The Garden of Good and Evil (and murder, plant pimping and alien bugs)
Just how hard is it to grow zucchini? Isn’t it normally the veggie you can’t eat one more of by mid-season; even your neighbors avoid your knock on the door?
Well, if you don’t mind saying, “Die you mother @$%& ers” and pinching the life out of a living, breathing, lumpy, squash bug, then not all that hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are much harder places in the world to grow
vegetables. In Northern Nevada, we’re pretty lucky – the dry climate only gives us flakey skin and nose bleeds; we don’t have enough water; we always experience hard freezes in May – but not so much in the way of bugs. I think pincer bugs (earwigs) are next on the list of plant destroyers.
But let’s get back to squash bugs. They have to mate and connect and link together, at the same time that they are sucking the life out of cucumbers and squash plants.
(Oh, besides these bugs, even squash plants can have infertility issues in our simple gardens. Did you know that summer squash has a pollen-bearing male form, and the ovary-bearing female form? Yup. If the squash bugs don’t get in your way, a lack of romance might. Fellow writer and cook enthusiast Amy F, I imagine, turns up the volume with a little Marvin or Luther out in the garden, drinks some good Italian wine (that’s for her to get in the mood, not for the plants) and gets down to business on mating her plants. She’s a plant-pimpstress. And she gets tons of squash blossoms which are their own delicacy.
Some folks from the East Coast call them stink bugs, but I don’t think they are the same. In fact, I think these are alien bugs. If you are brave enough to kill their chunky bodies by flip-flop, they ooze this green and yellow fluid.
If you are an organic gardener, the suggestions for dealing with these buggers are:
- Surround with deterrent plants that will repel the bugs such as onions, garlic, nasturtiums, radishes and marigolds.
- Plant a sacrificial plant early in the season. Smoosh the bastards that have overwintered in your soil and crawl out to feast on your plant.
- Use a ground cover, like black plastic and utilize floating row covers.
- When they appear, spray the bugs with a concoction of liquid dish soap, jalapeño and garlic.
- Rotate your plants, as once in the soil, always in the soil.
- Delay your main season crop.
You might be fooled and think you are in the clear, that these methods have worked. No reddish-brown baby eggs lurking under the leaves. Nope. Just when you think you are out of the woods, wham! A party of grayish brownish bugs are in the soil, on the plants, destroying your vegetarian lasagna.
Sorry folks, the only thing that seems to work is removing their bodies from the plant.
My friend and neighbor Jodi A, originally from Atlanta, is one of the sweetest gals. But what you don’t know about her is that she’s a bona-fide, card-carrying, huntress. Every night after work, she picks them bugs off, plops them into a jar of soapy water and watches them drown, baby drown. (I think she actually says, “Drown baby drown” out loud.)
Needless to say, she has enough zucchini to feed the court, along with loaves of homemade bread stocked in her freezer.
I judge her violent, sadistic ways and say to her, “Really, you drown them …?” Where has this bug-pacifist Chris come from?
I’m lazy. Carrying a glass of cold white wine, admiring the garden, it’s a lot of work to kill them. You need two hands for this grisly business.
After having a bumper crop the first two years I lived in Reno, now I get next to nothing. I too have turned to violence. If I’m wearing thick-soled shoes, I’ll flick them off the plant and smash them to death (which is not advised, you need a pressure washer to get them off the concrete). But it still feels good to yell, “Die you muther.”
It’s a new gardening season. I tell myself I won’t be lazy. I’ll employ all of those tactics that never worked before and I’ll also drown them. Double jeopardy. I want to grill marinated zucchini out by the lake, to make my grandma Tressy’s squash and sausage soup, pickle them, and have a Greek salad with my homegrown tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.
I hate going to the store just as much as I hate these squash bugs.
I will succeed.