I don’t know if I have ever been so excited to pick squash from our garden before! In most gardens, the squash plant produces plentiful fruit and there are not enough recipes or ways to use up all the squash gardeners get from their plants. Not us…we have struggled the last two years to get just ONE zucchini or yellow squash. The plants would be full of squash bugs and evenings in the garden were spent looking for squash eggs and killing the pesky pests. And just when you think it would survive and start producing, the vine borer would move in and bam! The plant would go from ok one day to wilted and dead the next.
The great thing about having our own garden is I get to choose what goes on it. We have chosen to go without pesticides and reap whatever we can despite what mother nature throws at it. With this approach we have more success than loss, except for our squash plants which have been a complete loss the last two years. After a pitiful year of pumpkins and zucchinis two years ago I decided to give the garden a break from the squash plants. My hope was by eliminating their food source for a year it would bring down the population as the amount of squash bugs had gotten to an unmanageable level.
My other plan to naturally combat pests is improving garden soil. Plants in high nutritious soil are healthier and less attractive to pests than unhealthy plants, nutrient imbalanced. I can only assume it’s similar to human immune system where healthy people are able to fight off bacteria and viruses better than those who are unhealthy with a weakened immune system. We are on our second year of deep mulch and every year we see soil improvement as our hay breaks down creating compost. I also put my chickens to work this past fall by opening the gate to the garden and letting them go to town on any leftover produce and scratching up bugs. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen so giving them access only in the fall gives the nitrogen time to break down adding natural fertilizer.
With every year I continue to see improvements and this year with our squash plants is no exception. They are absolutely thriving and healthier than ever. Next up is moving pigs to the pumpkin patch and utilizing them as natural tillers in prepping for pumpkins!