Monday, August 27, 2012

Devastation Leads to Depression. . .

I know I've been slacking hard core with this blog, and I apologize for the lack of information.  It's just that my garden has been very depressing these last few weeks.

Stink bug damage
Stink bug damage
Stink bug damage
Stink bugs on tomato
When I go out to harvest my tomatoes, or what's left of them, I want to cry.  The cucumbers and squash I expect to die off about now.  Although the squash seem to die and come back, die and come back, I never expected to be harvesting from them as late as now.  The cucumbers gave me more than enough to make several batches of bread and butter and dill pickles.  The green beans have also run their course, which is upsetting, but I got plenty blanched and in the freezer.

But my tomatoes should be in full swing still.  Yet the fruits are rotting, and the plants are dying.  All because of one bug.  Or rather, hundreds of one species.  Stink bugs!  I hated them being in my house, but I loathe them in my garden.  They are devastating my tomato crops.  Their bite sending toxins into the fruits and plants that start as a bruise, then rots the affected plant from the inside, out.  And my poor plants are literally crawling with them.

Young squash bugs on underside of yellow squash leaf

The other problem in my garden revolves around my squash.  The summer squash, as I said, have been cycling through a die-and-revive sort of pattern, giving me plenty of fruit to harvest along the way.  I expected them to be gone  by now, but they are promising at least one more harvest. . . if I can solve the problem.  The winter squash and watermelons have me worried.  The pest infesting them can be just as devastating to my pumpkins, watermelons, and butternut squash as those bleeping stink bugs are to the tomatoes.  Squash bugs!  

These pests did a fair job of destroying my pumpkins last year.  This year I noticed them much earlier.  These little suckers eat the fruits and vines, causing the plants to die a slow death.  All of the Cucurbita plants are affected by the squash bugs, along with the watermelons and gourds.

Young squash bugs
To my great chagrin, I sprayed the entire garden with Sevin.  Sevin is a Carbaryl pesticide that is effective on a number of pests.  As it was the only thing listed for both stink and squash bugs, I went with it.  It also comes highly recommended by my neighbor, whose advice I take very seriously.  I never want to add chemicals to my garden, but there are times when you just have to squeeze the trigger.  Unfortunately, I think I may have waited too long.  The bugs are far from gone.

Through all of this, I hold fast to the hope that my butternut squash and pumpkins will survive.  Once my gourds are harvested, I will pull the plastic up and see if I can treat the ground so the bugs can't overwinter in my garden.  I believe that is why they are so bad this year, because I left the plastic down all winter.  Of course it didn't help that the last winter was weak, and the ground never froze.  But the plastic must come up.  My research so far definitely shows that.  Those little buggers can survive the winter hiding in mulch. . . and under plastic.
Squash bug damage to butternut (large yellow leaves)
and watermelon (dying vines)

I'd rather have hornworms.

And the gourds, while looking a bit sickly, will survive with minimal damage.  They are a hard-shelled variety, and seem to be very pest resistant.
Yellowing of gourd plants due to squash bugs

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