A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden

Seeds, Smack Talk and Assorted Gardening Madness in South Pasadena, Los Angeles

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lemon Cucumbers...and Aphids-Moi?

Look at mama's sweet juicy cucumbers- I just plucked them from the vine a few days ago! Very exciting. Last year I grew lemon cucumbers, but as per usual, I always overcrowd things out of enthusiasm to have a crazy jumble jungle of veggies, and the the plants end up suffering because some really want their space. (I always do that and am starting to mend my ways) So my 2005 lemon cucumber crop was limited to 2 cukes, and then the plant eventually succumbed to powdery mildew becaue the light and air circulation was drowned out by it's sunflower neighbors. But on this years cucumber plants I did notice some aphid colonies (this can't be happening to me, why me God, why me, I've always been a so-so, kinda, almost halfway good girl) being tended to by the ants running up and down the plant. Overall, the plant looks green and healthy, but I foresaw doom, doom in it's future! Plus I've only harvested 2 stinkin' cucumbers and my gardening ego demands more. I cut off some of the unhealthy, sucked dry leaves, and rinsed the plants well.

Check out the APHIDS on the undersides of the leaf:

I checked them again this morning and rinsing the plants off didn't really do that much- still plenty of aphids and plenty of ants herding and tending to them. So this breezy afternoon...I decided to concoct a HOMEMADE INSECTICIDAL SOAPY SPRAY POTION to off some of the aphids. A little DR. BRONNER'S PEPPERMINT SOAP, a little HABANERO PEPPER SAUCE, a little powdered CAYENNE PEPPER, a couple CLOVES OF GARLIC, and a dash of LIQUID KELP for good measure. I blended all of these ingredients with water, strained the mixture and added more water and sprayed it on both the tops and the undersides of the leaves. Spicy peppers and garlic make great pest repellants, and the soap actually kills the ants and aphids. Garlic is also supposed to be anti-fungal and discourage powdery mildew and so on. There are a few natural insecticidal soaps on the market, but they are plenty easy to make on your own, and you can always find recipes online. I usually never spray my plants with soapy sprays because it also kills most BENEFICIAL INSECTS, like ladybugs, too. Most of the time, if you let pests chill in your garden, the situation often takes care of itself. PREDATOR BUGS arrive on the scene to make a feast of the pest, a flock of birds might land and devour the bad guys. Usually most pests have some sort of parasite, disease or predator that could wipe them out. And sometimes this fragile, beautiful little ecosystem is balancing itself out in a world to small for us to take notice and we end up destroying it all before this process has even had a chance to begin. So I don't always encourage a finger on the insecticidal trigger.

But this time I got all IRRITATED BY ALL THESE APHIDS which multiply so rapidly- and there was nary a ladybug in sight. And where were those lazy birds to come and dine in my backyard? So I made my concoction...and I didn't use a recipe, I just felt it out...and I'm going to be crapping my pants until morning because "What if I made it too strong and I burn the leaves with the soap?" Oh well, we shall see...

PS- Often an out of control pest problem will signal an imbalance- the plant could be stressed out by soil nutrient inbalances, incorrect light needs, lack of or excessive water. Pests are usually attracted to plants that are stressed. In my case I think the plants got a little burst of nitrogen from the liquid organic fertilizer I gave them. Sucking pests (they suck, alright) like aphids are attracted to that new, juicy high nitrogen growth.


At 31 July, 2006 21:40, Blogger Tiana said...

I want to taste the lemon cucumbers...they sound interesting. What do you plan to do with them? Salad?

At 31 July, 2006 21:44, Blogger Tiana said...

Sorry...I need to add 1 more thing 2 my comment..."so-so kinda good girl"? Hmmm...I could blog about a few things here...but I won't.

At 01 August, 2006 15:31, Blogger Loretta said...

Lemon cucumbers are delish- I'll give you seeds for next year if you want. They don't really taste like lemon, but they are resfreshing and crisp, if a bit seedy. I just eat them raw with salt or put them in salads. They's be really cute if you cut off the tops, hollowed them out and stuffed them with some sort of tuna or quinoa salad. Mmmmmm.

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