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And Squirrels even get a mention....

I was going to just make a comment on one of the comments to yesterday's diary entry, but it got so long I figured I should be better served to make it a diary entry of its own

Stink bugs, vine borer beetles, caterpillars, Oh My!  All of those nasties can make your gardening life less than pleasant; they are really terrible to have get into your crops.

I use four main approaches and several other minor ones.  The first two are simple, insecticidal soap and light-weight horticultural oil (also known as orchard oil) sprayed on the vines.  The soap will kill the caterpillars - and any bug eggs! - which it gets on.  The ones already inside the vine are not going to get hit with that (being already protected inside), so I follow up the soap spray with a goodly dousing of horticultural oil spray.  The oil spray will fill up the hole they bored into, to begin with, and cover any other entry spots, cutting off oxygen to the insect inside the vine.  The caterpillar will either die of asphyxiation inside the vine, or else bore its way out to get some air, where they become susceptible to being eaten by a bird or other insect, or getting the soap spray or more oil on them (killing them as well), or being exposed to one or more of the other two bullets in the anti-critter-pillar gun.

(See those two, and more, just below the "Great Orange Cheesy-Poof of Death!")

For the soap and the oil sprays, just follow the label directions for both products.

They're not dangerous to humans or pets, but will both kill beneficial insects just as well as the baddies eating your vegetables.  So don't spray indiscriminately, and apply carefully to avoid spraying things you need to keep around.  (Such as honey bees!!)

Then comes B T,  bacillus thuringensis, which is sold some times as  Dipel, Thuricide and Green Step, Japonicide, or several other brand names.  It is a bacterial infection in beetles, causes them to stop eating and die.  It WILL kill Ladybird Beetles (Ladybugs) if as larvae they eat an infected insect, so you need to be careful where you apply it.  But mainly, this form of BT ONLY kills caterpillars that munch on the sprayed plant part; it affects nothing else. So spray the vines once a week and there will be BTK on the stem when that nasty, hungry caterpillar comes out and starts munching.

It is completely NON-TOXIC to people and pets and almost all other wildlife.  If you drank a bunch of it, you'd probably vomit it up because it is rather a nasty mixture, but it won't really hurt you.  That said, DON'T DRINK THIS STUFF, OK?  It's nasty even if it won't kill you.  Blecch!!

The other thing that is good for almost ANY insect infestation is Diatomaceous Earth, or simply "D E" for short.  DON'T be fooled into getting some sort of tiny bag of the stuff with all kinds of advertising on it, for a fancy price.  Just get the filter-grade stuff, it is used in swimming pools and the like as a filtration medium,  and you get about a ~25-kilo (50-pound or so) sack of it, for not a lot of wonga at the check-out stand.  

Apply it with a 'puffer' style air pumper dingus, you can get a plastic cheapy one from about any home and garden or hardware store for a few dollars, should last several years with care.  Spread the D E dust anywhere you see insects that you don't want; squash vines, corn ears where they are forming, bean vines and bushes, grape vines, the soil around plants where there are bad bugs, just about anywhere.

D E is the shells of microscopic water critters, kind of like miniature shrimp, and their empty shells are sharp, made of silica - same thing as sand - which scratches and cuts the outer shells of insects that are exposed to it.

If you are using your thinker, this should tell you something about this substance, by the way, safety-wise.  


Wear a mask when you're dusting it around, to be on the safe side.  Probably won't really do you much harm in low exposures, but I suspect it's cumulative, and I am quite sure you don't want to make a habit of huffing diatoms into your lungs.  Coughing up blood sounds so attractive, and that's likely what you would eventually wind up doing, so DON'T.  Just don't, OK?  Be on the safe side.  Lungs and eyes and D E shouldn't mix.  (Yes, EYES.  Sharp.  Scratchy.  In Eyeballs??  NOT GOOD.  Avoid.)

You might wonder how this can be effective, since the main effect is just some small scratches in the shells of bugs.  It is, though, quite.  Insects are sort of fragile a lot of ways, and one of those weak spots is in their internal moisture balance.

If they dry out just a couple of percent, they are really weakened.  Another couple of percent of water lost, and they die.  Those itsy-bitty scratches in their water-conserving chitin (their "exoskeleton" - the hard shells they use on their outsides to maintain shape and support their innards, instead of internal bones) allow them to lose a lot of water in a hurry, which causes them to almost immediately stop eating and then shortly, die.

In my opinion, your absolute BEST --defense-- against vine borers, stink bugs, and squash bugs, is NOT to get them to begin with.  Don't plant squash or pumpkins in the same space year after year.  The adults lay their last batch of eggs before winter not on vines but in the ground, right where they found food before.  If you put squash back there again next year, when those eggs hatch they will be sitting right underneath all the food they need to grow and keep the cycle of infestation going.

NOT doing this is known as "crop rotation" and it applies to a LOT of things, including plant nutrients, crop disease organisms, as well as bugs.  Lots of advantages to doing it correctly.

The LOWEST-TECH, and really the absolutely most-effective method is to wipe the bug eggs off of the plants as you see 'em, and actively LOOK for them at least once and preferably  a couple of times per day.  Use a soft, smooth cotton or other absorbent kind of cloth to wipe the vines, knocking the eggs loose.  I suspect a paper towel would work as well, but I just tend to use a bandanna or some kind of rag which was handy at that time.

If you moisten the cloth in one of the B T products, or insecticidal soap, it will work even better.  the residue of the soap in particular can wind up on the adults as they try to lay eggs, and -might- even kill a few of them, too.  Any eggs that are in the ground, or which are missed, when they hatch and the caterpillar is trying to get into the vine will be exposed to the soap or B T organisms (by eating it), and that will eliminate them.

This works phenomenally well - when all you have are a few plants.  When you're into actual acreage and large numbers of plants (like me), well, it can be not so effective.  You just can't keep up some times, and they get in while you're back is turned dealing with corn ear worms or something.

So one of the best things to do is to expand your anti-bug army; add to the number of eyes on the problem.

GET YOU SOME BLOODY BEAKIN' SQUAWKIN' -BIRDS- ON THE JOB!!  (Either of the feathered sort, or the teenage yappers, but the birds are probably the better bargain, work cheaper, and won't drive you crazy with their incessant chatter quite so quickly as a flock of teenage female humans. (AKA  "Birds" in the vernacular.)

Attract them, about any way you can think of to do it.  Plant bird-attracting plants, for food or for living quarters.  Make and place nest boxes and place materials out in the early Spring which bug-eating birds like to use for their nests.

My wife, being heavy into the quilting "counter-culture" saves small fabric scraps and those wads of thread you get when the sewing machine goes haywire.  She also saves the cotton batting scraps from the trimmed-off edges of the cloth "sandwich" when she pins the top and bottom and batting together prior to sewing the quilting part.  (She does both machine and hand quilting, for those who care.)

Another HUGE nest material addition, which we provide in literal baskets-full  - and if you look into nests anywhere within about a kilometer of our place you will likely find some of this - is the brushed-out DOG HAIR from our Great Pyrenees (our boy Merlin) and our Newfoundland (the incomparable, smooshy, baby-girl Chloe).  (She is a very BIG baby girl, our Chlo-bird, and she's almost nine, which is getting quite old for a Newfie so she isn't a baby to anyone but us.)

We have had both of these beasties from puppyhood, and they have been shedding about a Pekingese-worth of fur a day, every day of the world, every Spring, every Fall, and MUCH more of the same when they blow their coats for the change of season.

It's a never-ending battle with the fur.  (And the mud when it's raining outside; they bring HUGE amounts in, and we keep a mop and a broom handy constantly.  It's quite the challenge, having dogs that out-mass me, in oh so very many ways.  But they're worth the mess and the trouble.  Nothing like a big, sloppy, 'slurpy-kiss' delivered from a bouncing baby Newfie puppy.)  When I brush them, which is at least daily and more often twice a day, I take the fur off of the brush and put it in a mesh onion sack, then hang the sack off of the eaves over our back deck.  The birds know this stuff is there, it has been in constant supply for years now, and they come by the dozens to snatch wads of it to line their nests.

When they're blowing coat at the multiple-Pekingese-per-hour rate, I take the whole heap (In bushel baskets-full, and I am NOT joking or exaggerating in the slightest.) out to the compost heap and pile it on there.  Any the birds don't get, or which the wind doesn't send into the trees, is soon just nitrogen in the compost.

Very high in nitrogen, hair, and I even know people who sweep up at a barber's twice or three times a week, just so they can get the hair for their compost pile.

So, promote and protect birds.  Get some chickens and make yourself a chicken-tractor portable coop.  Set chicken-wire over PVC pipe withies/hoops to make tunnel runs for chickens, or quail, or whatever sort of domesticated fowl, to run in.  Caveat: ONLY put the birds on rows of fully-grown plants, or raw, unplanted earth.  Shoots and young sprouts, even small plants, will be snipped off and eaten by chickens and geese in particular, so don't put the birds on freshly-sprouted beds.

And there are always poisons, for the intractable cases.  I do NOT recommend them for anything less than "biblical" hordes of bugs, and even then you're likely to be able to get control with just the oil and soap.

For squash vine borers specifically, don't even BOTHER with poison pesticides once the little nasties are inside there eating.  They are shielded from the stuff by the vine in which they are eating.  Insecticides applied after the borer is inside the stem are just not going to be effective so don't waste your money, and don't poison yourself, your neighbours (, or your grand-children).

Instead, take an Exacto knife or scalpel, or other VERY sharp, thin blade and slit the infested stems lengthwise, expose the little moth larva (Momma Moth is generally either red-bellied and looks a little like a wasp, or metallic green in colour; actually they are almost pretty insects...  And I hate them passionately and kill all the adults I can find.) and destroy the borer.  Stabbity-stab, cuttity-cut.  No more critter-pillar.

If the plant hasn't already pretty much just died from all of the tunneling, cover the slitted and damaged but now bug-free portion of the stem with soil. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy,  to encourage new roots to grow. The vine may recover.   Or it might die, but if it does recover you will get probably 85% of the crop you would have otherwise from it.  Worth trying, anyway.

Another thing to consider, the eggs of most of these pests are laid either on the squash vine itself, or the late-season hatching will put its eggs directly in the ground to over-winter and wait to ambush next year's crop.  They find their initial, Spring, egg depositing places by either finding places where the vines are just starting to grow, or where they were grown previously, as evidenced (to the moth looking for a place to put some eggs) by old squash leaves, rotted fruit residues, and vines on or partially buried in the ground.


They lay eggs where old vines were.  SO DON'T LET THEM FIND ANY OLD VINES!  Once the squash, cucurbits, melons, and so forth are finished for the year, PULL UP all the vines, rake up all the leaves and rotten excess fruits, and move them to the compost heap FURTHEST from where you will be growing next year's crop of those vegetables.

(Hint Number Two:  Next year's squash bed - WHICH IS NOT THE SAME SPOT AS THIS YEAR'S CROP!  The last batch of them lays eggs in the soil to wait over the winter for the next year's crop.  STARVE 'EM TO DEATH!  The newly-hatched caterpillars don't have the strength or the food reserves to crawl more than a couple of meters looking for a squash vine to bore into.  If there aren't any vines to get into, they starve to death, and this breaks the cycle of infestation.)

You might consider burning the leaves and vines, and composting any squishy squash that have gone beyond being people-food, spreading the ashes on the ground, for the potassium and other nutrients.  Be sure, if you put some in the compost heap, that the compost is 'cooking' hot enough to kill the eggs.  Steaming hot is a good sign.  Read a good book or two on composting, it's a skill that every gardener ought to develop.

Ashes are good for the soil, in moderation.  Since we heat at least half of our 125-plus-year-old mausoleum of a house with wood, I have a ready supply of wood ashes to use as soil amendments and slug killer, as well.  But burning the garden plant trimmings is a good way to eliminate a lot of insects, adults as well as eggs and larvae, and also bacterial and fungal disease organisms.

Another way to break the egg-larva-pupa-adult-egg circle, and which works for other insect pests as well as vine borers and stink bugs, is to cover the plants, from the earliest seedling stage, with floating row cover cloth - "Reemay" is one brand, there are zillions of others.

Get the absolute BEST quality row cover you can afford and place it very carefully.  If you exercise care in handling it ( like not trying to get it on there alone on a windy day, that kind of thing), you can use it again next year, and maybe for three or four more years after that.

Covering it like that will keep the adult moth from being able to get to the vine to lay the eggs, and poof!  No more vine borers.

OK, other methods...

Beneficial insect-egg-eating nematodes.  You can get these from organic pest control places on the web or if you ae really lucky, locally.  When you see one of the little holes the caterpillar makes when it bores its way into your Hubbard squash vine (or whatever), mix up a small amount of the live nematode product and using a "garden syringe" (should be able to get one from the same place you get the nematodes), inject the vine with nematodes.  The nice, moist insides of the vine will keep the nematodes alive while they are searching for dinner - the nasty little caterpillar which is noshing your squash vine.  BURY the hole and the injection site, and keep it moist so roots will form there.

Oh, and for the squirrel- and raccoon- bothered, if you don't have a cat of your own, ask someone who does if you can have the (ICK!) contents of their litter boxes, the scooped-out stinky mess; pee, poop and all.  Then take that smelly gacky stuff to the perimeter of your garden  ----  NOT ON THE PLANTS IN YOUR GARDEN!! ---- and make a sort of line in the sand (or kitty-litter) with it.  Sprinkle the stuff lightly around the entire border of the garden, using as many day's-worth of the stuff, and for as many days in a row, as you need to, continuing today where you left off yesterday.  Once you have a line all the way around the place, do it again, to freshen things a bit and to fill in any spots you missed the first go-'round.  Refresh the line of demarcation maybe once a month or six weeks after that.

The smell of the cat around the place will keep a lot of squirrels away to begin with.  Cats are incredibly effective at predation of small rodents and birds.  Many rodents will just vacate the premises when they smell cat.  If they already know that the food supply in an area is particularly high-value or plentiful, then you won't completely deter them but you will make them quite nervous.  Capitalize on that with a few scare-decoys.  Owls, snakes, maybe even a coyote, they sell realistic-looking decoys for just this sort of thing.

But the litter box filling, spread judiciously around the garden area, will keep away a lot of the local pests, even DEER sometimes.  Not that a house-cat is any danger to a deer, but perhaps the smell gets confused with that of a larger predator such as a lynx, bobcat, or mountain lion.  Who knows, with a deer; they're not the brain trust of the animal kingdom.

The litter treatment works well.  Worth the bother, for squirrels anyway.

Hope some of this helps.  Poisons are NOT the way forward in almost every case, and I refuse to get started down that long, bad road.

Originally posted to SemperEducandis on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 11:23 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I enjoyed your previous diary, and this one (6+ / 0-)

    is a winner too! Thanks for all the information.

  •  Hugely helpful (3+ / 0-)


    If you want something other than the obvious to happen; you've got to do something other than the obvious. Douglas Adams

    by trillian on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 03:40:38 AM PDT

  •  Notice about Bt; some species do develop (7+ / 0-)

    a resistance so it is best to alternate Bt with other methods to make sure this does not happen.  Locally there have been instances of corn borers developing resistance.  However this is in large acre fields so I have no idea if a garden has a large enough population.

    You have covered everything very well so if I am repeating something, please forgive my aging eyes.  If you burn your vines, the best thing to do is to burn your entire garden.  In The Day when we used to plant tobacco beds, we would stake cotton stalks onto the prepared beds and burn them.  The ashes were a cheap substitute for lime and the heat killed not only insect eggs and larvae but also shallow weed seeds.  The beds were then sown and rolled.  

    Other thing to do is to unbend a paper clip when you go borer hunting and use that as a probe as opposed to slitting the vine.  It also works when you are hunting peach tree borers.

    Thanks for an extremely in depth article though I no longer garden these days  

  •  thanks for all (3+ / 0-)

    useful  tips.  I enjoyed reading your diary.

    Yes, I am psychic...or was that psycho? I always forget which.

    by Farradin on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 04:30:40 AM PDT

  •  I decided to not do squash this year (5+ / 0-)

    Break the cycle. Next year, I will follow your very interesting thoughts.


  •  Great diary! (3+ / 0-)

    I read it all the way through and bookmarked it, even though it's been many years since I've had a garden and I don't see any gardening in my immediate future either.

    A girl can dream, can't she?

    “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan UID 62713

    by tigerdog on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 06:40:16 AM PDT

  •  And those row covers are especially (6+ / 0-)

    good for covering plants in the cabbage family. The advantage is that you do not need or want cabbages to flower and pollinate so the row cover applied early will keep your cabbages worm free.

    Now someone tell me what to do about voles in the potato patch.

    Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. Marx

    by Marihilda on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:32:57 AM PDT

    •  Voles? (0+ / 0-)

      Ratsnakes are your friends. Hawks and owls can help as well, but snakes...they just don't make a better rodent killing machine than snakes.

      Barring that, small live trap, baited with fruit (pear, mango), then waterboard those you catch.

      The goal of capitalism is to make as much money as possible, for as few people as possible, by any means necessary.

      by laughingRabbit on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 04:33:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is another product that works... (3+ / 0-)

    called Cedarcide, their PCO Choice preparation in particular. You can spray it on your lawn, trees, shrubs and garden to kill and repel bugs of all sorts. It is certified organic, EPA exempt and really works. Because it is so dilute (when you prepare in a hose-end sprayer) it will not harm your plants. It also does NOT kill beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
    I used to belong to a program the company had where we could buy at less than wholesale and then resell. Due to company reorganization they ended the program. But I am still a firm believer in their products. The folks I sold PCO Choice to were very happy (mostly people who didn't want fleas and ticks in their yards).
    I used another of their preparations in our home to rid it of a flea infestation - without having to bomb the house, which was very helpful as I had two cats and an elderly mother to care for.
    Your suggestions are good, but some are toxic. If anyone wants to check out Cedarcide, just Google it. Really works!
    Thanks for the diary!

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

    by MA Liberal on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:04:38 AM PDT

  •  Thank you SO MUCH! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, FindingMyVoice

    I have been troubled by squash vine borers for years, because I (oops) always plant my squash in the same place.  Never again! (well, not for a few years, anyway)

    "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

    by Nespolo on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:39:59 AM PDT

    •  I rotate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED, sillia

      Squash and still get vine borers.

      •  Me too. (0+ / 0-)

        Wish I had too much squash to give away. I am so frustrated. But that for your suggestions.

      •  Rotation is good, (0+ / 0-)

        but you also need to do succession planting throughout the season, moving to different areas of the garden. Jerk the plants and compost them as soon as you see evidence of borers.

        The goal of capitalism is to make as much money as possible, for as few people as possible, by any means necessary.

        by laughingRabbit on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 04:36:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do that too (0+ / 0-)

          everything is constantly changing in our garden and we use square foot methods with lots of interplanting of different things. We garden year round successively, moving to carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce for winter.  But we are constantly harvesting and planting and changing everything up.  

        •   don't compost them, (0+ / 0-)

          they go in the burn pile.

          Occasionally I have saved a plant.  This year I saved an acorn squash that had two vines that died but one was okay with a nice squash on it.  I removed a worm from one of the dead vines and taped the stem of the good one.  It is still growing more than a month after doing this and the squash has matured nicely.  Plus it has put out more and is thriving.  Just hit and miss.  Last year we sprayed a lot of organic sprays and didn't have as much trouble as this year, spraying as much or more this year.

          •  My burn pile (0+ / 0-)

            is a hot compost pile, rolled and fed regularly. Our summers are covered by a no burn ordinance. I hate to see anything other than charcoal and smoking chunks burn.

            The goal of capitalism is to make as much money as possible, for as few people as possible, by any means necessary.

            by laughingRabbit on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 04:33:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •   I had a four-year gap (0+ / 0-)

      since the last time I planted squash, and guess what--borers  in most of them. I have tried slicing the stems to kill the borer so we'll see if they survive.

      Also most of my neighbors no longer plant squash because of this problem, so you'd think we could sneak by. Turns out though, the moth that lays these eggs can cover an area 2 acres in diameter. That's a huge area for one bug!

      Covering doesn't work for me, it's too windy here. I think I've tried most of the other techniques--planting late in the season, spray dormant oil, check for eggs every morning, nematodes, etc, etc, etc, etc. Bah! Nothing works, they always get us anyway. Maybe watchful waiting with a sharp implement to get them once they've entered the vine will work...

      Where in the Constitution does it say: "...on behalf of corporate interests" ???

      by sillia on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 02:27:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the interesting diary (4+ / 0-)

    Frogs and toads and dragonflies also prey on garden bugs, so water features can help, too.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:50:44 AM PDT

  •  Flea beetles, too. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've had trouble with these for several years, on arugula, crucifers, eggplants, and others. They look like fleas and jump like them too. Spinosad seems to help eventually, but it takes a while.

    A friend just told me that you can vacuum them off of plants. Going to try it today.

    All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry. --Edgar Allan Poe

    by gzodik on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:03:39 AM PDT

  •  Squirrels (3+ / 0-)

    I get squirrels in my tomatoes now and again, I live in the city, have a raised bed in the back and only really have room for my favorite summer treat. My remedy, which has worked quite well for years now, is to get a few habaneros from the farmers market,  toss them in the blender with some water and run the blender until completely pureed, filter into a spray bottle and add a little dish soap, then spray the tomatoes with this mixture. I have to reapply after each rain, but it works quite well as a deterrent!

    Living on Pez, vitamin C and Rogaine...

    by Conquistador17 on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:03:59 AM PDT

  •  Regarding voles... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, FindingMyVoice

    Or nearly any kind of rodent, it's really hard to beat a cat for effectiveness. They are also often effective on squirrel and rabbit populations, according to the 'gifts' I've found on my front porch.

    "Fast, Cheap, and Good... pick two." - director Jim Jarmusch

    by AnnCetera on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:05:54 AM PDT

  •  thanks! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, FindingMyVoice

    How about slugs?  The wood ash is a good idea, I think there's a bit in the fireplace, but we didn't have a lot of fires this past year. My dahlias, basil, vincas and a couple of other plants--mostly flowers, not veggies--have been repeatedly skeletonized this year. I've been spraying insecticidal soap on them because I thought it was some sort of insect, not slugs, as I haven't seen any around this year.  But then I read in Fine Gardening that it's likely to be slugs, so I put down organic slug baits. Is that a good solution?  My dinner plate dahlias are finally showing buds, and I really, really want to see them bloom!  :)

    And you're so lucky to have both a Pyr and a Newfie! I have a Great Pyrenees mix, Sammy--he looks like a Pyr that's been shaved of his long coat. He's lying right next to me right now, snoring (he doesn't usually snore, but his head is at a weird angle.) Sammy has all the good stuff of a Pyr with less hair (although he still has plenty of hair, believe me!) I had a foster puppy, Charlie, a purebred Pyr,  that was adopted by my parents so he comes over for frequent playdates. If I remembered how to post a picture in a comment, I'd show you.

    •  For slugs and snails, (3+ / 0-)

      I've always found that coffee grounds, applied around the base of the plant/s, seemed to work well as a repellant.

      "Fast, Cheap, and Good... pick two." - director Jim Jarmusch

      by AnnCetera on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:49:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Diatomacious earth (0+ / 0-)

      is the ticket here. This is death to slugs. Tiny razor sharp edges cut up the slugs - I dislike slugs.

      •  D E works well and so does cheap beer. (0+ / 0-)

        Have a bash for your slugs, you're buying the booze.
        I'm mostly not kidding, yes, let them eat beer.

        I use small cat food or tuna cans to hold the brew.  Near the base of the plants which have the slug problems, bury a few tuna cans to the rims, so they're flush with the soil.  Fill them half-full with beer.  Use the worst crap you can get, and DON'T waste anything worth drinking.  Get Miller or Budweiser or Pabst or your local equivalent to BlllyBeer, or one of those cheap-crap supermarket 'generic'  brand beers you can find for a quarter a can or so.  Don't waste anything worth drinking on a slug.  You can even use the flat partial cans or bottles which someone else left unfinished.  (Then you can even use a good beer; better to glug a slug than to completely waste it.)

        Come back the next morning, fish out the dead slugs, top up the beer in the traps again.  Repeat as many mornings as you keep finding slugs in the beer.

        Encourage toads and lizards to take up residence, as well as garter snakes, racer snakes, black snakes, and other non-venomous reptiles.  They will make themselves right at home, and wouldn't dream of being an inconvenience to a human if they can at all help it.  If you come across them, just hold still a few seconds once they know that you're there, and they will absent themselves in short order.  You out-mass any of them by a considerable margin, you can't be swallowed and so therefore you're not 'prey,' so they would much rather leave you alone, and pursue a vole instead.

        Another way to fix their slimy monopodal wagons is in the evening put down sheets of cardboard; open the bottom and top of a cardboard carton and split it down the glued side to make it one piece of cardboard.  Lay this sheet flat on the ground near the plants that have problems.  Cut it in pieces (a foot or foot and a half on a side) if it's a fairly big box, and place the pieces in several places around the area.

        Get up EARLY (just a bit after sun-up) the next morning, flip the cardboard over, and start picking the slugs off.  They will be hiding from the sun under there.

        Be sure you take a can or bag, something you can toss in the trash, but which has a lid or something you can use to seal the slugs away when you toss them in.  (Or you can smoosh them with a couple of rocks or a board or something, and put the yummy slug goo in the compost when you are sure that they're all good and dead.)

        As for the other, larger pests such as voles and moles?  One thing that I think I mentioned in the first or second gardening diary entry I made, is that I don't begrudge the local wildlife some of my produce.

        Other than the critters my cats actually catch, the denizens of the woods adjacent to the garden are allowed to get in and eat some of what is growing.  I always plant a dividend, ten or more percent of everything, as a tithe for them, from the beginning.  Sure, they get into things, and sometimes ruin more than their share.  Yeah, it happens, and yeah, it sucks when it does.  But it does not happen too often, usually we lose just a little corn or some tomatoes, a few strawberries or blackberries,  or the odd cucumber or squash.  We aren't going to starve on account of these losses, so we just live with them as a part of doing "business" with Mother Gaia.

        Large birds like crows, yes we scare them off as we see them.  They do more damage (as they pass through to wherever they actually live)  to shoots and seedlings, as well as to the nestlings of beneficial birds  and the young of NON-pest critters which live here all the time)  than the non-transitory residents ever could.

        If you just MUST scare off the squirrels, use the litter box treatment I already mentioned, but localize it more, rather than trying to encircle the whole garden.  DON'T get the stuff on the plants, bacteria and parasites can transfer to the crops.  Don't even put it too close to the plants, since it can be transferred when raindrops hit and splash the crap onto your produce.  Just not so far away that it can be avoided by the tree-rats and other critters.

        And if you trap rodents, any sort including voles, squirrels, rats, mice, DON'T "waterboard"  (a useless and self-delusional euphemism for drowning)  them.  Take something heavy enough to do the job and crack their skulls.  Instantaneous death, and not a lot of squalling and thrashing and panic.  If it's torture for people, it's probably torture for animals.  There are more humane ways to kill things, when they have to be killed.

        Drowning is not exactly the most humane thing you can imagine.  You can do better if you put your mind to it, or ask for someone else's help if you can't face it yourself.  Humans are incredibly ingenious at coming up with ways to kill things.  It seems to be something at which we (as a species) excel.

        (I had a farmer friend who used to put a hose on the tractor or pickup tail-pipe and use the engine to pump empty grain bins full of carbon monoxide.  Killed hundreds of rats, they just went to sleep and never woke up.  Once the engine was shut off and the air had cleared, we went into the bin, picked their carcasses up, made certain of their mortal status (dead), and dropped them in a bucket for removal to a pit for burial.  I know that might not be feasible for one squirrel caught in a hav-a-hart live-trap, but it shows that there are options other than torture.)

        If you are using live traps, make sure you're not violating any local ordinances.  You might even get the help of the local animal control guys if you ask them.  When you use live traps, simply relocating squirrels and raccoons and such is probably your best bet.

        If the traps are leg or neck traps (like mouse traps and their sort) just use a stout club, aim carefully, and don't miss.  One good thump and no more vermin.  No more panic for them, no more problem for you.

        But this is one I really don't have to deal with at all.  I let my cats make their own marks around the area.  No litter boxes required here.  Yes, I get the occasional 'present' brought around for my approval, but two 8-plus kilo (17 or 18 pound) tom-cats with free run of the neighbourhood (and yes they are neutered) will cure all of your squirrelly and volish ills.  Not to mention mice, moles, and rats as well.

        My two boys, Mike Wizowski and James P. Sullivan (Yes, that would be Mikey and Sully.) rule the local area with iron paws, and their latest assistant, "Boo," is learning the 'lay' of the area and all of the local shibboleths of the "cat underground."

        Boo is the little female (now spayed) stray we recently wound up with.  She was pregnant when she arrived at our door, had the kittens here, and we're adopting them out to good homes through one of the local no-kill shelters.  Boo is actually more aggressive about killing moles and things than the two monster-boys, but I think that's because of having been abandoned and dumped, and actually being forced to hunt for her food, every day,  for real.

        She was skinny, parasite infested, and ever so hungry when we got her.  Now she's sleek, clean, recovering nicely from her spaying, and quite the happy camper.

        She is sure showing those two lazy loafers how to keep the critters out of the garden.  They all work the area when it suits them, and sleep in my house when it doesn't.  But the furry pest problem is minimal here.

        So, get yourself a cat, if you can.  A stray or shelter animal.  If they can't hunt for you, they can at least provide litter-box scoopings for the scent markings to deter them.  And some warm, furry, purry companionship for you.  (And for your dogs, if you work it right.  My cats all snuggle up with the dogs, particularly when it's cold and wet out.  It rather amusing to see the big cats curled up with the bigger dogs, and all of them sleeping and snoring in front of the wood-burning stove.)

        •  Replies (0+ / 0-)

          Yes, the beer works. Done that. I now live in SD, and we do not have slugs or snails that I can find. Never seen a single one. Winters with regular temp < -20 F seem to kill them off, but we need colder temps for the pine beetles. As to cat, wife is allergic.

  •  Smash the beetles! [nt] (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I lost my thinker (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    where can I get a plastic cheapy for not much wonga.
    Japanese beetles?  hornworms?

  •  Thank you, Semper Educandis & Consuistador17 for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the first really effective advice I have found on discouraging squirrels in the veg garden!!  

    In Georgia, acting the fool with a gun is not only legal, it is encouraged by the governor and the state legislature.

    by Mayfly on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:30:26 AM PDT

  •  Electric Tennis Racket... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate

    The wife and kids bought me a bug zapper that looked like an electric tennis racket for the Vine Borer Wasp.  The wasps are kind of pretty , bright orange and black.  They are also aggressive as hell.  Tennis racket worked for a while and was at least a fun challenge.  Still failing miserably with squash, but will always try.
    I've been using a sharpened piece of stovepipe wire to just puncture the vine where i think the borer is, and i usually get him after a couple of tries, and less damage than slicing the vine.  This year I had a volunteer butternut squash vine grow from the Un-composted compost (did not know what the vine was until it fruited) but it has produced delicious squash.  Now, however, the vine borer has planted a borer at every leaf juncture.  Don't know if i can keep it alive until fall, but Texas, so it'll be a challenge to keep a fall squash alive through a Texas summer.
    Great season this year though.  Really pleasantly surprised to see your articles on this subject here.  Enjoyed them a lot. thanks

  •  Thanks, Semper! (0+ / 0-)

    you're right; that's one whopper of a reply. You'd have hijacked your own diary.
    I hope readers get inspired by this stuff; it's so empowering, sweat equity, bug battling, and all to grow your own food. And the taste is unbeatable.

    PS: new cabbage worm remedy; nylon stockings over the growing cabbage heads. It seems to be working...
    Thanks again. Bookmarked.
    Now don't you have some weeding to do? I know I do.

    Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

    by kamarvt on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 01:10:42 PM PDT

  •  oh damn (0+ / 0-)

    I think our zucchini was hit by that squash borer. First time planting it but the stems are all rotted out like the pictures on wikipedia and elsewhere. I hadn't taken a close look to see if it was insects.

    Anyone know if they affect melons? I've got honeydew and cantaloupe right next to the zucchini and would hate to lose them.  Hmm, internet searches seem to indicate they do sometimes hit them...

  •  I've rotated my squash/pumpkin plants and still (0+ / 0-)

    those little fuckers infest them every year. And yup, I've done the surgical procedure on the affected vines. You can tell where exactly the grub lies in the vine.  There'll be a little debris like sawdust at the juncture of a stem and the vine. You can slit the vine or just stab thru hoping you've done enough to kill the grub.  Like the author said, bury the vine and water gently. It's amazing how fast they can recuperate and put out new roots. I think I only had one pumpkin plant die on me thru all these years.

    For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?'' ...

    by QuaintIrene on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 05:27:38 PM PDT

  •  Tantume summer squash (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They are supposed to be vine borer resistant.  But the deer loved all the leaves. LOL

    You Don't Happen To Make It. You Make It Happen !

    by jeffrey789 on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 05:46:55 PM PDT

  •  Delightful, witty diary. I think I'll hotlist it (0+ / 0-)

    for the next time I do a serious garden.
    But we miss you in the comments....

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:51:43 PM PDT

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