Whenever i tell folks i garden, the first question i always hear is 'how do you keep the deer from eating the garden?'. Oddly enough, deer have never been a problem for me. We have two dogs who hang around outside and bark at everything that moves. So we've really never had any problems with deer, ground hogs or even rabbits. The most destructive pests we have to deal with in the garden are the insects.
All of my gardens are organic. i do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. Most of the folks around us use Seven dust on everything, so all the hungry bugs flock to my garden. lol. :) There are always tons of bugs in the garden, some are beneficial and some are extremely destructive. The pests i have the most trouble with are the cucumber beetles, the Mexican bean beetles and the Squash vine borers.
Cucumber beetles and Mexican bean beetles are easy to spot and can be picked off by hand. Although it is a pain in the butt, their population can typically be managed using this route as long as you stay on top of it. Some folks recommend dusting the plants with DE (Diatomaceous Earth), but DE can be harmful to the bees so i don't like using it when the plants are blooming. The cucumber beetles are most often found inside the blooms, so it would pretty pointless to use DE for them.
Squash vine borers are a bit trickier to manage, as often times you won't realize there is a problem until the plant suddenly wilts and dies.
Although i've been dealing with vine borers for several years, i just recently began identifying the actual Vine Borer moth that is responsible for killing the squash. The Vine borer moth lays it's eggs on the the base and stems of the plant. When the eggs hatch they immediately burrow into the stem and begin feeding on the plant tissue.
The moths are rarely seen. i believe they come to lay their eggs morning and dusk. i have found that if i go outside early in the morning i will sometimes see them resting on the squash leaves. Floating row covers are one way to prevent the vine borer moths from laying eggs on your plants, i have also heard you an wrap the stems in tin foil, although i haven't tried that yet. However if you've failed to do any preventive measures (like me) you'll want to check your plants daily for signs of borers.
You want to keep a eye out for the moths, but also look for the eggs along the stems. The eggs are very small, brown and flat. Scrap them off and destroy them.
You'll need to check your plants every day. Once the vine borers find your plants they will return often to lay their eggs. Remove any eggs you find.
If your plants wilt, and begin dying then the vine borers have made their way inside. Check around the base stem of the plants for frass (borer poo). It will look a bit like yellow/tan sawdust coming out of the stem. If the plant has borers is only a matter of time before the entire plant collapses and dies unless you remove them. However, you still may be able to save the plants.
These are the actual borers that will destroy the plants. They are the larval stage of the Vine Borer moths. If you notice frass coming from the stem, you need to remove the borers. To do this, take a sharp knife and slice the stem in the area where the frass is coming out. Gently, pull open the stem and remove any borers you find. Then close the stem back up, you can tape it back together if you like and cover the area with soil if possible. Often times they are in the leaf stems as well, so you can remove the entire stem.
From what i have read online, you cover the area with soil to encourage the plant to lay new roots. However i think this really only applies to the vining squash plants. The bush varieties are better off just taped back together.
i then collect the borers and then introduce them to my chickens. ;)
Squash borers are a constant problem. They will attack summer squash and winter squash and it's very important to monitor your plants and remove the eggs and borers as soon as you begin to notice them. Not only will they kill the plant, the borers will sometimes bore into winter squash as it is growing. The squash will heal itself, so there won't be a visible hole. You won't even realize there is a problem until you winter squash that is in storage suddenly begins rotting. i've had this happen most often with butternut squash and pumpkins. So it's really important to pay attention to your plants and watch for borer activity.
i've read a bit about using BT to kill borers. BT or Bacillus thuringiensis can be injected right into the stems and any borer that feeds on the plant tissue will die. It is a natural product that is considered suitable for organic gardening.i haven't tried this yet, by i may try it eventually, especially with winter squash which often times dies before it hits maturity.
One thing i do with my summer squash to combat the borers is to plant summer squash continuously every 3 weeks during the summer. That way if an older plant is overcome by borers, i can pull the entire plant and destroy it. Since i continually have new plants growing, i won't feel too bad about losing a plant here or there. This method helps keep me well stocked in summer squash all summer long.
Have any tips for dealing with Vine borers? i would love some other ideas. i actually purchased floating row cover this year, and then ended up using them on other plants. i just put in more summer squash yesterday, so i may get the row covers set up on them and see how that works.