Sunday, June 12, 2011

Things are heating more ways than one...

It's only the middle of June but it's hot here in North Texas and has been hot for a while now. Yesterday the thermometer finally stopped rising at 94 degrees and with humidity of 67% felt even hotter. More of the same is expected today and tomorrow and the day after that.... Even the evenings can't be called cool anymore with lows of around 75.

I've been managing to keep my gardens watered as I'm bound bent to get some kind of vegetable crop this year after having very dismal results last year. In 2010, I planted tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, beans, peppers and eggplant and my only yield was some end of the season peppers and some kind of squash hybrid I called "pumpaloupe" (this was an accident -it self-seeded, I thought it was a pumpkin but as time went by I could tell it wasn't a pumpkin but some kind of "mutt" plant).

"The Pumpaloupe"

For 2011 I have planted tomatoes (super sioux, some kind of zebra, and mexican midget), eggplant (black moon hybrid) , onions, egyptian onions, and from seed I started green zucchini, butternut squash and cucumber. I did attempt broccoli and spinach but the seedlings perished quickly once planted outside.

To date my results again have been less than stellar. Last year some kind of bug ate most of my seedlings before they were able to get well started so this year I have been much more diligent about spraying with insectide soap. Yes still the seedlings haven't really taken a hold. They start growing, start to look promising then shrivel up.

Today I had had enough. I choose these crops because they are supposed to LIKE the heat. I've watered. I've sprayed. I've fertilized yet still they won't grow? I decided to do a closer inspection and By George I think I've found the culprit.

Here are some photos of what I found on my pathetic zucchini plant today:

An adult squash bug

A baby squash bug

Squash Bug Eggs

Hiding in the tomato leaves...

Who's been eating me?

After a morning of research, I have concluded that it is squash bugs that are bringing my squash family of plants down and perhaps even getting my tomato plants. These innocuous pests suck sap from the plants, causing leaves to wilt and collapse, exactly the fate of my plants! I found an organic recipe (orginally from Organic Gardening) that is supposedly effective against squash bugs:

Organic Bug Soap

Two cups water
One cup rubbing alcohol
One tablespoon neem oil (or veg oil)
One tablespoon liquid soap (like Dr Bronners, not dish detergent)
25-30 drops of mint oil or cinnamon oil (or both).

Shake well and spray on bugs with a hand sprayer (not a hose). This will kill all bugs and caterpillars upon contact, even Japanese beetles and grasshoppers.

The battle is heating up, this round goes to the gardener!

These have been spared, it looks like I'll get to enjoy some eggplant

Something has even been nibbling the tops of my walking onions. I sprayed them today but will be keeping a vigilant eye on them this week. Bugs beware...the war is on!

This is almost the entire 2011 Onion Harvest (I have a couple bulbs left growing). Not very impressive. An entire bunch of slips resulted in this? But better than the zero onions that grew last year!

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