A View from the South Franklin Circle Garden: SFC Dining Services Director Sandy Bender Shares Her Gardening Tribulations and Triumphs

As a gardener, I like to go out and check the progress (or demise) of my garden plants daily. I look for growth, see if plants need to be tied up because of the wind, check if they need a drink, or just see if anything is ripe. My Japanese cucumbers had many yellow flowers, but no actual cucumbers, until one day there they were! Two eight-inch cucumbers and four smaller ones, overnight!

Sadly, however, I had to say goodbye to my three 15-foot Hubbard squash plants at my home. Their huge leaves kept wilting and the actual squash turned brown and fell off. The culprits were cucumber beetles! When I removed the plants, I saw the damage the little guys did just by getting into the stems.

I am trying to prevent this in the South Franklin Circle garden. I ordered adhesive spray and nailed yellow solo cups to wooden stakes to place by the plants. I then put cucumber slices and spray adhesive inside the cups to attract the unsuspecting. The cups mimic cucumber flowers and attract the pesky bugs, kind of like bug pong on a stick, only these bugs automatically lose when they play! I do not want to use any bad chemicals in our garden, as I had a farmer once tell me “if you have a perfect [looking] product, it’s because it has been sprayed”. So bug holes in leaves and veggies are a good sign!

I was a bit squeamish about beetles until I found out more about them. Beetles are pretty. Some have yellow stripes and polka dots (cucumber beetles) and some are silvery, iridescent, and shiny (Japanese beetles). I already have lost several squash plants to the cucumber beetles and now every time I see the plants wilting I am praying it is from the 90-degree weather.

Unfortunately, my bug pong sticks were too late to save our SFC Hubbard squash. I read (too late) that Hubbard squash helps attract bugs away from other plants, sort of like a sacrificial plant! I did catch a few of the critters in the cup traps and I redid some of the other traps as well.

I was tying up plants and weeding when I noticed some damage – five Japanese beetles dining on one of my flowering plants. They had almost decimated it! I filled my pitcher with soapy water and flicked those beetles into their new eternal home. I guess anger trumps any feelings of squeamishness, at least for now!

*Sandy Bender is the Dining Services Director at South Franklin Circle. Sandy shares gardening stories, dining updates, and more in her weekly newsletters to South Franklin Circle residents.

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