Wow! Time has flown by. Since our marvelous Earth Week we have moved into a new semi-permanent locations (come check us out!), planted all of our gardens, started our intern program, and we are already harvesting, distributing and dealing with pests.
We've seen aphids, cabbage worms, powdery mildew, and just saw our first squash borer of the season! But we are managing them with some of our favorite IPM techniques.
IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. This is a technique that uses all types of resources for the best overall management plan. It can start with simply rotating your crops so the pests that survive underground in the winter can't find their preferred plant as quickly, to interplanting varieties that fight off a pest that is attracted to another plant.
When we care for our gardens the next steps are to be observant. Watch for new holes or broken leaves, check the bottom of leaves and on the stems for creatures or eggs, physically removing them and then applying a natural deterrent are our next steps. We use Neem oil for many pests.
Neem (Azadirachta Indica) is a tree that is native to India but lives across the same latitude all over the world (including Senegal, where the author spent 2 years!). Neem has antimicrobial properties, as well as anti-fungal & anti-bacterial. People use Neem for all sorts of purposes, plant and human health related. In the US we can buy extracted Neem oil that is made from cold-pressing the seeds. You will want to dilute it with water, and then you can use it on any plant!
We try this and a number of other natural deterrents before using any chemicals (even organic ones) on our plants.
One of our Board members and volunteers this year wrote an excerpt about the squash borer she found in her yard:
This week in my garden, I found this insect hanging around.
With a little help from Ariel, I learned it is a squash vine borer. Last year, all the plants in my garden in the cucurbit family failed: zucchini, butternut squash, pie pumpkins and cucumbers. I didn’t worry about it too much, but I bet squash vine borer caused their demise.
I found it where my cucurbits were planted last year, which makes sense since they overwinter underground. Ariel and the U of MN extension both told me to check for eggs, so I did. My well established plants, which happen to be summer squash and the squash vine borer’s favorite had quite a few eggs at the plant’s stem base, as well as one scattered every so often on a leaf. The winter squash, which are smaller, had a few eggs at the plant’s stem base. And the cucumbers and melon all were free of eggs.
I hand picked these off and put them into soapy water. I then removed any less than perfect leaves at the stem and checked for squash vine borers. Luckily I don’t have any yet. Finally, I covered the stem with more soil and mulch. I plan to continue to check for eggs and monitor my cucurbits for leaf issues.
Here’s a link to learn more: