First Aid for the Garden

Sharon's watercolors make Trowel & Error an even more charming book!

Cucumber beetles, those dastardly, yellow, ladybug-sized pests that don't stop eating a plant until it is dead, have arrived in our garden. Last year they were in such great flocks, clouds really, that control was useless. The alternate host is said to be the corn rootworm larvae but information is murky. I've tried everything with these pests including yellow sticky traps with little soil-soaked cottonballs (soaked with oils of allspice and bay rum, which is claimed to attract them to the sticky trap, see below). Last year someone suggested that I call an exterminator and spray the entire garden. I try to be ORGANIC, so no thanks to that. Someone suggested a vacuum cleaner. Imagine trying to suck up a dust storm with a vacuum cleaner!

This year we're starting early. First, the sticky traps with allspice and bay rum oils. A few pests hatch from the soil early, breed like rabbits, then lay eggs and die, which means the main bug crop is coming, coordinated with the sprouting of cucumber, squash and related plants, which they attack near the base of the stem and eat. So I'm turning to Sharon Lovejoy's amazing book, Trowel and Error and using some of her suggestions.

Sharon's books are always a delight to read. She has a charming, childlike amazement at every living thing and translates those wonders through her joyful books and art. In this book she gives a recommendation of items every gardener should have in their garden first-aid kit (or as Sharon dubbed it, "The Gardeners Apothecary" which sounds much more gentle than First-Aid).

Sharon suggests several methods of attack. One, a basil sun-tea, which you brew up in the sunshine, combine with soap (not detergent) and spray on the cucumber beetles.

On the next page of Sharon's Dispensary, you'll read how fermented salmon repels deer and chipmunks, and how flour (white but not self-rising) sprinkled on plants deters grasshoppers. Other household ingredients such as honey, rubbing alcohol, petroleum jelly, liquid soap, vinegar and many others are important to have in your arsenal for protecting your garden plants.
You'll learn why soap makes a good insect control for certain pests in the garden.
Here's a formula from Sharon's book that makes the entire rest of the book worthwhile, IF there was nothing else in it!

One of our methods we use here at Long Creek Herb Farm to help control the early cucumber beetles are sticky traps, baited with allspice and bay rum oils. The cups are covered with Tree Tanglefoot, then the oils added. (Yellow sticky traps attract and trap flea beetles from tomatoes and egg plants, too, and with the addition of the oils, the cucumber beetles think it's tasty - until they are trapped, that is).
Yellow cup, covered with Tree Tanglefoot, baited with allspice and bay rum attracts insect pests.
For some really good, inexpensive and organic methods for pest control in your garden this year, you need this book. And if you haven't found Sharon's blog yet, visit her there, as well (or on the Lowe's Garden Blog, where she also posts). You can order Trowel and Error, as well as her other books on her website.
Sharon Lovejoy's fanciful watercolors reveal her sweet spirit, and bring her books to life for adults and children, alike.

Happy gardening, and may your garden be free of cucumber beetles this season!


compost in my shoe said...

Will certainly pick up a copy. Those nasty cucumber beetles have also been a problem so far this year in our veggie garden as well. thanks for the tips.

Rhonda said...

I have Sharon's book and we've tried some of these over the years. We grew no curcubits for two years as a result. The sticky traps work the best (but I never make mine!) These little beasts wipe out SO much they drive me crazy ;-(
Hoping yours are few and far between this year!

CDfolia said...

That book looks brilliant, just the sort of tips I really love, thanks for sharing.