Walker: Fairs, winds and pests on a gardener's mind

U of I Master GardenerAugust 29, 2013 

Did you enter anything in the fair this year?

Several of my Master Gardener friends did and they won cash prizes! If you've never entered anything before, start now getting ready to enter something next year.

How about those winds last Thursday (Aug. 22)? My picnic table blew about 10 feet off the patio and barely missed some nice ceramic pots filled with flowers.

The barbecue landed by the back fence. My garden cart flew off in another direction. Potted plants were blown over, but didn't sustain any noticeable damage. All other plants appeared to weather the storm with no damage.

Did anyone else in the Treasure Valley experience winds like that?

If you see sections of your squash plants dying back, it could be squash bugs, not a sign that the squash are ready to harvest.

I remember the first time I had squash bugs in my garden. I didn't know what they were. They looked like a cross between a short-legged spider and a box elder bug. I described the bug to a fellow Master Gardener and she knew right away what it was.

She told me to look up squash bugs on the Internet. The photos I saw could have been taken in my squash patch!

At the time, my first thought was to run out and get some Sevin, a pesticide that kills a number of garden pests, but also kills the good guys if you're not careful.

Then I came to my organic senses. The squash patch wasn't that big and there was no reason I couldn't eliminate the pests by hand. And I could use the exercise!

First, I cut off the one butternut squash where they were congregating. Then I started inspecting the tops and bottoms of each leaf for eggs. If a leaf had eggs, I cut it off. Then I cleaned up the dead leaves.

All the cuttings went into a plastic bag and were thrown in the trash instead of the compost pile.

I repeated this a few days later and found a few more leaves with eggs. That fixed the problem for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, the bugs were back the next year and I repeated the process. The second (and subsequent years), I caught the problem earlier and sustained less damage to my plants.

If you have particular questions about gardening you'd like to see addressed in this column, send them to highprairielandscapedesign@yahoo.com.

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