why i don’t spray

I wrote a post awhile back about potato bugs.

It’s a lot of work to squash them.  Mostly because it’s gross.

We tended to do it as a regular job each time we were near the potatoes, but only after we had finished whatever other garden work we had come to do.  That means we were already hot and sweaty and tired by the time we went hunting potato bugs.  Up and down the rows, look for suspect raggedy edges, watch for eggs, watch for new hatches, catch the adults when they drop onto the ground.  It wasn’t the most fun garden work.

But it payed off.  There are no more potato bugs now.

The plants are draping over the rows, suppressing (most) weed growth.  They are lush and green, with just the slightest hint of decline beginning to show, which is exciting because it makes us think there will be potatoes soon.  And there is nary a potato beetle in sight.

Sweet goodness.  What a wonderful thing.

But here’s the real pay-off:

A couple nights ago the kids and I were on the hill, picking sugar snap peas and pulling more and more and more weeds.  The sun went sinking behind the hill and I was still finishing with the peas.

Then the light show began.  Swarms of fireflies lifted out of the corn and potatoes and hovered at knee height, flashing in some strange syncopated rhythm, like a wave of stars across the field.  Literally, they were bumping against my legs as I walked down the row.  It was amazing to be standing among them.  We watched as they slowly rose, blinking their special star-language, ever upward.

We noticed them, along with the pretty ladybugs, on those hot days as we pinched the potato bugs.  They hide under the garden leaves during the day, and they always seems a little shy to me when I find them.  I try to give them space, pretend I don’t see them.  They seem much more comfortable with themselves in the night.

It would have been much easier to spray something on the potatoes to wipe out the bugs, but whatever killed potato bugs would also kill fireflies.

If we had sprayed, we wouldn’t have known what we were missing.

But now we do.

And that’s why I don’t spray.


i don’t have a camera capable of capturing those lights. this picture was found on the following site, which i encourage you to visit: http://twistedsifter.com/2014/01/long-exposure-photos-of-fireflies-at-night-tsuneaki-hiramatsu/ and used with gratitude.

For fascinating firefly information, check this out:




tea time

Sit in on a tea time chat with the farmwives…

Coree’s wondering…

about our little garden bugs.  Bean, cucumber, potato and harlequin beetles, hornworms, grasshoppers, praying mantis, ladybugs, aphids, thrips, leaf hoppers, squash bugs, vine borers, cabbage lopers and katydids, to name a few.  You don’t have to be an entomologist to work in a garden, but sometimes it might help!  The produce is coming in fast now, and what looked like a perfectly reasonable and orderly garden a few weeks ago is now beginning to look like a tremendous jungle of vine and weeds.  I don’t know how it is at your place, but that’s the reality around here.  We’re doing our best to keep the ground clear, but the growth of nearly everything living is rampant, including insects.  Some of them are benign, some beneficial, and some pests.

It’s been our experience that as our management and fertility improve, our pest problems are reduced, BUT there are years when conditions are just great for certain bugs that are detrimental to the garden.  Grasshoppers come to mind.  Cabbage worms too.  Do you use Bt or row covering or just pinch them with your fingers? – yuck!

What’s your tactic?  Any good tips or experiences to share?harlequin

robin chimes in…

we do not use Bt, we rely heavily on crop rotation to reduce those pesky pests. if we can manage it, rotating the crop families around the various gardens, (luckily we actually have 7 main growing areas because of the nature of our farmscape) we can usually stay ahead of any predictable infestations (like the cabbage worms, potato beetles, bean beetles, etc). what about the bugs that munch everything in sight? pick, pluck, smush, we have used all of the above mainly gross methods! finally, row cover is a wonder, especially for eggplants that can’t survive the flea beetle attacks just after transplanting, for that the protection seems to work great to get them established enough to defend themselves. what else? i agree with you coree in a well managed good garden spot, a healthy plant seems really to be able to fend for itself, i love to see that!

cher adds…

Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We have them all here, too. And just this evening when Eric and I were at the creek for a dip, he got bit in the forehead by a deer fly while plucking a tick from his belly. Nice, huh? Anyhow, in the garden we also have used all of the above. I have also used the (biodynamic) method of applying “peppers”… where you gather up a bunch of the problem insect, burn them (sounds harsh, I know), and then sprinkle the ashes in the infested areas of the garden.

Row cover is a must at times (you’re right about the eggplant, Robin) but one particularly bad grasshopper year, the little jaws with wings learned to chew through the row cover to gain access to the tender crops below. That was a pretty frustrating experience, to say the least. Our gardens are surrounded by pasture, and sometimes that pasture is tall and thick. Perfect habitat for the grasshoppers… they can just flit into the garden and chow down on our tender, coddled little transplants and then flit back into the protection of the tall grass. As our pastures improve, and as the grass gets sweeter, the grasshoppers have been less and less of a problem. Which affirms the logic that when the soil is healthy, insect pests will be less. Soil health has always been our primary focus in the gardens and in the pastures, and when your soil is vibrant and healthy, everything else falls into place.

Also, for more great information about bugs of all kinds, please check out “Garden Insects” (DVD) and The Organic Bug Book from our friends at Breathe Deep Productions.  Good information from some wonderful people.

Have a lovely weekend, all! If any of you would like to share some insect related stories, please do so in the comments!