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Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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I am really have a hard time figuring out how to begin. Everything seems so interconnected and many of the recommended techniques seem problematic to me; particularly sheet mulching and Huglekulture beds. I live in Southeast VA, very close to the North Carolina border. Our zone is 7B to 8A. The summer heat and humidity are intense. Even a normal winter is not cold enough to control bugs or disease and this winter has been amazingly warm; most days in the high 50's or low 60's. All of my past mulching efforts have ended up providing havens for insects or have prevented rain from reaching the ground. Insects are a huge, huge problem here in part because of the climate and in part because we are surrounded by commercial ag fields. They spray, of course, so after their mono crop fields draw every bug for miles, they end up at my place. We also have tons of voles so I am afraid that a hugelkulture bed will provide a home for them.

We have chicken, ducks and pigs. Even with the fence, they birds get in and do significant damage without having any visible impact on the insect population. I cannot imagine letting the pigs in while there are vegetables growing. sepp holzer seems to let his animals wander through his garden without harm but my animals seem to damage everything without helping at all. Last summer, the squash bugs killed all of our squash within 2 1/2 months and from that point on, every cucurbit or melon we planted was decimated by them, long before they bore any fruit. Very few of our melons ripened before they all rotted on dead vines. We planted several feet of corn and could not harvest even one ear.

So, what I've been doing has not worked well. We hope to move from here to Oregon in the next two years otherwise I would hire a designer but for now I am thinking of trying one hugelkuture bed and intermixing the plants instead of planting them in rows. I am hoping this will allow better sharing of nutrients and water and maybe make things a little harder for the squash bugs. Of course I am very open to suggestions and would like to hear from people who have been successful with permaculture in hot, humid climates.

Thanks

 
Ernie Wisner
gardener
Posts: 791
Location: Tonasket washington
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Sasha
its all overwhelming so break it down to what can you do in the next hour? next day? next week? next month? next year?

what can you do now that would help? Simply picking up a plastic bag works or taking a shorter shower or deciding you dont really need to go to town tomorrow by your self and you can find a neighbor that you could share a ride with.

The trick is that you dont have to make the huge decisions all at once. it all builds and the decisions you make today will help those tomorrow become easier.

Basically you need to think like nature little things make up big things. when it comes to making your life count on the positive change side of the ledger it takes longer than you would think because to get on the negative you didnt actually have to do anything. it was all done for you and all you had to do was ride along. to get to the positive you have to work at it and that takes time to develop the skills that will make big differences.

Kinda funny really; no one expects to be a master craftsmen in a day. it is recognized that it takes years too get to master and along the way you learn learn that versatility of your tools is more important than bells and whistles. But we all start out needing the bells and whistles to help build the skills to learn the lesson of simplicity and versatility. Take heart you are just learning.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1014
Location: Northern Italy
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My goodness you sound just like me on my bad days!!!

You just have to be patient. There is a feedback loop that goes something like this:

1. Do something
2. Fail #1
3. Figure out a better way (books/forums/people)
4. Implement improved design
5. Fail #2
6. Figure out a better way (again!)
7. Implement even better design
8. Success!
9. Move on to the next failure loop.
10. Have some cake.

It took us 2 years to figure out there just wasn't enough sun in our system.
We are moving on to leaf crops and are hoping for a big bounty of lesser sun-hungry stuff next year. Two years to figure out I can only grow lettuce!

What you have is a collection of failure loops that haven't reached stage 10. You just dissect each one and figure out why and move on to the next.
All of that takes time but in return you gain experience for doing it.

Some observations
Animals: If by 10 foot fences you mean that Sepp Holtzer lets his animals run wild, then okay. When he can uses natural barriers to keep them separate and puts the pigs where he wants them. I doubt anyone is running wild. He also has a huge amount of land and has created "homes" for them where they naturally congregate. And he grows things specifically for them to eat. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have many animals next to his house in the kitchen garden.

Pests: could be not enough diversity. could be positioning. could be the pests were just helping you by killing weak plants. could be that they didn't have natural predators. Diversity, relative positioning, and planting more than you need can solve pest problems.

Several feet of corn might not be enough to do the pollination thing. Could be they weren't close enough together. Could be there was a drought. Could be there was a neighbor whose corn accidentally pollinated your corn.

William
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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We're just overwhelmed by the insects. When I say "we did not harvest one ear" it was because every single ear was infested. At one point, a casual observer might have assumed we were raising squash bugs because some leaves were virtually covered in bugs. I used to live in California. When I was a child we lived in Sacramento for a few years. We had a huge garden. It was so easy. We were the stereotypical gardeners with an endless supply of zucchini, many of them two feet long.

I used Steve Solomon's 'Gardening When it Counts" and Carole Deppe's 'The Resilient Gardener' as my primary guides. I had intended not to irrigate. It seems like the perfect region for a non-irrigated garden. We have about 50" of rain and each month gets at least 3"; the summer months usually get 4" to 5". Last year, of course, we had near drought conditions until a hurricane blew through and wreaked havoc with what was left.

So maybe, I should just plant less squash? We have plenty of sun and plenty of heat. It is crazy to me to think that I can't be successful with squash and corn, two of the three sisters, but maybe that's just gardening in 21st century in Southeast Virginia. I had hoped to concentrate on squash so that I could grow food for the winter for us and the pigs, but I think I will try sweetpotatoes and potatoes. Squash can be fed raw to pigs which is a plus (so can wormy corn so it was not a complete loss). I am not sure about sweetpotatoes but potatoes have to be cooked.

Thanks for the insight.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Sasha,

It sounds like you are looking for help with the food-growing aspects of permaculture, which is great, but can be frustrating until you learn the nuances of your growing conditions.

Ernie's advice is great. Start with small changes in your overall lifestyle to feel better about. these things are easier to control and can happen in a day rather than a growing season.

Williams advice is also great - recognize the limitations of your growing conditions. If you have an overwhelming number of squash bug each year, perhaps give the squash a rest and focus on other crops in the meantime while you build up your confidence via success elsewhere?

I spent 10 years in the Triangle area of NC before moving to Oregon almost two years ago. It is a very different climate than here and it sounds like we had very different conditions than you have in your part of NC. For example, I don't think I ever saw a squash bug over the 10 years of gardening. Squash vine borers were worse some years than others, but we usually avoided problems with them by watching the plants closely and burying the stems of the vining types to form supplemental roots every so often.

Japanese beetles were our scourge. Eventually I just stopped trying to grow their favorite things (roses, european grapes, etc...) and planted other options. It was much less frustrating in the end and I used no chemicals after that.

Winter gardening in your area may be one of the easiest types of gardening there is... throw a floating row cover over a grow bed and you can have wonderful greens all winter long with no watering and no pests. The voles didn't seem to care for the greens at all. Miners lettuce and chickweed were everywhere in our gardens, just waiting to come up when the weather cooled off and they make wonderful healthy salads, with no work.
 
Marcella Rose
Posts: 95
Location: Central Texas, it is dry here.
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William James wrote:

1. Do something
2. Fail #1
3. Figure out a better way (books/forums/people)
4. Implement improved design
5. Fail #2
6. Figure out a better way (again!)
7. Implement even better design
8. Success!
9. Move on to the next failure loop.
10. Have some cake.



I am going to print this out and hang it on the wall. It applies to EVERY aspect of life!
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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Japanese beetles were our scourge.


We've lived in two places in Suffolk: where we are now and our first home which is about ten miles away. Japanese beetles were all over the place and they ate every apple we tried to grow. Oddly enough, I haven't seen a one here. I wonder if it is due to lawn vs no lawns. Our first home had a huge lawn as did all our neighbors. We built this house on farmland that was divided into four parcels. We are surrounded by woods on three sides and only one of the neighbors has any lawn to speak of. I used to pay my children for japanese beetle corpses. They are too old for that now, however.
 
P Thickens
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
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This is going to be a little blunt. Stop reading now if you have easily-hurt feelings.

It sounds like you want to recreate your childhood California garden in today's new spot. This won't work. Ever. Anywhere.

You are fighting against natural limitations and complaining that you have to fight. How about choosing not to fight? Yes yes we know you want squash and corn and blah blah blah plans pigs blah blah... that's all well and good... but really, how are others in your area doing Permaculture successfully? Working with the environment to get good results is MUCH BETTER than fighting everything just to recreate a childhood memory. Try this book, many of the named varieties would go great guns where you are: http://www.amazon.com/Perennial-Vegetables-Artichokes-Gardeners-Delicious/dp/1931498407/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327772671&sr=1-1

Can one drive a car through a newly-plowed field? Well, yes, but the car will regularly need lots of work to get it unstuck from furrows, and will probably need repairs afterwards. How about just walking across? The car might appear to be a quick ride if you're used to driving, but in truth walking will get you there easier and faster.

 
James Colbert
Posts: 272
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Just based on my limited knowledge I would say you need to plant flowers, bulbs, and plants which attract and support beneficial insects. Maybe next time inter-plant the squash and other veggies with flowers and dedicate an area to just wild flowers for insects to be happy. Also is this the first year that you have had this problem? If so the next year can possibly be a lot better because beneficial insects have had a chance to multiply. They know where the food is now so they will stay and help you out. May want to consider using your infested areas to feed your ducks and chickens. Just some thoughts.... don't lose hope.
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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It sounds like you want to recreate your childhood California garden in today's new spot. This won't work. Ever. Anywhere.


I am not. My childhood was not something I would want to recreate but the garden was pretty great. I was just surprised at how difficult it is to grow squash in Southeastern VA.


but really, how are others in your area doing Permaculture successfully?


That's one of my problems. As far as I know, no one is doing permaculture near here. I've done google searches, I've done permies forum searches. I've searched for permaculture in the Southeast U.S., in Virginia, in the South, in the Mid-Atlantic region. The closest I've come up with is someone in Missouri.

I chose to plant squash because I thought it would thrive here. It does not. I knew corn might be trickier because there is so much commercial corn planted near us and it is all heavily sprayed so I wasn't as surprised at how it ended up.

Try this book, many of the named varieties would go great guns where you are: http://www.amazon.com/Perennial-Vegetables-Articho...&ie=UTF8&qid=1327772671&sr=1-1


I have that book. It's great but I have not been able to find seeds for even 1/4 of the varieties and again, the insect issue is still a factor. Cutworms will destroy perennial broccoli just as fast as annual broccoli.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You might need more diversity of wild animals in your yard to help keep down the bug population. I suggest putting up several bird feeders. Some piles of rocks or logs to attract snakes, lizards, toads and frogs to the garden. Also include a few very shallow dishes of water for the amphibians.

Be sure you're doing all you can to improve your soil with compost and mulch. Healthy plants tend to have fewer "pest" problems than unhealthy ones, in my experience. It may take a few years for the soil to improve enough for the plants to do really well.

If it's any consolation, after 10 years of trying to garden here in Central Texas, I'm finally learning how and having some success...I gardened in California previously. There, gardening was "Just add water."
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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James Colbert wrote:Just based on my limited knowledge I would say you need to plant flowers, bulbs, and plants which attract and support beneficial insects. Maybe next time inter-plant the squash and other veggies with flowers and dedicate an area to just wild flowers for insects to be happy. Also is this the first year that you have had this problem? If so the next year can possibly be a lot better because beneficial insects have had a chance to multiply. They know where the food is now so they will stay and help you out. May want to consider using your infested areas to feed your ducks and chickens. Just some thoughts.... don't lose hope.




I have not planted flowers or bulbs and I will look into it. I am often behind and I never get around to planting flowers. This is the first year I've gardened here in any serious way. Squash bugs are always a problem here but I was just at a party and apparently last year was a particularly bad year for them. I would not be surprised it this year is worse. This is the warmest winter I've ever experienced here. I have no idea what February holds, but so far we've had probably fewer than 10 days with below freezing temps. I am going to take your advice on planting flowers etc... and interplanting. My ducks fly, so the fence is nothing to them. Sadly, they do not seem terribly interested in squash bugs. They do really seem to enjoy tomatoes.

Thanks,

Sasha
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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Tyler Ludens wrote:You might need more diversity of wild animals in your yard to help keep down the bug population. I suggest putting up several bird feeders. Some piles of rocks or logs to attract snakes, lizards, toads and frogs to the garden. Also include a few very shallow dishes of water for the amphibians.......I gardened in California previously. There, gardening was "Just add water."


I thought birds in the garden were a bad idea. Isn't that the idea behind a scarecrow? I don't really see that many birds. I hear them all the time, they tend to hang out near the woods but I wouldn't mind a few in my garden. We do have plenty of snakes. I've never encouraged them to come anywhere because they scare me to death. Thanks for the idea. I put in a little plastic lined pond, would the frogs come or would it just turn into an algae filled mess?

 
Linda Davis
Posts: 14
Location: southern oregon
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Hi Sasha,

If you were planing on staying at your current location, tree crops (mulberry, persimmon, acorn, chestnuts etc. . .) would seem the thing for your fowl and pigs. But like you have indicated, for the next couple years that you remain in your current location you may want to look at crops that aren’t as prone to pests. Maybe find out what is working for others in your neighborhood?

I would suggest planting lots of flowers and herbs that would attract beneficial insects would also be thing to do. This may be a benefit for the next occupant? I like to concentrate on things that benefit the whole environ.

If you do want to try growing corn and squash again I have a few suggestions, you may have already tried? I suppose it really involves how much work you want to do! ; D
It is a real taste treat to grow your own corn to eat and there are some things that can be tried, though I don't think that growing corn is very 'permaculture'?

An early planting of a 55-60 day variety corn so that harvest is before mid-July, might help in escaping serious pest damage to the ear.

For full kernel development, plant at least three to four short rows in a “block,” as corn is wind pollinated.

Plant herbs such as fennel, lovage and other umbels to attract parasitic wasps that prey on corn ear worm eggs. Also Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare) and Yarrow ( Achillea millefolium)

Interplant strong-smelling herbs to discourage adult moths from laying eggs.

Cover young corn plants with row cover until the tassels emerge.

Dig out any corn ear worm larvae that you find in the husk ends,

Grub-Away® Nematodes cutworms and borers to corn earworms,
http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=5000

Organic/Biological Control: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) applied via mineral of vegetable oil to the silk.
http://www.pfi.iastate.edu/ofr/Crops/SA14_Protecting_Sweet_Corn_from_Corn_Earworm_w_Oil_and%20Btk.pdf

Squash Management

Apparently baby blue and butternut squash can resist the borer to some degree.

Rotate crops. If a change in location is possible, do not grow squashes two years in succession on the same ground. Pull up and burn vines immediately after harvest.

Squash bugs like to hide under boards or trash, wherever it is dark and damp. Remove all potential protection.

Handpick beetles and eggs.

If a vine starts to wilt, kill the borer with a knife and heap earth over the stem joints to start new roots.

Make a second planting of summer squash to mature after the first borer brood has disappeared.

Plant radishes, marigolds, nasturtium to deter squash bugs and beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is reputed to be a general insect repellant, deterring many non-nectar eating insects.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Songbirds are good in the garden, because most of them eat insects (especially caterpillars) part of the year, feeding them to their babies. Most snakes are non-venomous and many of them eat insects. I put a small water trough in my garden and it attracted frogs and toads, who even laid eggs, producing tadpoles. It never became a mess. If you use a container with steep sides, you need to make some kind of gently sloped ramp from the water to the ground, because frogs and toads can drown in the tub if they can't get out, they can't climb the steep sides of a tub.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
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Linda Davis wrote:If you were planing on staying at your current location, tree crops (mulberry, persimmon, acorn, chestnuts etc. . .) would seem the thing for your fowl and pigs. But like you have indicated, for the next couple years that you remain in your current location you may want to look at crops that aren’t as prone to pests. Maybe find out what is working for others in your neighborhood?


I agree 100%.
One thing I'd add is that mulching may be helping out the voles. To reduce their numbers make the garden snake friendly and/or cat friendly and/or get a dog that goes for rodents (terriers, I think).
My garden fence is 8' tall to keep the chickens out but the top 4' is pretty flimsy. You could clip their wings.

As for squash... this was a bad year for squash & pumpkins. I got some early squash but the only pumpkins that produced were the ones not in the garden. They were in the cow paddock quite far from the garden.

Lastly, I'm sure someone is doing permaculture nearby. Find the nearest Transition Town and ask around.
 
Ernie Wisner
gardener
Posts: 791
Location: Tonasket washington
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Also Ducks are pretty good in the garden, a few mergansers and the bugs can just disappear. Guinea fowl eat bugs and can be great early warning systems. dont get rid of the moles, snakes,toads, songbirds, crows till harvest, newts, salamanders, shrews, mushrooms, lady bugs, mantises, spiders, assassin bugs, lace wings or ants. All of them eat bugs and squeaky things. its a fact that most of the stuff the farms around you are spraying is most likely killing the good things in your garden. You may have to buy some mantis and ladybugs to replenish the population. bring in all the birds you can get and spend time in the garden with a shop vac (my cure for six legged pests)
 
mud bailey
Posts: 12
Location: Southwest Virginia, Zone 6/7
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I'm in Southeast VA - Floyd to be exact. We are just getting our toes wet with permaculture, but just up the road from us about an hour and a half is Joel Salatin of Polyface farms and he is permaculture-tastic-ish. You should definitely check that place out. Plus, I'm sure there are other people in this county that are into permaculture, they are all just underground about it. But I don't see why it wouldn't be possible. Just a lot of trial and error. That 10 stage feedback loop. We've been practicing that for a couple of years now, except we call it OODAloop. Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. and then do it all over again.
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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mud bailey wrote:I'm in Southeast VA - Floyd to be exact. We are just getting our toes wet with permaculture, but just up the road from us about an hour and a half is Joel Salatin of Polyface farms and he is permaculture-tastic-ish. You should definitely check that place out. Plus, I'm sure there are other people in this county that are into permaculture, they are all just underground about it. But I don't see why it wouldn't be possible. Just a lot of trial and error. That 10 stage feedback loop. We've been practicing that for a couple of years now, except we call it OODAloop. Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. and then do it all over again.


Both Floyd and Spotsylvania are in the mountain region in Virginia; Suffolk is just barely in the Piedmont, very close to the Tidewater region. In theory, we have 182 frost free days to your 165 but in reality we have over 200 frost free days and I believe our winters are milder. But you are the closest I've heard of and if anything in particular works for you, I would like to hear about. Do you have the same insect problems we have in Tidewater and the humidity? I was re-reading toby hemenway's book, and I've decided to concentrate on improving the habitat to encourage birds and predatory insects. I've never really done that although one year I let a lot of weeds grow, more by accident than design. I don't know if it helped with the bugs but I lost quite a lot of plants to the weeds.

 
Jason Matthew
Posts: 66
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I am in GA about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta. We had a horrible year here for just about everything last year. I got things planted late, then we went into a drought. I've always struggled with squash plants because the borers seem to kill them before they are able to produce. I've read that butternut squash is resistant to borers, and that dirt should be mounded over the vines to increase the number of roots that they put down to strengthen the vascular system of the plant. You didn't mention anything in the way of trees besides apple...I have put in my trees (apples, figs, peaches, pears and soon chestnuts and hazelnuts) and am waiting for them to develop. I have high hopes for this year. I am going to be putting in flowering plants all around the outskirts of my garden area, and underneath the trees. I hope to have a good mix of pollinators and predators. I've already seen some hoverflies around our bamboo this year; it has been way to warm this winter.
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Regarding squash, here they have squash that grows pretty prolifically. I, thinking I knew better, planted it the way I would plant in the North. It died, produced nothing. So now I just dump enough sheep droppings / sawdust in an area to smoother out the weeds, plant the seeds - and stand back. No bugs, no disease, lots of fruit.

One thing I read once years ago in National Gardening was the term "scientific neglect". The idea is to work with nature, not against. You eyes and your mind is the best tool you have, and your ears for listening to what has worked for others.

 
Bob Dobbs
Posts: 145
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Don't have much time for a reply, as I'm wrangling a baby currently, but I do have area and pest specific information. Sweet corn generally gets corn earworms where I live (abt 1 hour north of atlanta, zone 8a), but the old-timers relish what they refer to as "field corn" for roasting ears and fried corn. The variety is "Hickory King". The top of the shucks are very tight, and in the years I've grown it chemical free, I've never seen a single earworm. There must be other varieties of dent that resist the earworms. In addition, as far as summer squash goes, the old-fashioned "Yellow Crookneck" has some resistance to squash bugs, not that they don't occur, but they disfavor it. Perhaps plant a weak hybrid zucchini on each end of the row as a catch-crop, till the population of predators build up. Or, do as I do, and walk around and squish the bugs and scrape the eggs off with a knife. It helps if you have kids to pitch in as well.
 
Sasha Goldberg
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Virginia, Zone 7B
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Bob Dobbs wrote:Don't have much time for a reply, as I'm wrangling a baby currently, but I do have area and pest specific information. Sweet corn generally gets corn earworms where I live (abt 1 hour north of atlanta, zone 8a), but the old-timers relish what they refer to as "field corn" for roasting ears and fried corn. The variety is "Hickory King". The top of the shucks are very tight, and in the years I've grown it chemical free, I've never seen a single earworm. There must be other varieties of dent that resist the earworms. In addition, as far as summer squash goes, the old-fashioned "Yellow Crookneck" has some resistance to squash bugs, not that they don't occur, but they disfavor it. Perhaps plant a weak hybrid zucchini on each end of the row as a catch-crop, till the population of predators build up. Or, do as I do, and walk around and squish the bugs and scrape the eggs off with a knife. It helps if you have kids to pitch in as well.


I actually didn't grow any sweet corn. I didn't try Hickory King but I grew a dent variety, a flint variety, and a gourdseed variety; all to no avail. The best squash varieties were Tromboncino Rampicante ( a c moschata variety) and Tatume. Tatume grew fast and prolifically as did the Tromboncino and both did not attract the squash bugs in the way the others did. But at a certain point, squash bugs overwhelmed everything, even second plantings of the Trombo were decimated. I am going to:

Plant less squash,
Plant buckwheat and other plants to attract beneficials
interplant
plant no variety of cucurbits that takes longer than 80 days to mature

I haven't decided about planting any corn yet.

We actually brought the shop vac out at one point. Maybe if we tried it earlier.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Try looking for hard stem varieties of squash. The vine borers don't like them as well, especially if you give them a catch crop of soft stemmed varieties to choose from.
 
Roses are red. Violets are blue. Some poems rhyme. But this is a tiny ad:

The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers:
http://richsoil.com/cards


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