Prepared by Fleurette Huneault, October 31, 2007


At Anderson in 2007, deer ate many vegetables that they didn’t eat in the past, e.g. zucchini, squash and water melon, lettuce and parsley.  They of course ate all types of beans which seem to be their preferred food. 

I experimented with floating row covers on the beans.  It kept the deer away and was especially beneficial on climbing beans because I was able to wrap the cloth around the tepees leaving the top open for light penetration.  It was also effective when applied as a fence around fava beans, once again leaving the top open for light penetration.  It also prevented deer damage on bush beans however those beans didn’t grow as well under the cloth and also I am told that deer will walk/run across this cloth once they get used to its presence if it is close to the ground.  The deer didn’t touch the tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts and parsnip. 


To deter groundhogs and rabbits, I have successfully used a light sprinkling of blood meal around the perimeter of the garden plot and around the plants that are most susceptible to damage from these pests.  The product must be reapplied once a month or more often if it rains. In trials this year, it did not deter racoons from eating the corn.


This year the Anderson site was infested with Colorado Potato Beetles and Striped Cucumber Beetles.  There are several ways of controlling these beetles organically.

Floating Row Covers

Not only are row covers effective in deterring animals such as deer, ground hogs and rabbits, they are used extensively by organic growers to control insects thereby reducing the need for insecticides.  Row covers are spun bonded polypropylene fabrics known by their registered trade names e.g.  Reemay, Agribon, Argyl P17, etc. They allow air, light and water to pass through and come in various widths and lengths.  They also come in different weights: super-light, light (floating), and heavy.  Super-light cloth lets 95% of the light through, light cloth lets 85% of the light through and heavy weight cloth lets less than 50 % light through to the plant.  All weights form an effective insect barrier however the heavy gauges are used mostly for frost protection at night because of the significant reduction in light transmission.

Row covers can stop crop damage from Mexican bean beetles, cabbageworms, cabbage maggots, carrot weevils, Colorado potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, leafhoppers, leafminers, squash bugs, squash vine borers and other pests.  For row covers to be effective, crop rotation is important. Many insect pests and their eggs over-winter in the soil to emerge in the spring and early summer.  If you plant the same crop in the same space for two successive years the insects will emerge under the row cover and will quickly decimate your crop.  If you use row covers, remember to remove them from plants that require pollination at least one week before the plants bloom OR hand pollinate.  Several websites are advertising the sale of row covers.  Prices and sizes vary.  For example, one site has super-light cloth measuring 8 ft x 20 ft for $8.95 and another size 8 ft x 96 ft for 24.95.

Organic Pest Control

Because some pests have not been controlled for many years at the Anderson site, the use of row covers in 2008 is strongly recommended and the row covers may need to be supplemented with organic pest control methods.  Before applying pesticides, gardeners should be aware that even organic pesticides can harm beneficial insects.  To properly control an insect pest it is therefore important to first identify it and then target it with as little secondary damage as possible. 

Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado potato beetle attacks all plants in the Solanaceae family, i.e. potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.  Cucumber beetles attack all plants in the Cucurbitaceae family, i.e. cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, gourds and melons. These plants make up a large portion of our gardens and an effort should be made in 2008 to control these beetles.  This beetle over-winters in the soil and emerges in the spring to feed on young plants.  Both the adult and larvae chew leaves of all Solanaceae family plants and this can greatly reduce the yield.  The following organic methods can be used to control this beetle.

- If the gardener goes to the plot regularly (every two to three days) one of the best methods of control is to hand pick this beetle and destroy it as well as its bright yellow coloured eggs which can be found in clusters on the underside of leaves. 
- Another effective control is to apply thick straw mulch.  This helps break the path used by larvae to go to the soil to pupate.  It also helps isolate the plant so that the insect cannot move as easily from plant to plant.
- Floating row covers can be used until mid-season if plant rotation is practiced.  If these methods fail, the following organic insecticides can be used in organic gardens.
- Pyrethrin is an effective control but be aware that this insecticide will kill lady beetles.
- BTSD (Bacillus thuringiensis San Diego) BT is a microbial biological control pesticide but it may infect butterfly larvae.

Striped Cucumber Beetle

This beetle attacks mostly plants in the Cucurbitaceae family but can also feed on beans, corn and peas.  It swarms on seedlings often killing the plant.  It also attacks stems and flowers of older plants and eats holes in the fruit.  It transmits wilt and mosaic viruses.  As well, the larvae feed on roots of squash family plants killing or stunting the plants.  Adults overwinter in the soil emerging in April to early June.  They lay their eggs in the soil at the base of plants.  The following organic methods can be used to control this beetle.

- Row covers should be the first line of defence but for this to be effective, rotation planting must be practiced.  If you do use row covers, the Cucurbitaceae family plants will have to be hand pollinated.  Or remove the cloth one week before the plants bloom and control by spraying the beetles with Pyrethrin when it is seen feeding on pollen in flowers.  Pyrethrin will not kill bees.
- Apply thick straw mulch around the base of the plants to prevent the beetles from moving from plant to plant.  This helps to isolate the pest.