Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Gardening news! Flea Beetles and Pesticides

Today's article was originally going to be about flea beetles and it still might but for a minute I'd like to talk some about pesticides and whether or not we should have some in storage.
I've always tried to garden organically. It's cheaper for one thing and for another, I don't have to worry about just picking something and standing in the garden and munching away. I like being able to do that. It makes me happy.
But if we talk about survival gardening, if we talk about trying to grow food to eat when TSHTF (the shit hits the fan) then I think it's a good idea to have some kind of pesticide stocked up in your doomer garden supply storage.
I know I know, I'll probably get pilloried for that but, think about it. People who don't like guns are buying guns and ammo and putting them up. Just in case. Why not have some fertilizer and pesticide as well. You may never have to use it but it would be good to have on hand for just in case.
Say for instance TSHTF and you are trying to grow food for you and your family. You get a severe infestation of bean beetles or cabbage worms or egad! flea beetles? What if that food means eating or going hungry for your family. All I'm saying is it might be worth considering having a little bag of 7 Dust or something on hand for emergencies, as a last ditch item.
I've gardened organically for a long time. For the most part it's been really successful. When we moved here though, we have had to deal with more bugs and different kinds of bugs than we ever did before. Maybe it's the creek being so close or something but I've never seen a buggier place!
We usually manage to get a crop regardless although there have been some times, like when squash borers killed all our winter squash last year before they could produce anything, that if we had been in a survival situation we'd have had to go without.
Just food for thought.  Something for us to think about.
I don't have any bug killer in my stocks but, I am going to buy some later this year if I have the money, and I'll put it up for just in case.
Oh, and fertilizer too. If you are getting your organic manures or other things off-site now, you need to consider what you will do if that supply was cut off. Many people have chickens on their small doomsteads and so are able to collect and use chicken manure, but for people who are starting out, who don't have animals to collect manure from, you may want to also get a bag of good fertilizer and put it up as well. For just in case.
Human manure composting is something else you could think about but that's an article for another Sunday.

Now, on with flea beetles!

After the heavy rains we had, I went out to the garden the next morning and saw my beautiful eggplants studded with creepy little flea beetles!
Flea Beetles are just like their name sounds. Small dark beetles not much larger than fleas that can jump. they eat holes in the leaves of tomatoes and eggplants and other plants leaving the plant damaged and feeling bad.
I avoid chemical pesticides so, to deal with them I have been picking them off by hand and putting them in a small container of water or, sometimes if I'm in a particularly nasty mood I just squash them on the spot and leave their mutilated bodies on the plant as a warning to other flea beetles.
They don't seem to care though. They just keep coming back.
I'm sure that my eggplants are the tastiest there are around, because they are the only eggplants around here right now and so they are an irresistable temptation for them.
With the heavy rains and the ground saturated I'm sure they also offered a handy refuge from the water as well.
Seems to me that the best time to catch them has been after a rain when they have moved to higher ground.
This method works fine if you are dealing with a few plants, I don't know what kind of help you'd have to have if you were growing hundreds of plants though, but I have 14 plants in the ground so it's not too big a deal to just pick them off.
That's a good time to check the undersides of the leaves for eggs too while you're at it.
Squash those when you find them.
Neighbor got us some Diatomaceous earth to try. I'll find something to apply it with later today and give it a go. It's rained so much it would have been useless to try it before now.

Here are some links with information about flea beetles and ways of dealing with them.
Wikipedia article on flea beetles. 
Flea Beetle: Organic Control Options
Also, Emmie from The Tinfoil Palace posted a link to a really good article about seed saving and storage.
(you should pay a visit to her forum!) One of the best parts of the article was how the writer of the piece always saved back part of his/her seed. Never plant all you seed. That's a good motto to live by.
Here's the link to that one.
How to Harvest, Process, and Store Vegetable Seed
the comparison of seed to the price of silver is great too.

So, if you are thinking of gardening to help with your food supply in the future, do at least consider having a bit of pesticide and fertilizer in your preps. Even if you never use it on your own garden, you could use it for trading in the future.

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