God has blessed my garden big time.  My peas have wound up their cages and are reaching toward the heavens with their big, beautiful white blossoms.  Yellow, velvety blossoms are erupting from my zukes, as well. And we've already savored some of the fresh arugula, kale, and spinach at our dinner table. 

But there is one area in which my garden is a hurting unit.

Many of my squash plants are being devastated by bugs. 

Just look at this poor buttercup. The leaves have been eaten alive, some of them so much that they have shriveled up and died. Many of my cucumbers and spaghetti squash are in the same state.

This. Means. War.

Now, Ethan suggested I just go to Home Depot and eradicate the little buggers with a good ole' fashioned pesticide once and for all, but I am trying to avoid using any toxic chemicals in my garden. Of course, there is always the au natural route - plenty of places sell natural sprays these days - but I thought, "Why buy it if I can just make it?" And so began my search for an at-home remedy for conquering the bugs and taking back my garden.

Today was Day 1 of the Battle of the Bugs. First I had to identify exactly which bugs I needed to battle.  Some bugs are good bugs, after all, and I didn't want to kill those. The biggest squash-eaters seem to be a small yellow and black beetle, pictured below. 

After doing some highly reliable research on Google Images, I decided that these stinkers must be blister beetles.  They matched the picture and description, at least.  After a little more research, I found a natural DIY recipe for bug spray for plants that is supposed to work on beetles over at Earth Easy. The recipe is: 

1 quart water
A couple drops of Ivory soap 
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cooking oil 

I combined these ingredients into an empty, rinsed out spray bottle that I had been keeping around just in case an issue like this arose. I shook well, then went out to my garden and sprayed the bejeepers out of those blister beetles.  

The good news is that the beetles (and all the other bugs in the vicinity) went running in the opposite direction. I almost felt bad, until I remembered that they were killing the fruits of my labor. I suppose it will take a few days before I'll be able to tell if this natural pesticide did the job.  Stayed tuned for updates on the Battle of the Bugs.  

Until then, happy gardening, friends! 

Do you have a specific pest in your garden that is worse than the others? How do you deal with it? Please share any natural remedies you have - I've heard that planting specific plants next to one another works in some situations, as do all sorts of natural repellants.  What has worked for you? What hasn't?

I am not a plant whisperer.  Things die on me all the time.  In fact, I've already planted, replanted, and then planted some of the vegetables in my garden for the third time.  I'm overzealous, I'll admit. I planted seedlings inside in early May, and by the time I could put them outside without fear of them freezing to seedling pops they had already grown much too large for their containers.  And then, they were scorched by the sun and shriveled up and died. 

The thing is, I just love getting dirt under my fingernails and have trouble waiting all winter to do so.  I love being outside with a purpose, knowing that all my hard work will pay off in the form of fresh herbs and veggies in a couple of months.  I love waking up every morning and checking for new growth in my little plot of land. 

I haven't always considered myself a gardener.  My mother always had a large vegetable garden when my sister and I were growing up, but mostly I was just interested in eating the raw peas.  Plus I was obligated to weed, which I roughly equated to being forced to grovel in the dirt while creepy creatures crawled and squirmed all around me. But something happened when we moved into our own place, with our own plot of land.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that I got interested in cooking, or because I was spending a lot more time grocery shopping. Or maybe it's a bug you get, something you just wanna do when you grow up and move into your own apartment. Whatever it was, I caught it.  And I've been trying to figure out how to keep my stuff alive ever since.

I do some experimenting out there, trying to figure out problems like wilty cauliflower and bug-invested cukes and a persistent little gopher with a taste for green beans.  I'd be happy for you to come along for the ride.  I can't promise perfect advice, or perfect greens either.  But enthusiasm for garden to table cooking? I've got it. And I will share what I discover along the way.

My plot of land is jam-packed with goodness this year.  It's got cantaloupe, cucumbers, butternut, buttercup, acorn, summer, and spaghetti squash, peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, tomatillo, basil, parsley, zucchini,  carrots, swiss chard, baby lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, green onions, chives, and cauliflower, plus a few zinnias sprinkled in for color. What have you planted? 

Please share your own tips and experiences, whether good, bad, or hilarious. Gardening is like cooking -  even better when shared. 



    Deidre is a small-town Maine girl with a hearty appetite. Read more on the About Me page.


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