stem, but the slightly perkier ones did. I decided to pull everything in hopes of capturing the grubs simultaneously. :-\
So my squash bed is empty, but with the hope of a second round to come. I'm a big fan of companion planting, and opt for these beneficial relationships over traditional pest control methods. Nasturtium is reportedly a great deterrent for pests that feast on cucurbits, so I have seeded it in heavily with my squash, hoping to ward off another raid. Onions and garlic are also helpful for repelling, but I have already planted my onions in another bed.
The other veggies seem to be faring well, despite the heat. I purchased a Mister Landscaper kit at Lowe's, and it is fantastic! It's a drip irrigation system just for gardens that's very customizable. This will really help to reduce water waste, plus, it will help prevent diseases on the leaves from traditional sprinkler watering. It also won't matter what time of day I turn it on because it waters directly on the soil and won't scorch the leaves in the sun. Time to go oogle all my green tomatoes and dream of the fresh salsa to come...