Pests. I am completely young and naive to them. Believe it or not, I didn't have to deal with a single one at our place in southern New Hampshire. Our new place, adjacent to a wet meadow during these wet months, seems full of them- though I know that is hardly the case.
Here are the bugs we have and the plants they're interested in. We're working on our organic response to them. We primarily use integrated pest management (collect the bad guys in a jar of soapy water several times a day or use a strong stream of water to knock them from the plants). I'm also spraying my plants weekly with compost tea that I brew here in my shed in my homemade brewer. The tea is used as a foliar spray. I dilute the tea with water and apply it with my backpack sprayer. Compost teas boost beneficial microbes and improve plant health to make plants more resistant to pests. Some people report that their plants look noticeably healthier the very next day after use.
Striped cucumber beetles. They ate a full coreopsis plant before I caught on to them. For now, their numbers seem to be dwindling. I'm trying to keep them quarantined to a small area in the perennial garden as I mitigate them. They also like the cosmos, maybe because they have similar feathery leaves. Watch for their larval worms- they like to glue the top leaves of a coreopsis stem together in a little nest. If you squeeze this bundle, don't be surprised when a little worm squiggles out. Be ready with your jar!
Potato beetles. I've only seen one so far, but I'm sure its friends are not far behind. Their bright orange eggs are easy to spot on the underside of leaves. It's kind of yucky- but squishing the eggs off with your fingers is a good way to keep the potato beetle at bay without using any pesticides.
Scarlet Lily Beetles. These bugs have an incredible appetite for lily leaves. Their larvae/eggs are pretty gross masses of brown black sludge-stuff you'll find on lily leaves. They especially like asiatic lilies, and they'll devour the leaves and kill the plants if left unchecked.
Potato Leafhoppers. These guys are all over the place. They are tiny green bugs (see header photo), and the Cornell Cooperative Extension office tells me they are stirred up this time of year when the first hay is cut. I am sure they are just jumping over from the meadow adjacent to our property. They love dahlias. That makes them my no. 1 enemy. They are quick and hard to see. When I tap a dahlia I can see these tiny suckers dart away. They dislike fuzzy-leafed plants. I have some dahlias that are resistant to them because their leaves are a little more textured. I'll look into varieties that are naturally resistant to them and see if I can work with Cornell to build a list to share. I think they are also interested in my roses. Another reason to despise them...
We'll see what happens. My first defense is removing pests by hand, if possible (don't bother trying to catch the leafhoppers-- they are just too darn fast). Then I apply compost tea weekly to improve plant health. Lastly, I spray with an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified product. First I try those that claim not to hurt beneficial pollinators. OMRI insecticides are a last resort. Interested in connecting more about organic pest control? I can use all the help/advice I can get. Feel free to chime in with a comment. In mid July, we'll host Cornell on the farm to learn more about pest management and assist them with some data collection. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of their expertise!
I'll be sure to share news of our progress next month.