Straw Bales Gardens and Pests

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by Kyzmette, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. Kyzmette

    Kyzmette Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd like to try a straw bale garden this year, and was wondering if you guys know of an organic method of handling one of my biggest enemies... the dastardly shield bug... without destroying the bacterial growth in the composting straw. Would cedar mulch help any?
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I don't think you'll have any more or less problems with shield bugs (I'm guessing you're referring to what I call stink bugs) using straw bales, than you will with conventional garden methods. Don't these bugs attack the growth above ground? Use the same measures you'd normally use. Do these bugs actually wipe out your crops? Or do they just nibble here and there? My recommendation: Do your straw bale garden in a spot that you can reach with a garden hose. they soak up a lot of water, and require daily watering. Put plastic down under the straw bales to help retain the water. Even better if you can fold the plastic up around the bales on 4 sides to hold in the moisture. Use a soil thermometer to measure interior heat. Inoculate the bales with a good dose of nitrogen, and top dress with soil or compost. Let them cook for at least 2 weeks before planting. You'll find that the temp inside the bale will get up to 160* before it starts to cool down. If you can let them cool down to less than 120* before planting. That would be good. Generally, the plants will not get roots down into the hot interior until the bales have cooled considerably. That's why it's important to let them cook for a while before planting.
     
  3. Kyzmette

    Kyzmette Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the great advice!

    Yes, shield bugs are also known as stinkbugs. Hate them, hate them, hate them! They can destroy whole crops. They like hiding in detritus, and they hate water, so the best way I've found to try to control them is to water thoroughly, then hand-pick and squish them when they crawl out. I was worried about them having such an easy home to hide in, since they can get under the top layer of straw. Maybe the daily watering will help me root the little nightmares out. If their population gets an edge at all, they can kill a healthy squash plant overnight.

    Public enemy #2 is the cucumber beetle, but they don't seem to have the numbers the stinkbugs do.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    What you are talking about is a cousin of the stink bug called the squash bug. If you look for photos of it I’m sure you’ll agree this is it. They do stink when squished.

    I’ve tried every organic method I can find to control it. None have been successful. You can slow them down some by daily searching the leaves and stems for the eggs and crushing those, but eventually they always get the better of me. You can put a board down for them to hide under and get some that way, but that is only some. They breed so fast that once they get a toehold they take over, at least here.

    One of the problems is that they do not eat the squash plants, they suck the juices out of the plant. That means if you do use a poison, organic or not, you can’t use one that they have to eat. They won’t eat it. You have to use a contact poison and frankly I don’t know of any organic ones of those. They hide so well that I can’t keep them under control even with non-organic contact sprays either.

    To make it even worse, it’s not just them multiplying to large numbers and sucking the juices out, which will kill the plants, but they also spread a wilting disease that can kill the plant. “Little nightmares” is a gentle way to describe those things.

    If you are talking about summer squash you might try growing Tromboncini squash. It is a vining plant and needs a trellis but it is not as susceptible to those things. It does take up a lot of room but just one squash goes a long way. The squash bugs will still attack it so you do need to keep after them, but mine Tromboncini lasts a lot longer than zucchini or yellow squash.
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Now, if we're talking SQUASH bugs, they're all that Ridge Runner says, and then some. My chickens won't even touch the nasty things. And they move pretty fast, are prolific, and difficult to kill. I hear that guinea hens LOVE them, and Harvey Ussery raises guineas for that very purpose. Unfortunately, I don't want to subject myself, family, flock, or neighbors to guineas. I doubt that they'd be any worse in straw bales than they would in conventional beds.
     
  6. Kyzmette

    Kyzmette Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes! Squash bugs = stink bugs = shield bugs in these parts. There may be differences in them, but Ridgerunner pegged the little buggers I'm talking about perfectly. The only thing I've found that works is soaking the soil, then getting them when they climb up out of the water. I hate them so much. I have had minimal luck using a lye soap solution, but you have to spray a lot more often than I really like, and it's just as easy to squish them.

    I never heard that guineas will eat them, because my chickens won't touch the horrid things, but I have seven guineas as of this past year, so maybe they'll make a difference.
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I'd find a way to keep those guineas in the squash bed. My chickens won't touch them either. I wonder if ducks will?
     

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