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So we just moved into our first home at the end of May, and being somewhat late in the season (zone 5b), I worked the only cleared patch of sandy earth on the property and threw some vegetable seeds in the ground for fun. The previous owners left a huge pile of leaf/lawn compost, beautiful worm-infused-dark-brown dirt which I worked in before planting, but unfortunately it's also full of weed seeds.
The vegetable patch gets full sun but we are located in the deep woods and it's extremely buggy. So far, I've encountered grubs, slugs eating the leafy greens, cut worms and green aphids attacking the peas, flea beetles decimated the beans, and some sort of leaf miner in the squash.
As heartbreaking as it was to see seedling after seedling perish, I've switched my goals for this season from actually obtaining anything edible from my garden to figuring out how to prepare for next year.
Some strategies I was thinking about:
working in more compost and solarizing later this season (to kill the weed seeds and grubs maybe?)
starting as much as I can indoors
I'm expecting some pullets in a month and setting up their pen to let them scratch up the area
Any thoughts? I'm a little overwhelmed by this uphill battle.
for the slugs, i absolutely love sluggo plus, a fellow DG'er turned me onto it, lol. it is a bait for snails, slugs, earwigs, and many other things. the marigolds will be good for controlling any nematodes in the soil, but you have to watch for spider mites--as they love marigolds somethin' fierce.
for the aphids and flea beetles, giving them a good dousing of dish soap water should make some difference.
definitely plant some things that would invite predatory bugs in to hunt down the ones doing damage (like sweet alyssum to draw in hover fly, which hunt aphids), among others
Yes, solarize for a month in the hottest part of the summer.
Chickens are great rototillers, and will eat a lot of bugs.
Add row covers to your arsenal. These are almost shear white or close to clear fine mesh you put over the beds when the plants are young. Many flying insects cannot get to the plants to lay eggs.
Remove the row covers
a) When the plants are big enough to tolerate a little damage
b) When the main pest egg laying time has passed.
Timing of the crops. If there is any one pest that has a specific live cycle then plant before they are active, or after they are gone.
DItto to plant several plants around the edges that will feed predatory bugs when their favorite prey is not around. Many predatory bugs will also eat pollen, some nectar. As a rough guide the smaller, flat sorts of flowers are better. Flowers like fennel, dill, and related plants, for example.
When you remove the chickens from the area set out rolls of newspaper. One sheet, loosely rolled. Bugs may eat at night, then hide during the day. Leave the rolled newspaper out until late morning or later. Pick it up and quickly plop it into a bucket. You can shake it out into the bucket to see what you have caught. Then roll it back up (without the bugs, of course) and set it out again. Or throw the roll away, bugs and all, and set out new ones.