We’ve been happily entertaining our son’s family from North Carolina. The Cayucos Parade was a kick. Chasing candy, cheering people we might know, and looking at sand sculptures is good family fun. Viewing fireworks from our Cambria deck was lovely.
There’s the San Simeon beach, tide pools on Marine Terrace, the Monterey Aquarium, and, of course, “Grammy’s garden.”
Two granddaughters, ages 4 and 7, were easily entertained with chickens, labradoodles and chores in the garden. Their favorite activity this year was hunting down the pesky Diabrotica undecimpunctata or spotted cucumber beetle. The “green ladybugs,” as some people mistakenly call them, are devouring my roses, irises, California poppies and chard.
The two girls, “entrepreneurs extraordinaire,” love to make money. So I offered the girls a penny for every cucumber beetle they captured. Hey, no remarks. This was a “win win” situation. The girls got over a hundred cucumber beetles in less than an hour and I was happy to “pay up.” The following day they got even more as
they’d mastered the
technique of knocking the bugs into a bowl of
soapy water. There’s an
art to managing pests in the garden and it’s best to use non-chemical methods since most pesticides are not discriminatory and kill both good and bad bugs. If you spray a pesticide into a blossom to kill a cucumber beetle, you’ll also kill the bee that visits the flower in search of pollen. The key to gardening without chemicals is to be educated on which insect to squish and which to love.
• Cutworms and grubs that feed at night on tender roots and stems. They are fat and grey-brown and live under the soil;
• Earwigs that do major damage to leaves and vegetables. They have pincers on their back end and hide in shady places during the day;
• Snails and slugs, also destructive night feeders. Get a good flashlight and go on a hunt; and
• Spotted cucumber beetles that are yellow-green with black spots. They eat flowers and leaves. Knock into soapy water or squish.
Learn to love:
• Centipedes and millipedes that consume dead plant material, creating compost;
• Earthworms aerate and fertilize the soil and are important for soil health;
• Ground beetles are blue/black/brown foragers about 1 inch long. They prey on insects and pests;
• Lady beetles or “lady bugs” are red with black spots. They prey on aphids and mealy bugs. You go girls!;
• Trichogramma wasps are tiny parasitoids that look like slender flies. They attack the eggs of caterpillars and other pests; and
• Spiders are good. Learn to love them.
Know your enemy in the garden and nurture beneficial insects. If you don’t have granddaughters to capture your cucumber beetles, you can borrow mine!