The Mystery Of
My Bug-Free Garden

Dateline: 7 June 2014

My Kennebeck potato plants, after the first hilling.
(click picture for a closer view)

I planted eight, 30-foot-long rows of potatoes in my garden this year. Five rows are Yukon Gold. Three rows are Kennebeck. And I have one short row of fingerling potatoes too. I planted the potatoes on the same day I saw the first bright yellow dandelion blossom in the lawn by my garden (I explained the dandelion/potato connection in This Post).

The potatoes have grown very nicely. I sprayed the leaves with a seaweed foliar application when they were a couple inches high, and they responded remarkably well. That was a first for me. I think I'll continue to do the foliar feeding, which is recommended by Wood Prairie Farm in These Instructions

I did have some "skips" in my rows. Maybe a dozen. The potato seed pieces rotted instead of growing. But I dug them out and replanted with some seed pieces I had saved.

By now, in previous years, I would have had Colorado Potato Beetles laying eggs on my potato plants. But it isn't happening. I've seen only two adult beetles in my garden. One wasn't even near the potatoes. And I've not found a single beetle egg.  This is an amazing mystery to me.

I don’t know how long it will last, and I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I’m sure enjoying the fact that there are no Colorado Potato Beetles destroying my potato plants yet.

If (when) they eventually show, I'm ready for them. I bought some Bulls-Eye Bioinsecticide. I've never used the product before but my friend Steve Lonsky has used it for years, and he says it works great. And I think it's organic-approved.

Kale and Romaine in my garden

The mystery of the missing Potato Beetles is not the only good insect conundrum in my garden. The usual flea beetles are missing too. I don't think I have ever grown kale in the spring and not had the plants savaged by flea beetles. But I have a whole row of Dwarf Blue Kale that is growing beautifully, and there is not a flea beetle in sight. 

Unfortunately, my green beans have not done well at all, but it isn't because of insect damage. I planted three rows of beans, they sprouted nicely, then the fledgling sprouts turned brown and most of them died. This has been a recurring problem in my garden for years. I think it is some sort of a virus. It's discouraging.  Does anyone have any advice for me about this bean problem?

I have a theory about why the flea beetles are not destroying my kale this year. Maybe it explains why there are no potato beetles too. No, I did not slather my whole garden with pesticide. I've never used a bug spray in my garden in well over 20 years. I'll present my theory in an upcoming blog post.

Meanwhile, I'll not only continue to patrol my potato rows looking for potato beetles, I'll be watching to see if bugs attack my young squash and cucumber plants. If they don't, that will be even more amazing.


timfromohio said...

When did you first plant the beans? Perhaps too early. My impression is that you planted them at least 2 weeks ago - I lived in NEOhio up until last Feb., and your garden zone is at least as cold (5b?) as what we were used to - never planted as early as you may have. Just a thought.

Mike R. said...

I personally like to wait till june 5-10 to plant my beans. If you are having trouble directly sowing, why not try to germinate in your pockets. My aunt taught me a trick years ago. Take moistened paper towels. Lay out your seed on them, then put them in a ziplock. Keep them in your pocket or somewhere else warm. But it just happens to be perfect temp in your pocket cause your body temp is pretty constant and a "soft" heat.

I keep track of all my grow times by taking pictures of my garden with a digital camera on my phone. Time stamped, makes it easy to keep track of things. I'm like you. Don't like to spray. When I do, I use a Azadarachtin spray of some kind. Within ten days, I notice a HUGE difference. You have to spray heavy when the disease or pest pressure is on but stick with it. Azamax is a great organic neem based product. It also absolutely eradicates powdery mildew. Had mildew problems for years, cucumber beetles would devastate my cukes and squash plants, but now I spray my grapes, cukes and squash with that stuff. Works great. Thanks Herrick for the great posts. I love your blog.

Unknown said...

Curious to know what kind of beans you planted.
I often search very old books for the "old time" methods of fighting bugs, or for finding old cures for plant problems.
I also see the HUGE amount of information every old farmer placed on the issue of ROTATION.
There are so many methods that they used that we are really unaware of, that it's scary sometimes, just to know, what we DON'T KNOW, about real gardening.
That's another thing I enjoy about gardening, we are constantly learning, and can share what we find out about what is important to us.
There is nothing in the world that causes joy to me, more than seeing squash, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, cabbage and all of those yummy foods, growing healthy and strong in a garden.
Even when it's someone elses!

Lynn said...

Last year our potatoes were lost due to heavy rains, but the year before that we had a bumper crop -- and absolutely no potato bugs. We never did figure out why. Hopefully this year will be a good year and bug free as well.

Anonymous said...

We are in southeast Alabama and our potato vines have already died down. Thanks to the link to Wood Prairie Farm I learned not to harvest my potatoes for another two weeks. I really enjoy your blog!
Debbie K

Herrick Kimball said...


Perhaps I did plant too early. But the beans germinated perfectly. They just turned brown and died upon emerging (most of them). I replanted a couple days ago.

I am reminded of E.P. Roe's 1886 advice on this subject…

"Those who need much instruction in regard to bush-beans should remain in the city and raise cats in their paved back yards. We shall only warn against planting too early. It does not take much frost to destroy the plants, and if the soil is cold and wet, the beans decay instead of coming up."

Translation: Anyone can grow bush-beans, just don't plant too early.

Herrick Kimball said...

Mike R—

I like the sounds of that pocket trick. I may give it a try with some parsley seed.

I admire the fact that you have a date range figured out for your bean planting. It makes me think of the rule (for these parts) of planting potatoes when the dandelions blossom, and I wonder if there is a plant that blossoms when the time is just right for planting beans. For example, locust trees around here have just come into blossom in the last day around here.

I'm not good at remembering dates and numbers but my brain is good at associations. Dandelion blossoms…plant potatoes. Locust blossoms… plant beans?

I will definitely check lout the spray you mention. If the cucumber beetles come, I'm going to give it a try.

Many thanks.

Herrick Kimball said...

Bush beans. Green and yellow. Yes, I agree that there is much to be learned when it comes to gardening and that's part of the great adventure. You have given me an idea for a future blog post. Thanks.

No potato bugs. A bumper crop of potatoes. I like the sounds of that. I hope this is a potato year like that for both of us!

Debbie K—
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have a successful garden for 18 years but beans no longer come up for me replanted up to 3 times some years and nothing. Planted green yellow, bush, pole and lima and nothing .Rotate used nitrogen "fixer" powder . Hope by writing this I will be proven wrong and they will all come up!!Karen Jones

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, growing pole beans here in Middle TN doesn't take too much effort. However, you do occasionally have to dodge an early spring bout of snow or freezing conditions, as we did here last April. Fortunately, we had some forewarning and we could at least cover our vulnerable blueberry and strawberry blossoms. But I did wait until late April/early-May to plant my beans and other crops, including Irish Potatoes. I also try to plant by the signs, as best I can; although spring rains and busy schedules mess with this intent as I suppose they do for all of us!

Still, for all that, I prefer negotiating these problems in the garden to a host of others I deal with! Reworking another bumper-sticker saying: "The worst day in the garden is better than the best day at a lousy job!"

David Smith

Mike R. said...

Herrick, the great thing about your blog is that we can exchange ideas freely. I actually used your dandelions idea for the potatoes this year because I am am relatively new to growing potatoes. This is the fastest I have ever seen any come up. It was perfect timing and a great help. I think God has given us all the discernment to know good people and help each other. I honestly believe this is the true nature of our lives and what God wants for us. I can think of anything more important than helping our friends and family be happy and healthy! Good luck with the paper towel trick. It works awesome for me. when you seal the ziplock and fold it you may need to squeeze the air our so it stays flat. Thank you again for such a great learning tool with this blog!!

Anonymous said...

I gotta have that bumper sticker.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps senior dudley has developed a taste for beetle cuisine?


Anonymous said...


If such existed, I'd put it on my pick-up!

David Smith