3 curses: aphids, slugs, cucumber beetles

loribee2(CA 9)October 29, 2010

Is it just me? I quite seriously cannot plant a solitary vegetable in my garden without it being completely overrun with either aphids, slugs or cucumber beetles. Slugs will come in one night and wipe out an entire crop of seedlings before dawn. I have aphids in green, gray, black and red. Each have their favorite food. I must spray constantly and pour sluggo over everything. If I don't, my plants are gone within a week.

I've been trying to stay organic. It's not possible to hand pick the slugs. Some are almost microscopic they're so small. I can fight back some of the beetles, but they come in droves. Neem isn't doing much. I've tried sacrificial plants to lure them away, but it only seems to attract more. The ladybugs are in my garden, but they don't make a dent in my aphid population. I think the only reason I don't have (bigger) caterpillar problems is because I'm pretty religious with the BT.

I guess my question is, do you have similar problems in your veggie gardens, and if so, what have you been able to do to stay on top of them? So many folks on the veggie forum talk about hand-picking or--here's a good one--just letting the bugs nibble. I keep thinking they can't possibly have slugs and aphids like we have here in the Bay Area, as there's no "sharing" with the pests. Give them an inch and they take the whole plant.

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calistoga_al

One of the blessings of gardening in a climate without extreme climate changes, is also a curse, as the pests are able to survive and flourish year around. Most of us react to a problem instead of anticipating and preventing it. Once a large population is on site it is very difficult to control the damage. I like to think of my garden as a whole, with the pests spread equally throughout, and treat the entire area, not just where I can see the pest or the damage. Al

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 8:06AM
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borderbarb

Do you have lizards in your garden? For some reason, my lizard population is much larger than ever befor. At same time, I see no evidence of slugs. I think my little beady-eyed guys are eating pests.

Also, can you provide forage seeds/nectar feeders for birds? Since we started nectar for hummers, our oriole population has increased, and for the first time ever [knock on wood] have been wi/o a single tomato worm for 2 seasons.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 8:23AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Yes, one hard lesson this year is that prevention is a must. When I had my last garden I used to wait to see signs of pest damage before attacking. Now, that first sign of pest damage is often a total wipe-out of my plants. I also thought that maybe if I let the aphids "have" my sunflowers and ornamental sweet peas, they'd leave the rest alone. That was a huge mistake. Now, I'm having to come out full guns the moment I plant, and I intend to stay away from ornamentals that attract the aphids. But I don't remember having to do that in my last house.

It could be that in my new neighborhood, I'm surrounded by agriculture, which wasn't the case when I lived in Petaluma. I had snail problems before, but one of these teeny weeny slugs that are impossible to control without bait.

Barb, I don't have lizards, but I do have lots of birds. (They looove my pea seedlings, the little turds, but I encourage them to come around anyway). I have been very pleased that there aren't any hornworms in the new house, and I don't know if that's the birds or the BT. I had those in my last garden and they give me the heebie geebies big time!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 10:24AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I have been looking at floating row covers for my veggie beds. They may help control the leaf miners, budworms, the aphids, and the beetles. My beds are raised, so I have fewer slugs now, but still get earwigs, pillbugs and slugs. Some years are worse than others- but I'm with you, loribee, you have to keep on it from day one to keep them under control. I have stinkbugs that must have some bizarre ancestral memory or something- every year, new babies appear on my tomatoes, even though I really do kill all of them really early.
Renee

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 1:33AM
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calistoga_al

When "floating" row covers are mentioned I take that to mean the material is actually in contact with the plant, "laying on it". I have not tried that, but have used it supported by PVC pipe, bent into a hoop over a raised bed and it works very well. It must be sealed with soil over the edges. Al

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 8:50AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

It makes me feel better to know it's not just me or something I'm doing. I've looked at row covers in passing. Is there a way to use them on tall growing plants like indeterminate tomatoes or pole beans? I've been hesitant because I'm in a wind zone and don't know how well they hold up under very breezy conditions without some serious structural support.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 10:18AM
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jordanz(8A (Mojave Desert))

So you said you've used neem oil, how exactly did you use it? I mix it per what the bottle says, then spray the top and bottom of each leaf once a week. If that doesn't work, try alternating one week do the neem oil spray, the next week use a dish soap/water mixture spray (only a couple of drops of dish soap per quart of water).

That seems to have helped out my aphid problem here in the Mojave desert. It didn't erradicate them, but did get rid of a lot of them.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 3:04PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Yes, I purchased a concentrate that I keep mixed in a 2-gallon pump sprayer. But you mentioned spraying weekly. I've only been spraying a few times a season. That could be my problem.

I appreciate the tips. I think after comparing practices with you all, I've been under-doing it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 1:01AM
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jordanz(8A (Mojave Desert))

Yeah, once a week, and if that doesn't work switch and do the neem mixture one week, then the dish soap mixture the next week and so on.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 3:50PM
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