Battling Squash Bugs, Rain, and Rising Prices

2020 was a walk in the park with what we're dealing with this year. While most people were scrambling for masks, toilet paper, and bleach last year, we simply closed our farm gate and rode out half a year in relative solitude. 

We ventured out once a month for fresh vegetables and fruit, and that was only to break the monotony of being at home.

2021 is a different story. Last week I posted about the rise in prices in virtually all sectors. I decided to do an inventory of our supplies, then went out to replenish anything that was low. For us that was coffee, trash bags and plastic wrap.

Boy howdy, those prices have gone up since last time I bought these items. I suspect they will continue to rise as the year progresses. Get your stuff now, people.

My biggest grumble has been in the gardening arena. A 6-pack of vegetable bedding plants that hovered around $3.79 in 2020 are $4 in 2021 for a SINGLE plant!

I refuse to pay such outrageous prices and have focused on growing all my plants from seeds or cuttings this year. This got me off to a slow start since I didn't start seeds until late in the spring. 

Fortunately, we have a very long growing season here. 

What I wasn't expecting was all the rain. In my part of Texas we have two rainy periods that last a couple of weeks in the spring and then again in winter. This year, it's been raining nearly every other day. I've not had to water my plants once since planting.

That part is good. It saves me lots of money. On the other hand we can't mow and a few of my plants are struggling from too much water. They'll be fine once it quits raining. The okra and snow peas are stunted, but the squash and berries bushes are lush.

My elderberries have gone from 4 foot sticks last year to over 9 feet tall this year, and they're full of flowers.

Sadly, the rain has not stopped the squash bugs or grasshoppers. I am killing both without mercy. The grasshoppers are an oddity. They're generally only pests during dry spells.

The squash bugs, my old nemeses, are back with a vengeance. 

Last year I methodically picked them off each leaf. In return I was rewarded with a beautiful and bountiful season of squashes. This year the bug demons are at it again at both garden locations. I'm back to checking each leaf. Yes. It's as tedious as it sounds.

I turn over every leaf and use a fingernail to gently scrape off the eggs into a bucket. You can also use a piece of heavy tape if you're squeamish about scraping. Just make sure all eggs are crushed and disposed of away from the garden.

One leaf escaped my scrutiny and the eggs hatched, but I murdered those baby bugs as quickly as they were found. I also crushed three adults and ended their egg-laying siege.

It's time consuming and onerous, but I've not found any other way to keep my squash plants safe. Once those eggs hatch, you might as well tear out those plants. You won't win. You have to stop them at the egg stage.

Whenever I battle weather, bugs, or larger critters, I think about how people managed before the age of technology and chemicals. It had to have been a matter of constant vigilance. 

Only last week, there was a snake in my quail pen. There were two quail in his belly and one other dead on the floor. We normally don't kill snakes, but once they know how to get into a pen they can't be relocated far enough. Every time we've tried, they've come back, so it means a death sentence for them.

It's a constant battle between predator and homesteader. Every time they find a chink in our armor, we hustle to fix it. 

Sometimes life feels like a tug of war. There's always someone or something trying to take what you've worked so hard to grow.

How's life at your end? Are you gardening? Have you noticed the rise in prices?

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Marianne Arkins said…
I HATE squash bugs. HATE. If you miss even one day of checking, it's too late. Ugh. Good luck.

And, I sure wish you could send us your rain. We're still in a severe drought, our local farms are losing their crops, and I'm worried about my well. It's bad.
Maria Zannini said…
Marianne: I will put in a good word for you to Mother Nature. I envy you having a well. It's one of my longest held wishes.

We could drill a well, but the chances of reaching the aquifer are slim. We're on the other side of a rock barrier.
Dru Ann said…
I definitely noticed the rise in prices. Also noticing the package size has shrunk.
Maria Zannini said…
Dru: They get you coming and going. And they wonder why consumer confidence has gone down.
Luba Meader said…
I have started gardening. I am only growing flowers this year, the Derecho messed up some of my yard and I'm actually also growing grass. I hope to get 2 Crepe Myrtle trees from a nursery here in town, to replace what the Derecho took away from us. Other than that, I too have noticed a steep increase in prices at the store, with containers they're in have shrunk considerable, IMHO.
Maria Zannini said…
Luba: Flowers are relatively new to me so I've been trying different types to see what grows best in my zone. I've been experimenting growing new plants from cuttings from perennial plants like salvia and rosemary.

Good luck with your new plantings. Crepe myrtles are so dependable. And there are so many colors to choose from.

crepe myrtles
Brandy C. Jones said…
I, too, have noticed a rise in prices for most everything. Even meat has gone really high. And the shortage of canned cat food is ridiculous. I didn’t garden this year. Every year I’ve planted one out back we’ve ended up with squash bugs who even go after my tomatoes. So, this year, I just didn’t try. Sorry to hear about your quail. I’ve been telling hubs we need to stick up on certain items and he’s looking at me like I’m a bit crazy, but I hope to wear him down.
Maria Zannini said…
Brandy: I'm in a bind with cat food. Jammy is limited to type. Now that I know which brands he can eat, I look for them on sale or on clearance shelves. Every day he goes through 2 cans a day. You know what they cost, so you do the math. Jammy is an expensive cat.

Now I stock up. Since he requires very specific kinds of food I don't ever want to run out.

Trust me on this. You want to stock up. If you can only stock up on a couple of things, pick two of the most used items and work from there.
Mike Keyton said…
I reckon inflation is going to be a serious problem, it’s beginning here too, and I stress, beginning.
Texas and Britain must be in synch. We’ve had the wettest May for a hundred years.
Ref bugs, we’re presently cursed by aphids attacking my damson trees and my newly planted hibiscus and astors. Not worried about the damsons - robust buggers, but spraying the flowers