My Garden Brings All The Pests To The Yard

Well, that’s it folks…fall is officially here. For those who live in Virginia: can we all agree that it was one crazy, wet summer? I mean seriously, it rained so dang much. Our grass was out of control for most of the season because it wouldn’t ever dry out long enough to allow us to actually mow it and since our property is as flat as can be it’s been a total swamp turning our outdoor space into a mosquito breeding ground.

If you caught this April’s purchase post then you know we added a couple of beds to our garden this year. My intentions were to expand our garden, grow more and learn more in the process. Well this year was quite the adventure and definitely a learning experience. Mosquitos haven’t been our only problem – it seems like we had allll the pests in our garden this year from aphids on our snap peas…

…to cabbage worms eating the broccoli leaves/kale…

…squash bugs invading our zucchini plant…

…white flies & harlequin bugs taking over the remaining kale…

(and look, I even caught them trying to make more harlequin bugs…yay)

…wireworms in our carrots…

…and stink bugs on the tomatoes!

Now I’m not a weenie. I walk through our spider infested yard barefoot, pay little mind to neighboring bees or wasps and love picking up worms to give to my daughter to put in our garden but never has my skin crawled so much. There is just something about bugs crawling all over our food that gives me the total heebie jeebies.

While we had some success growing kale, most of it was eaten by bugs or beaten all to heck from a hail storm early on, so we didn’t really get to eat all that much of it.

I planted cucumbers from seed this year which did well until they didn’t.  At some point they started turning yellow and looking all sickly so that was that. The tomato plants held out pretty well despite the stinkers (with the exception of one that did nothing) and we had much better luck with peppers this year than last!

I tried planting green beans again this year but they never really made it. Wanting to see broccoli grow the whole way through I got four starters which were planted back in April. The heads got much larger than they did last time but I think I waited too long to harvest them as they went from healthy looking to yellowing within a day or so. They were also infested with what I think were cutworms (yes, another pest to add to the list) so I had to surrender them all to the compost heap. I did get to see how the plants grow side shoots after harvesting the first head though so that was good. I attempted to grow zucchini and it only got but so far before it became infested with squash bugs.  For both the squash and stink bugs, we tried spraying them with soapy water. For the tomatoes I’ve still continued to see squash bugs so not sure if it really helped (or if I did it right).  The zucchini plant died soon after but I’m not sure if that was because of the bugs or from our spraying.  Either way it was short lived.

My attempt at planting a full on flower bed flopped as I dug it up when it was too wet and didn’t add any soil or compost to it and being clay soil once it dried out it basically turned into solid rock. So that ended up getting dug back up and turned into our sweet potato bed which is doing muuuuuch better (so far).

Luckily the few mexican sunflower seeds planted in one of the veggie beds came through for us, turning into a huge, beautiful bush of bright orange sunflowers that the pollinators loved!! We saw bees, butterflies & even hummingbirds circling around these beauties.  This was the one win of the season.

Not going to lie, by mid-summer I was over all the bugs and our garden has nearly been abandoned since. Even now that it’s fall I know I need to get out there and do some work to the soil but I just can’t deal with the mosquito infestation we have going on. I’m actually finding myself ready for cooler weather (which never happens) just so everything will die off already. The garden hasn’t been my only challenge but composting has been a real struggle too. I switched over from using a bin to a heap this year since the bin was difficult to turn as it got full. The heap hasn’t been much better except turning which has been easier but with the mosquitos lately the process has been more like: move aside the top layer, dump, put top layer back, wash and run. Our compost pile is reminiscent of the inside of a port-o-john at a chili cook off since I haven’t been balancing out the greens with anything brown. We don’t have many dead leaves around our yard and haven’t prioritized time to figure out how to get them from other places to my house. Recently out of desperation I started using dried up grass/weeds clippings that were piled up throughout the yard but haven’t been back to inspect whether it helped. It probably didn’t though seeing as the amount of dead grass I added wasn’t anywhere close to the amount of peels and other rotting produce I have festering back there. Plus the rain hasn’t helped it not be a soggy, rotten mess. I’ve actually started throwing apple cores and pits out into the yard from my back porch just to reduce the amount going into my compost collection bucket. Can’t help but think that maybe it’s time to start a worm bin…

We haven’t yet got around to setting up our rain barrel but its not like this year we even needed it. The only watering I did was in the very beginning of the season. Otherwise, mother nature has been doing the rest. With all the mosquitos we face in our yard, I want to make sure I’ve thoroughly researched natural ways to keep them making a home in the water tank before cutting into our gutters.

At this point I’m ready for a fresh start. I want to burn all my remaining plants and beef up the health of my beds for next year. My plan is to focus more on flowers for the pollinators in the coming year and try planting anything that didn’t attract pests this year in case all the little boogers are still lurking around. While this year was very discouraging, it was also a big eye opener to the problems farmers face when growing our food and I have major gratitude for the natural farms who do it without chemicals. At the same time I also have a better idea of what to look for whenever we try to grow any of these veggies again in the future. In speaking with several farmers, it was reiterated to me that the key element in keeping pests away is healthy soil. Obviously the soil in our beds is hurting and needs some major TLC. Hopefully this year will be the worst case scenario for our little garden and that we’ll be able to grow more healthy produce on our own in future years!

 

Thanks for stopping by!!!

xo, Erica

 

4 Replies to “My Garden Brings All The Pests To The Yard”

  1. How disheartening, I would definitely have given up by now so I admire your tenacity to keep going next Summer! Glad you at least had some pretty flowers to enjoy though!

    1. Thank you so much Jenni!! I’m determined to learn how to overcome these challenges so I can grow at least some of our food and love being able to teach the little one in the process as well! But you’re right – very disheartening!! That’s why next year may be more flowers than food. 🙂

  2. I’ve found that having a physical barrier (netting/hope/cage) for the kale/broccoli/Brussels sprouts or anything else in the cabbage family, is the best way to avoid the cabbage worms. White moths lay their eggs on these plants and the caterpillar is born to eat all the new greens! If you can keep the white moths off you prevent the whole problem. You can also daily look for the green caterpillar on the leaves and kill them. I also recommend tackling one pest at a time. Become an expert on handling one then try another next year. Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much for the tips! I definitely need to employ those sorts of barriers the next time I grow brassica veggies. I started picking the worms off but it kind of geeked me out having to squish them so half the time I just threw them in the yard. I def need to toughen up a little next time around when it comes to snuffing out the crawlies. lol

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