This summer I had my first experience with a raised garden. My kids bought me a small 3 x 3 raised garden bed for Mother’s Day and an assortment of seeds. The first things I planted were beans and zucchini. Within a week after planting them, they sprouted. I was so excited! I felt like a new mom watching them grow bigger day after day. They were doing great! Until one day they weren’t looking so great.
I had been noticing some white, squiggly lines on the leaves of all of the plants. I started to do some research and discovered those squiggly lines were made by a bug called a Leafminer. Leafminers are the larvae from various insects. Those insects lay eggs on the leaves of the plants and then those larvae burrow into the leaves eating the inside of the leaf tissues. Not only do they affect the plants cosmetically but they can also stunt the growth of the plant or possibly kill it.
So, what do you do if you discover those lines on your plant’s leaves? Well, first and foremost, it’s easier to prevent an infestation than to stop one. You should take measures before you see any signs of those pests. Some suggestions are:
– Till your soil in the fall (leafminers like to hide in the soil over the winter months and emerge once the weather starts to warm up. By tilling the soil, this reduces the chance of any pupae remaining in the soil to harm the next plants in the spring)
-Keep a close eye on the garden and keep your plants healthy (monitor the garden daily, if possible. If you start to notice flies around that may be a sign that they are laying eggs. You can hang a sticky trap nearby to attract and kill the flies.
-Cover the plants ( try covering the plants with a lightweight, permeable cover so that sunlight, water, and air can get through but insects cannot.)
If you’ve already started to notice the squiggly lines on the leaves there are a few ways you can try to stop it but it is rather difficult. One way is by spraying the plant with insecticide. Personally, that would be my last choice and I would rather sacrifice the plant than to spray insecticide on it. You can also try to find the eggs of the larvae in the leaves and remove them but that certainly sounds tedious and not much fun. The best suggestion, in my opinion, is neem oil. Neem oil is non-toxic and not only does it kill off pests but it has properties to deter them, as well. It’s also safe for beneficial insects such as honey bees, ladybugs, etc. Spray diluted neem oil on the leaves and see if that kills them off.
While tending to this issue of the leafminers invading my plants, I also started to notice a furry looking red and black wasp flying around my zucchini plants every day. I figured it was a random wasp that was pollinating the flowers of the plant. Well, I was wrong. Turns out, it wasn’t a wasp at all. It was a moth called a Squash Vine Borer. They do exactly what their name suggests. The moth lays eggs on the stem of the plant and the larvae bore into the stem and start eating away the inner stem. By doing this, it prevents the rest of the plant from getting water and nutrients. Thus, the plant starts to wilt and die. When this happens, it most likely will result in the plant dying, unfortunately.
You can try to cut the stem and remove the worm to save the plant but most likely at that point, the plant is past the point of saving. A preventative measure that you can take for future zucchini or any other cruciferous plants is to wrap the stem in tinfoil. Wrap it from the soil to the first set of branches/leaves. Not tightly because the plant needs room to grow but enough to prevent the moth from laying eggs.
This was a learning experience for me. I need to research each plant before I plant it to see what known issues there are. You can’t just plant any plants together or after each other, either. That’s another issue. A big shout out to my husband on informing me about that. I truly had no idea there was so much to consider when growing a garden. I thought you just throw some seeds down and watch them grow.
So, needless to say, I had to pull everything from the bed. I’m not quite sure what affected the beans but they ended up dying, too. I suspect that planting the beans with the zucchini in such a small space resulted in the zucchini stealing all of the nutrients in the soil. Now, I have an empty bed and I’m waiting for cooler weather to start planting the next round of vegetables. This time, however, I will do my research before planting.
My neighbor has an amazing garden and plants everything directly into the ground. We have limestone in the ground with sandy soil so I don’t know how they do it. You need a pickaxe just to dig a hole. They say that the roots will find what they need even through limestone. I have wondered whether planting directly into the ground is better. In the raised bed, there’s only so far that the roots can go.
Have you ever had a garden? Did you plant directly into the ground or use a raised bed? I would love to hear your stories. Please feel free to share them below.