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Trap plants vs Feeding the enemy early on?  RSS feed

 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Can someone please explain this to me... I've left as many weeds that want to grow in the garden alone and observe them (except for vines, grass and poison ivy). How they work together with plants I've selected, which tolerate zero care in this heat and drought, which ones flower and attract insects and which plants the pests prefer. I'd like to eventually write up every thing I"m finding, but I am only self taught and some of the research I'm doing contradicts (perhaps) my own findings. I don't know what I don't know, so plant experts, please explain if you have time.

One example, the horse nettle is doing an awesome job keeping most of the flea beetles off of the ground cherry and potatoes and there are none on the strawberries. This plant also provides food for some wild birds and the bumblebees like the flowers. Early on the flea beetles exclusively ate the Horse nettle, but now as the season progresses, they are nibbling a bit on the potatoes - but it's not bad. Perhaps because the horse nettle is seriously eaten up.

I found this from the experts though... "Control of weeds such as horsenettle and pokeweed around garden sites eliminates important early beetle food sources. Delayed planting favors the development of host plants over the establishment of flea beetles."

So are they saying if I didn't have horse nettle at ALL and had pulled it up as it emerged, there would be zero damage to delayed planted potatoes because the flea beetle wouldn't have had food early on? My thinking is, if the horse nettle wasn't there, the flea beetles would have decimated my potatoes like they are doing to the horse nettle right next to it right NOW.

Would the removal of the horse nettle before the potatoes came up have eliminated the problem by eliminating food early on for the flea beetle? I'm thinking no matter how delayed I planted the potatoes and with the removal of the horsenettle as it emerged; wouldn't I still have flea beetles that would just chomp down on the potatoes with no horse nettle around?
 
Ken Peavey
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The garden is not a closed system. Those flea beetles do not live exclusively in the garden, nor do they feed exclusively on horse nettles. They are 20 feet away from the garden feeding on something else. If you eliminate all the horse nettles for miles around, all you have done is remove their preferred food source, but not their only food source. They'll find something to eat.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Ken Peavey wrote:The garden is not a closed system. Those flea beetles do not live exclusively in the garden, nor do they feed exclusively on horse nettles. They are 20 feet away from the garden feeding on something else. If you eliminate all the horse nettles for miles around, all you have done is remove their preferred food source, but not their only food source. They'll find something to eat.


Well that's what I was thinking. The flea beetles are still going to be there. I signed back on to clarify a bit. The potato plants had NO flea beetle damage (though the horse nettle next to it was being chomped) until the potato started wilting a bit from the drought. The potato plants were big, dark green, flowering and beautiful most of this season. We have been hitting temps like 106 - 110 with no rain for a long time and the stalks finally started to go over a bit. I have to ration the water, but I did go ahead and water the potatoes. Anyway, it wasn't until they started to go over a bit that the flea beetles ate a little bit. But the beetles still seem to prefer the horse nettle. After reading the comments by the experts, I wondered if in the long run I'm hurting myself by encouraging and feeding more flea beetles?
 
Ken Peavey
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If you are watering the potato plants, it might be wise to give the horse nettles a little boost as well, keep them on duty. Then there the plants that support the natural predators of the flea beetles. It all works together. When you make an impact on one part of the ecosystem, it will affect the entire ecosystem, sometimes in ways you don't expect.

 
Tyler Ludens
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In my personal opinion, it is important to stop thinking of our fellow creatures as "the enemy."

 
Craig Dobbson
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I found that early this year I had a lot of success by planting bok choi in every part of my garden along with my regular crops. The bok choi popped up before everything else and managed to hold the flea beetles away from my potatoes and strawberries. As the crops started crowding each other I pulled most of the bok choi, leaving a few to flower and attract pollinators and predators. By then the potatoes were tall enough to handle the flea beetles and there were enough other foods for the bugs to eat so that damage was minimized. The good thing about bok choi is that you can fold it up with the bugs inside, cut it above the soil line and feed it to chickens or put it in a plastic bag to kill the bugs, then compost. The bok choi will grow back and start over as long as you leave the crown. I did this over and over again with a lot of success and happy chickens.

 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Tyler Ludens wrote:In my personal opinion, it is important to stop thinking of our fellow creatures as "the enemy."



You are so right!!! I have to get out of that mindset.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Ken Peavey wrote:If you are watering the potato plants, it might be wise to give the horse nettles a little boost as well, keep them on duty. Then there the plants that support the natural predators of the flea beetles. It all works together. When you make an impact on one part of the ecosystem, it will affect the entire ecosystem, sometimes in ways you don't expect.



We are extremely limited on our water, otherwise I would. We're in a severe drought and my water source JUST about dried up before we got rain 2 days ago. I mean we weren't doing laundry or taking showers it was so bad. If I had the water, I totally would have given it some. But now it has rained and these wonderful plants have been watered.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I found that early this year I had a lot of success by planting bok choi in every part of my garden along with my regular crops. The bok choi popped up before everything else and managed to hold the flea beetles away from my potatoes and strawberries. As the crops started crowding each other I pulled most of the bok choi, leaving a few to flower and attract pollinators and predators. By then the potatoes were tall enough to handle the flea beetles and there were enough other foods for the bugs to eat so that damage was minimized. The good thing about bok choi is that you can fold it up with the bugs inside, cut it above the soil line and feed it to chickens or put it in a plastic bag to kill the bugs, then compost. The bok choi will grow back and start over as long as you leave the crown. I did this over and over again with a lot of success and happy chickens.



Love it! And we have chickens too. Will do this next year. Would you mind if I quoted you on this for a blog post?
 
Craig Dobbson
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Jamie Jackson wrote:

Love it! And we have chickens too. Will do this next year. Would you mind if I quoted you on this for a blog post?


Sure, go ahead. Be sure to share your blog with the group.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:
Jamie Jackson wrote:

Love it! And we have chickens too. Will do this next year. Would you mind if I quoted you on this for a blog post?


Sure, go ahead. Be sure to share your blog with the group.


Thank you Craig.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Found out the plant that the potatoes loved was Frost weed. Verbesina virginica. BUT when it started to bloom, the blister beetles left and went to the potatoes and devastated them. I guess next year I could chop the plant right before it blooms if it's full of bugs and burn it? OR just stop growing potatoes and find plants that the blister beetles dont' want to eat.
 
Judith Browning
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I think the striped blister beetle won't be back every year in such swarms and you probably wont want to stop planting what they eat because it is potatoes, tomatoes, peppers,okre ,a little basil and buckwheat and calendula.. .all they could eat in exactly six days and not a beetle left behind...I kind of wonder where they went. They do not eat sweet potato vine it seems or purple cherokee tomatoes or melon vine. Oddly for us they were our only serious pest this year weeds or no weeds.
It seems late for potatoes are they your fallcrop? We have flea beetles every spring that damage young plants, esp. tomatoes but they grow out of it. I think when the leaves toughen up thet dont like them.
I am glad to hear the name of the plant you IDed... I don't think it grows here.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Judith Browning wrote:I think the striped blister beetle won't be back every year in such swarms and you probably wont want to stop planting what they eat because it is potatoes, tomatoes, peppers,okre ,a little basil and buckwheat and calendula.. .all they could eat in exactly six days and not a beetle left behind...I kind of wonder where they went. They do not eat sweet potato vine it seems or purple cherokee tomatoes or melon vine. Oddly for us they were our only serious pest this year weeds or no weeds.
It seems late for potatoes are they your fallcrop? We have flea beetles every spring that damage young plants, esp. tomatoes but they grow out of it. I think when the leaves toughen up thet dont like them.
I am glad to hear the name of the plant you IDed... I don't think it grows here.


The potatoes were done last week, I think that's pretty normal for here. Well I think they should have grown longer, but the blister beetles got them. For the flea beetles, try horse nettle. The flea beetles LOVE it and it really kept them off my other plants.
 
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