Attack of the Aphids

092013_BasilHi friends!

Summer is officially coming to a close in just two days (September 22nd 1:44PM PST) and it’s time to get planting fall veggies like kale, swiss chard and kohlrabi.  The end of summer has been very nice for us in the desert with day time temps in the low 90’s with a slight breeze.  Night temps have been absolutely wonderful and refreshing hovering in the mid to high 60’s.  A few weeks prior we had a string of rainy weather immediately followed by blistering desert heat which translated into an aphid population explosion that took over my beloved squash bed!

081613_ScallopSquash2My squash leaves before the attack

I tried blasting the little creepy crawlies with water and spraying them with a soapy solution on a daily basis but my squash plants continued to decline from the endless feasting of these unwelcome garden visitors. It didn’t help matters that the ants had set up base camp in my veggie beds with what seemed like super-unstoppable-strength despite my diligent efforts to persuade them to go elsewhere.

With this recent setback in my garden, I had a choice… pull out the “big guns” and continue to fight a losing battle with the little squishy green aphids, whose numbers seemed to double every time I blinked  -OR-  throw in the towel and admit defeat 😛

Normally, I would fight tooth and nail to the bitter end but to be honest with you, my summer veggie garden has been challenged from day one.  In addition to getting a late start in planting my “picture perfect” soil block transplants (late July), we were hit with a record heat wave and blistering hot winds for several days on end.  Not a good time for us to be fiddling with our irrigation to get it “just right”.  This lethal combination literally knocked the wind out of my sweet little veggie plant’s and they struggled hard to adapt and establish themselves into my garden.  Definitely not optimum growing conditions for healthy thriving plants. Sadly, some plants died and the remainder of plants were left stressed and vulnerable to pest attacks.

With a strong need for a “garden win”, I began to rationalize… “fall is coming very soon and the chances of my butternut and acorn squash giving me the fruit I so hoped for were slim… I can prep my veggie bed for fall crops and it sure would be easier to address my aphid and ant issue with a nearly empty bed… bringing in stronger pest control options could threaten the lives of my sweet little nectar transporting angels (bees)”.  The decision was a no-brainer…  pull the squash!

Squash

Lessons Learned

  1. Start soil blocks earlier and transplant seedlings into garden several weeks before the heat settles in (usually early June) – this should give them time to grow a strong root system before the heat hits them.
  2. Check plants 2-3 times each day for signs of pest damage.
  3. At the first sign of pests, address immediately. The tools and methods I used to address my ant and aphid issues were fine.
  4. Plant a separate bed just for flowers to help attract more beneficials to the garden; time their bloom cycle to start before the arrival of known pests

In preparation for item # 4, we started hauling rocks from our front yard to our backyard (if you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I have tons!).  We will “re-purpose” these rocks to  build a couple of raised rock planters for an assortment of flowers and herbs like echinacea, bachelor’s buttons, cosmos, and bee balm.  I have all the seeds I need to get started and we setup an irrigation stub in this area a couple of months back for these planters.  See, we were thinking ahead, but with limited resources and only two sets of hands to get a ton of work done, things have to be done in order of priority and the flower planters were low on the list.  092013_RockPlanterEnjoy your last few days of summer and I’ll chat with you soon!

God Bless,

AG_Signature_Color_Transparent

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Filed under desert gardening, Pest Control

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