Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Garden Horror

Saturday, July 07, 2012

It's bug city this year - I guess because of the lack of really cold temps this winter and the hot, dry weather we've been having.  While last year was a dream gardening year and I had no problems, I am now fighting a huge war against every fungus and bug known to man.

Let's start with the cucumbers and their arch enemy, the Cucumber Beetle.

Cucumber Beetles

Whether spotted or striped (mine are spotted), they're about a 1/4 inch long and hibernate in your soil.  The adult female will lay clusters of 200 to 800 tiny, orange eggs on the back of the leaves or within cracks in the soil at the base of the plant.  Larvae emerge after 5 to 8 days and spend 15 days feeding and then repeat the cycle. Their mission in life is to seek out cucumbers and other cucurbits and destroy them.

Adult cucumber beetle treating my cukes like a buffet.

Looking over my cucumber plants, I found only this one adult cucumber beetle.  They are fast little boogers, let me tell you!  But cuke beetles are also dumb - despite having wings, they won't fly away and will instead drop to the ground as their only defense.  So I caught her and did a little tap dance on her head.  And, no, I don't feel bad about it.

Finding only one adult doesn't give me a lot of solace, even though I didn't find any eggs either.   You can see the damage she caused to just that stem in the picture.  What I'm worried about is that the larva are already in the dirt gnawing away at the cucumber roots.  Seriously, I never knew that gardening would turn me into a nervous wreck.  I've always heard that it was relaxing!

Treatment:  Trellising helps protect against all but the adults, and we're already doing that.  We'll be spraying the plants with Neem oil later today to see if that makes them less attractive.  I also read that you can try 1/2 tsp of peppermint oil in about a quart of water sprayed on once a week.  Apparently, the beetles don't like the taste.  Plus your garden will smell minty!  LOL.   We'll also be making sure that there is plenty of mulch right up against the base of the plant.  This interrupts their reproductive phase.

And, if that doesn't work, spray with Rotenone.  Rotenone is organic and occurs naturally in some plants; however, some recent studies are linking it to increased occurrence of Parkinson's Disease so I will be avoiding it.  I'd rather let the beetles have my plants.

This fall, we'll till the soil up and expose the eggs to kill these pests. And next year we'll plant radishes with the cukes.  Apparently the cucumber beetle is a picky eater and doesn't like radishes touching anything else on its plate.

Tomato Fungus:  Fusarium or Verticullium Wilt

Back on June 20th, I talked about pulling up one of J.'s Early Girl tomatoes because it was infected with what I thought was fusarium wilt.   These are the only plants in our garden that are hybrid and not organic, and we bought them as seedlings from Home Depot. I am now fully convinced that they were infected with wilt before we bought them.

This is the second Early Girl that was right next to the one that I yanked out.  Despite my fervent hoping and praying, it is infected as well and I can confidently state that I am certain this is verticullium wilt.  It starts with yellowing on one side of the leaves, stems or plant and eventually spreads upward.  What is happening is that the fungus is attacking the roots and the plant is blocking off water avenues to stop the fungus from spreading further up the plant.  In doing so, it is starving itself and the leaves start to die. 

Doesn't this just make you feel sad?

As you can see, it's heavy with fruit.  I am crossing my fingers that it hangs on long enough to get these tomatoes ripened so we can harvest them.  Of course, we also take the chance that the fungus will spread in the soil to our beloved heirloom Cherokee Purples and Rutgers.  I think I see some signs already, but no yellowing yet.  

Treatment:   To start, plant varieties that are resistant.  They're usually marked on the seed packages when you buy them.  And make sure you never plant your tomatoes in the same place every year.  There is no known cure for plants infected with either fusarium or verticullium wilt.  Honestly, you should yank the plant out immediately.  I just can't bring myself to do that as I stand there and look at all those juicy green tomatoes.  Tto try to combat it from spreading, we will be scouring the local nurseries for some RootShield, the only product that *might* combat fusarium or verticullium wilt.  

The other thing you can do is sterilize the soil, but it needs to be done in the full heat of summer.  I would have to rip out all my plants and cover the entire raised beds with clear plastic and let it bake for the rest of the year.  I'm not willing to do that.  Plus doing that also kills all the beneficial organisms in the soil as well.

Squash Bugs

I really hate these guys.  They attacked my cukes and pumpkins late in the season last year in the other raised bed so I thought I would be cool and switch the squash and cukes to the other bed to get away from them.  These nasty little critters overwinter in the soil and are really hard to kill. They can also travel fairly long distances and reproduce quickly.  And did I mention that they will literally suck the juices out of your plants until they die?!

Due to excessive squishing, I had to borrow this picture from Deardorff and Wadsworth.

Seriously, squash bugs make me say naughty words.

Treatment:  Squishing and more squishing.  Wear gloves and be prepared - they STINK when squished.  Put a board down in the garden and they'll congregate under it, which makes the finding and squishing even easier.  My garden is like a horror movie - as I squish, I imagine ever more horrific ways to dispatch with these evil bugs.  Maybe some leftover fireworks?  Or, if your squeamish, dump the bugs and eggs in a jar of soapy water and watch them drown.  Very satisfying...

You can also try spraying the bugs with soapy water, but I have found that to be somewhat unsuccessful in killing them but it does make them fall off the plant.  I guess what the spray doesn't kill you can squish.  And, for any eggs that you find, either remove that part of the leaf of use duct tape to pull them off.  Kind of like waxing your garden!  :-)  Or how about a dustbuster or shop vac to vacuum them up?

I just read about some guy in Kentucky who sprayed his leftover squash with moonshine and then set it on fire to get rid of the squash bugs.  Lacking in the subtlely department, but I'm sure it's highly satisfying.  I mean, who doesn't want one of these?


I hope none of you are having these kinds of problems but, if the garden boards online are any indication, you probably are.  It is a bad year for us gardeners, I guess.

I've shared my buggy freakshow with this week's Ole' Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, Country Garden Showcase and Farm Girl Friday.


  1. Yep! The cuke beetles got my cucumbers! Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I wish I had a flamethrower!

    1. How can such a cute little yellow bug wreak such havoc?! Thanks for stopping by, Mary. Glad you're here!

  2. Yes I feel like destroying those squash bugs just like that guy did with moonshine and fire....ha ha LOL! I have those all over my garden we just seek and destroy individually. By the way thanks for linking up to "The Ole' Saturday Homesteading Trading Post" blog hop this week!

    1. At least the squash bugs are fairly slow and easy to catch. Thanks for hosting the hop!

  3. Being Kentucky born and raised, I will promise that the guy did not desecrate fine moonshine in such a manner! Our scourge in this part of Texas is fire ants, not only will the little monsters ruin any tomatoes that get a crack, but they invaded our ears of corn! When I stripped the shucks off the first one, they spilled out, and up my arms. No corn for supper, and I had to treat all those stings.
    Pulling a tomato from the vine and seeing hundreds running from a little hole is downright disgusting. I would rent a flame thrower if I thought it would get rid of them!

    1. Hahahaha....thanks for the laugh! I think you're right about not wasting that moonshine. As I read your comment, I was thinking "thank God we don't have fire ants here in Missouri". Egads! What nasty creatures they must be!

  4. Thanks for the pictures of baddies. I have both in my garden now too. I'm thinking of taking the little turkeys on pest patrol. They are very good hunters. And I don't have a flamethrower.

    1. Great idea! My chickens go after the veggies, so they are banned from the garden. I wish I had some turkeys or guineas because I hear they're great at keeping the bug population down. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Yep, this is definitely a rough year in the garden...there are bugs everywhere. Ugh...

    Luckily, there a million ladybugs in our garden this year. Small blessings :-)

  6. Ah, yes! And I'm hoping for a predatory wasp or two as well. I may need to "import" some ladybugs or some mantises. What a great idea - thanks, Bee Girl!

  7. hahaha.... I'm having my own problems with squash bugs over here. They killed my volunteer squash vines in three days. :-(.


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