Friday, July 26, 2013

More on Milk, Amendments and Potato Beetles

I just want to mention that this year is supposed to be particularly good for potato beetles and that in past years, I have been particularly good at giving them a habitat. Last year, I even added a new type that prefers tomatillos and husk cherries.

This year, I definitely have seen the potato beetles struggling a bit more in the habitat I'm providing by planting potatoes, tomatillos, and husk cherries. They keep getting a jump when it rains and washes all that is good in my soil away. But, I keep knocking them back.

First, I waited to put hay around the plants until after they were a good size. I mounded the plants the first two times with dirt. The good thing is that it gives the beetles fewer places to hide; the bad thing is that the soil was exposed to the dry weather for the first couple of weeks, then the deluge afterwards. About two weeks ago, we got 4 inches of rain in two days and that's when the potato beetle numbers rose to what I'm used to seeing in my garden.

The larvae pretty quickly ate all the leaves off the new growth from around 30% of my plants before I sprayed my milk and complete feed foliar spray. Then, I spent about 3 hours picking all the larvae off. Then we had another huge storm that knocked all the plants over.

So this week, I was prepared for another onslaught. What I found was the growth that had been chewed away regenerated. And, the stems that were exposed by the plants blowing over were also covered in new leaves. And, though there were some new larvae, there were fewer than 5 adult beetles and only about 10 out of the 60 plants had any larvae on them. And, I found only one very small cluster of eggs.

What this means to me is that my plants are pretty strong. The new leaves mean that the plants are better able to keep making bigger potatoes. While I am still struggling against the potato beetles, I am definitely getting the upper hand. We're a few weeks, 2 or 3, away from when I figure we'll see blight this wet, wet year, and the potatoes still have so many leaves that blight might actually be an issue. But maybe, my plants will be robust enough that they can even beat blight.

I actually just really hope to not find out.

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