[Market-farming] cucumbers

Home Grown Kansas! hgkansas at sbcglobal.net
Mon Nov 20 10:40:24 EST 2006

  Cucumber beetles have been our main insect problem since we started 17 years ago in Kansas.  It seems we have tried just about every thing.  Finally we found some thing that works for us.  We spray with soap (you can use organic soap) and water to control insects on a regular basis - it works.  We spray everything - trees that are near, bushes, etc. 
  If the beetles have gotten way out of control - we brew a little tobacco tea and mix it in equal amounts with cheap mouth wash (27% alcohol - pick up at the $1 store for a buck) and an "oil" soap (which we also pick up at the $ store for a buck).  The best spray I have found for squash beetles and cucumber beetles.  Basically, the idea is to dehydrate the insect - check out Jerry Baker.  
  We built a sprayer using a 55 gallon barrel, a three point attachment to hold the barrel, a rotary pump for the tractor and a commercial spray gun.  It will spray 40-50 feet or a very broad spray - we just spray a fog over the crop areas.   It works very well.
  This has worked well for us for 5 years now.  To accompany this, we will also use a trap crop, particularly in the early season to allow the insects to establish themselves and till them under along with their eggs.  I must say that your first line of defense  has to be removal of weeds in the growing area - here they are drawn by "Pig" weed - they love it.  Secondly, cultivate.  Many of the insects lay their eggs at the base of the plant - we like to earth up around the plants to suffocate them.  These techniques have worked very well for us.
  I also wanted to comment on the selling of vegetables. We attend two farmers markets, sell to local health food stores and up scale restaurants.  We believe the only fair way to sell for a grower and the customer is by the pound.  We do sell items at the farmers market by the container - but, the items have been weighed into the container.  We feel this is the only way to know the we are getting a fair price for our product.  We sell cucumbers for $2/lb and squash for $1.5/lb.  Grow the best product you can and sell it for a price that sustains your operation.  
  At this time we are gardening 5-6 acres - we need methods that are cost and time effective.  I like the idea of the bat houses and we may install some of these.  
  Could you folks list how much ground you are cultivating?  It would be nice to know the size of your operation to have a better understanding of the techniques you are discussing.
  Elzie & Pat Randleas
  Home Grown Kansas! LLC
  Wichita, Kansas   

Shawnee Flowerfarmer <farmingflowers at hotmail.com> wrote:
      Here is the link to the Cornell organic insect and disease control website for anyone who is interested.  Everything can be downloaded as a pdf file.  (This site is as good as ATTRA)
  I am interested in the high tunnel rowcover with trellis idea also but as the varmint overwinters in the soil, I wonder about the economics of the set-up with crop rotation (that might be balanced by the ease of harvest though).  I once observed the beetles actually marching along the drip tape from plant to plant.  The driptape highway under the canopy protected them from predation above and below. Hard not to get anthropormorphic about that.
  I'm going to try the yellow cup traps next season.  (I had no beetle damage on the white flowered gourds growing nearby the cucumbers; unfortunately we can't eat the gourds)
    Currently I am managing a historic garden and must use historically accurate methods which precludes nematodes, I suppose.  I did check with Coleman's book expecting his lecture on tending to soil balance; that's frustrating given the number of seasons required to restore the balance in a disturbed area.  I also have tried vacuuming up the bugs...sort of fun in a macabre way, but slow and high labor too.
  I would like to think that the beetle population is temporarily very high, but this fellow has been my worst pest for thirty years in many locations.  Often, it's the wilt that's spread by them that's most damaging.  I lost all melon vines this past season before the fruit could ripen for the beetle to eat.   Shawnee, zone 5

  From: John Hendrickson <jhendric at wisc.edu>
Reply-To: Market Farming <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
To: Market Farming <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] cucumbers
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2006 10:21:02 -0600

Cucumber beetles are a royal pain.  One thing I have tried with partial success is to fill yellow plastic bowls or cups with a soap solution.  I place these every few plants down the row.  The beetles are attracted to yellow and assume the bowls/cups are flowers.  This catches some but they proliferate so rapidly that it is not a complete solution.  Row cover and successive plantings seems to me to be the best organic solution.  Eliot Coleman's books claim that a well balanced soil will help fend off cucumber beetles.  He advises using sheep manure and dried seaweed.

Has anyone on this list ever tried to create a temporary hoophouse (field tunnel) using row cover instead of plastic?  I am envisioning a structure just tall enough to walk through and trellising the cucumbers.


At 08:58 PM 11/18/2006 -0600, you wrote:
  I would like to hear of any organic cucumber beetle control that other growers have tried.  (I  think that bats wouldn't help since they are nocturnal when the beetles aren't active)  I know of people using the kaolin clay sprays-but those get expensive too.
  John Hendrickson
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1535 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI  53706
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