Here we go, into the thick of bug and pest season. With every swish past a fresh young brassica plant or perusal through a cucumber row we see them everywhere - bugs and bug evidence. It’s no wonder they also want a bite or two out of our beautiful Woodside produce. And since we all know by now that the use of chemical pesticides does more harm than good, we look to all-natural ways to deal with these pests, especially since we’re Certified Naturally Grown. There are plenty of anti-bug approaches to take and many of them are best when employed together. Let’s take a look at a few of Woodside’s favorite!
Each approach to pest maintenance has its pros and cons. And most will often work for one type of pest but not for others. So much of natural pest maintenance is understanding the pest and the crop.
Row cover - If you’ve ever walked through our different gardens, or even just driven past the farm, I’m sure you’ve seen lots of row cover. This can be used for many reasons. In the winter, you’ll see a lot of row cover being used mostly to protect our precious plants from frost damage. However, now that the temps are safely above freezing for the foreseeable future, there are still quite a few beds with row cover. This is to help protect us from the damage caused mostly by cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Trying to time our squash’s entrance into the world late enough to have a fighting chance against squash bugs, but early enough to enjoy all summer long is a delicate dance. Until they’re big enough, our baby squashes live under row cover to keep them safe against squash bugs during their mating season. Once the squash plants are big enough to fight for themselves, the row cover is taken off to allow the squash flowers to be pollinated.
Neem Oil - When row cover just doesn’t cut it anymore, we bring out the neem oil. Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide found in the seeds of the neem tree. It’s sprayed on just about anything and is the one time we cross our fingers for no rain. It’s helpful at repelling harlequin beetles, cucumber beetles (which often carry bacterial wilt with them as they fly from plant to plant), squash bugs, Colorado potato beetle, and so many other pests that we fight on a daily basis.
Soap - This seems almost silly to say, but when we’re losing the battle of the bug, we will often fill a bucket up with soapy water and walk around our plants, gently jostling them loose into a soapy, watery grave. It’s simple yet effective.
Hand Picking - When all else fails, we hand inspect each of our plants for pests, their larvae, and their eggs - squishing and killing where we can. It can be a blood bath at times. Obviously, this method is the most time-consuming, yet also tends to be the most effective. This is a last-ditch effort to regain control over our beds and is often prioritized for the beds with the most damage, yet also the most chance at making a comeback.
5. Eco-system stewardship: We’re not the only ones fighting for our soil and plant health. The more we care for the land and watch it for warning signs, the more we’re investing in a stronger, more pest-resistant farm. By planting certain plants that invite beneficial bugs and rotating the chickens through the beds, we’re using multiple elements that work synergistically to combat pests. Examples of this taking place in our ecosystem: paper wasps eat cabbage worms, zinnias increase the benefits while also reducing tomato hornworms, chickens for Japanese beetles/many other buggy pests.
Now you’ll know that as you look out into the Woodside fields, you’ll often be seeing 2-3 different pest wars happening all at once, even if it doesn’t look like much