Much has happened since I started planting this year’s garden. The morning after I put the plants in the ground, the bugs arrived. For reasons I don’t fully understand, whiteflies and other bugs love to nibble on Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi). I situated the plant close to some summer savory and Chinese chives – two pungent herbs that I thought would deter the bugs. That didn’t work.
Each morning, my husband and I would peek outside our bedroom windows to examine the herb bed for overnight damage. Within about 5 days, I knew that I had to defend my plants. I’d cultivated them for me to eat, not the bugs. I pulled out a few old tricks and headed to a local nursery for advice on garden pest management.
Sluggo: I’ve tried putting egg shells into my vegetable bed and pie tins of beer but the remedy that has consistently kept snails and slugs away is Sluggo. After watering, I sprinkle the small white cylinders at the perimeter of the bed. The idea with Sluggo is that the snails eat it, become less hungry and then starve themselves to death. Sluggo doesn’t harm other animals that may ingest it so it’s a win-win product. You have to re-sprinkle when Sluggo is no longer visible.
Insecticidal soap: About fifteen years ago when I started to seriously grow an edible garden, I decided to whip up my own homemade insecticidal soap, having read various recipes online and in magazines. I ground up raw garlic with black pepper and cayenne and diluted it with water and a little dishwashing soap to make it stick. Alas, the stuff was okay with keeping bugs at bay, but it clogged up the sprayer and kind of pre-seasoned the stuff I grew. Not good.
So I bought stuff like neem oil and Safer. I usually buy it in concentrated form to save money in the long run. This year, a young man at the nursery suggested a new Safer product whose name I absolutely love: EndALL. It’s good for organic gardening and kills 45 kinds of insects! I’ve sprayed it on the plants twice now, making sure to get the underside of the leaves where the bugs tend to hide and hatch their eggs. Pull the leaves upward to spray underneath. EndALL insecticidal soap hasn’t proven to be the 'be all' but it has slowed down the feasting bugs.
Pest Control Plants: In our backyard, we have fragrant plants like lavender, chives and petunias – all of which are lovely to look at but also help to keep bugs away. In the garden bed itself, I plant marigolds. Right now, I only have 6 plants in but I’ll add more this week. The ones I bought don’t have enough of a scent to deter the bugs. Make sure yours are fragrant. Look at how they’ve chewed away the leaves of this marigold already:
A terrific list of pest control plants is here.
Cayenne: Some pests attack plants from the top, some slither and slide to the plant, while others root underground. This weekend I noticed that someone had been eating at the top as well as the base of the Thai basil, enough to weaken its stems. Spraying EndALL and sprinkling Sluggo didn’t deter the pest. Neither did the marigold nearby. So I’m trying something new: sprinkling cayenne around the plant.
My husband thinks it’s a raccoon or skunk who’s doing the damage in the middle of the night. Maybe the cayenne will be a midnight wakeup call. I’m not sprinkling it all over the bed because cayenne can harm honeybees, which gather around the lavender nearby in our garden. For more info and ideas on using red pepper in the garden, see this site.
I’m writing about the negative stuff in the little vegetable bed and neglecting the wonderful things that have developed. In a span of a week, there are signs of edibles on their way:
Green beans are heavenly right after harvest and I’m partial to slender French filet beans (haricot verts) grown as bush beans because I’m terrible with trellising. There’s also a mixture of lettuce for my husband to whip up a summer salad or for us to wrap grilled morsels up for a Viet meal. And a chile plant’s blooms are turning into fruit.
Finally, Ricardo, whom we thought had ‘fired’ us as clients called this morning. He explained that he was stuck in Mexico for six months trying to put together paperwork for his wife to cross the border. All is well with his situation and he’ll be back at our place to help us out soon. Yup, things are looking up.
P.S. Anyone with gardent pest management experiences to share? And, any anti-gopher ideas? Our entire neighborhood is under attack now!