Let’s Start Gardening #8

“Some people will better your life by being in it while others better your life by staying out” – Unknown

As you turn into an awesome gardener you will learn that not only do you like your veggies but so do the bugs. You will not be able to keep out all the bugs, but if you are like me you will try. I have to be honest I look like a crazy women when I’m in my garden because I’m swatting and waving a tennis racket at everything I see. Well not bees. I let the bees in. Let me explain.

Meet the moth. This for me is the public enemy number one. I know. you look at this little white moth flying around your garden and think it’s so pretty. STOP. This moth is not your friend. My first year gardening I grew nothing this moth liked so he was not a problem. Fast forward one year and I’m growing cabbage, tomatoes, and apparently other things this moth enjoys. Which explains the crazy lady is outside with a tennis racket swatting at this predator. Yes I know that’s extreme. To my defense I learned this from YouTuber Gary Pilarchik. I figured if this man with this great garden ran around with a tennis racket, so would I.

This worked great for me while I was home. I was able to keep this beast at bay for weeks. TIP- write down when bugs arrive. You will thank me later. Anywho I did a great job keeping the moth away until I had to go on a trip for work. When I returned this is what I saw…

This is a small taste of what I witnessed. I had what looked like entire cabbage plants that had been dinner for millions of bugs. I didn’t know it was the month until upon further inspection when I found this guy..

I removed him from the plant and yes I killed him. He had to die. I continued to look for more caterpillars because there had to be more than this little guy in my plant. No! It was just him. All it took was one caterpillar to destroy an entire plant so I went from one plant to another removing each caterpillar. Twelve caterpillars later on day one I thought I was done. I was not. I removed another six the following day.

Let me say this. I lost three plants due to the infestation. While I couldn’t pull out one seedling when I saw caterpillars and their eggs on my plants I couldn’t get to the trash fast enough. I don’t know if you could put infested plants in the compost but I wasn’t taking any chances. To the trash it went. Now before everyone looses their mind you can get the caterpillars and their eggs off your plants. You don’t have to throw them out. I just had some that were so far gone I couldn’t save them.

My caterpillar eggs looked like the picture above. Little black eggs. The problem was this looks like dirt. You really can’t tell if your plant is just dirty or being eaten alive. I would tell you to err on the side of being eaten alive. Let me note that all eggs are not black. Some are green, some appear clear, and some are perfect circles that don’t even look real. If you didn’t put it there, figure out a way to get rid of it. So how can you fix this?

The first way to stop your plants for being eaten is to try to prevent it in the first place. I like to use my tennis racket of course, but also cold pressed pure neem oil. You will find this is recommended by tons of gardeners as an organic way to kill pest. I’m not going to tell you that’s why I got it. I got it because it worked. I am not trying to be an organic gardener and I use regular Miracle Grow on all my plants. What I did consistently see was everyone recommending this product and after the first use I knew why.

It smells horrible. I thought if nothing else the foul odor should keep the bugs away. That’s not how it works at all. The oil coats the bugs so they basically suffocate and die. Yes it’s harsh, but hey I need my garden back.

This is the variety that I use. I have not tried another brand so I can’t say if its better or worse. What I can say is this brand works.

Depending on the neem oil you purchase it will come with directions. You must dilute the product in water and it will tell you how much water per tablespoon. Do some research on a small part of one plant. Don’t mix together something and willy nilly put it on all your plants. My first mixture was one tablespoon of neem oil, one gallon of water, and a few squirts of dish detergent. You need the detergent to help the oil stay on the plant. Remember oil and water are not friends so detergent keeps the peace.

You will need to spray the tops and bottoms of your leaves. If you are growing cabbage you may need to peel back the leaves a little and spray. This stuff does the job. What’s great about neem oil is it’s not only prevention but will actually kill the caterpillars and eggs if you didn’t keep them out the first time.

After I returned home and saw the damage and heavily sprayed all my plants. I sprayed for two days just in case I missed one. Neem oil does not harm your plants and can be used up until you actually harvest. After four days I noticed no additional damage.

Another great prevention method is row covers. If you put these up before the bugs arrive they work great. The only issue with row covers is if you have a plant that needs to be pollinated you must remove them. For cabbage, greens, potatoes, onions, carrots, and a lot of other veggies that don’t need pollination row covers are fantastic. I did have the row covers set up in my garden but because I was away I didn’t have them covering the plants. Yes I know, defeated the whole purpose.

I’m sure there are other ways to prevent and kill bugs that destroy your garden, this is just what worked for me. The best prevention in any garden is just to be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t look right. You are there everyday. You know how the leaves should look, the colors, the shapes, if it had holes yesterday. As soon as you see a problem fix it. Bugs don’t go away in gardens. They just invite more bugs. I’m hoping this is my last bug video but my cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, and corn have not bloomed yet. Those plants bring a new bug family to the party. Hint- Neem oil kills those bugs as well.

Let me know how your garden is doing? Have you done any harvest yet this season? Don’t stress, you still have plenty of time to get seeds in the ground. Until next time, Let’s Start Gardening.

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