Beneficial Insects

Tachinid fly on spearmint

In the past two weeks we have noticed a large populations of many insects in the garden. Along with all the destructive pests, we have also been lucky to have attracted many beneficials. Pictured above is a Tachinid fly. This beneficial insect is  parasitic toward caterpillars and larvae of some other pest species including various cabbage worms. We have seen huge populations particularly on perennial herb plants. Spearmint and Oregano seem to be highly attractant to these flies.  We are very glad to have attracted these insects to the garden. Even if they provide a minimal degree of pest control we feel that there presence is important to managing our garden sustainably. See link

Insects in the Garden


The heat of the year is starting to drive some populations of insects. We are starting to see increased populations of japanese beetles and large numbers of cucumber beetles  and western corn rootworm adults  The beetles are severely attacking the blooms and even the vegetative growth of the vine crops.

The cucumber beetle can be devastating in particular. Besides destroying blossoms they also transmit bacterial wilt(, which will ultimately lead to the death of infected plants. In our garden we have not seen the numbers like we have this year. Especially this early in the season. Because we manage our vegetables organically we have sprayed for the beetle using a certified organic compound Pyganic. This pesticide effectively knocks down the population. It does not have a long-term persistence in the environment.

Evening Walk with Wildlife Specialist – David Drake

Tuesday, September 7, 7:30-9:00pm – A Walk with the Wildlife at West Madison Research Station, David Drake, Extension Wildlife Specialist

An evening garden walk focusing on urban wildlife will be held at 7:30 p.m. on September 7,   at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Please join us to learn about the many different animals that may call your garden or yard home or those that may be migrating overhead—listen to the night life. If you have questions about the wildlife in your area, this is your chance to ask an expert! This tour will be led by UW Extension Wildlife Specialist David Drake, and is open to the public (donation requested).  For complete details about this and other garden walks, please visit

Squash Vine Borer-Update

About a month ago we discussed the arrival of the squash vine borer and our control methods. Since that time we have had incredible growth on the plants and have continued to watch for the adult moths. Since the first large influx of moths in June, we have seen a smaller second flight of the moths during the second week of July. Late last week we began to see the tell tale wilting of some vines. During the heat of the day we would see the wilt, then at night and in the morning the vine seemingly recovered. This signaled that the eggs of the moth had hatched and the larvae had burrowed into the base of the vine.  Thus compromising water uptake and subsequently fruit formation.

Total infestation rate on our squash and pumpkins is probably about 5-10%. It is interesting to note that certain varieties are affected more than others. This year ‘Triamble’, ‘Blue Magic’, and ‘Guatemalan Blue Banana’ were the prefered cultivars. All are Cucubrita maxima and all are blue fruited. Not sure if this is a coincidence, but surely something to observe in upcoming seasons.

We have tried to save the wilting vines by slicing open the base and removing the larvae.Squash Vine Borer dxtraction After the base is slit you can remove larvae with a paper clip or knife. Some of our vines contained 10 or more larvae of different sizes. After extraction we mounded soil over the base and rooting nodes furtherSquash Vine Borer larvae down the vine. The hope is to encourage secondary rooting along the vine which will supplement the compromised vascular system at the base of the plant. So far the plants seem to be recovering we will see if our efforts are enough to mature the fruits that have already set on the vine.

For more info on the squash vine borer visit

Time to Heel the Leeks…………….

It may be time to heel the leeks again.   We have now heeled our leeks for the fourth time.   We planted the leeks in a deep trench and then began to fill the trench with soil as the leeks grew.

The last “heeling” was completed on July 27.   We mounded the soil over the shafts of the leeks to ensure that we will  have nice long, white shafts when they are harvested later in the fall.

Leeks are in the same family with onions and are truly a great vegetable to add to soups, saute and serve with other herbs and a Leek tart is terrific.

AUGUST 21, 2010 Field Day

With one month to go until our annual Field Day the gardens are looking spectacular. Each year, on the third Saturday in August, we invite the public to come out and enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of our garden. The event is free and  features UW Extension specialists, Master Gardeners, and garden staff available to answer questions on weeds, insects, disease, and other gardening topics. One of the highlights of the day is tasting samples of the ripe varieties of fruits and vegetables.  In addition we will have children’s activities, as well as seed garlic and produce for sale. Field Day Sunflower

Please join us on Sat. August 21, 2010 from 10am to 3pm for a relaxing, beautiful,  and educational day at the West Madison University Display Gardens. 8502 Mineral Point Rd/ Verona, WI 53593. (608)-262-2257.

Check for More Information: Urban Hort 2010aaa

Evening Walk – Brian Hudelson – Diseases in the Garden

Garden Tour Featuring Plant Disease Specialist

WEST MADISON, Wis. –  An evening garden walk focusing on plant diseases and their treatments will be held at 6:00 p.m. on July 27 at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Come learn about common diseases in annuals and perennial flowers, vegetables, and fruits, and how to deal with them in your own garden If you have questions about why a particular plant is declining or how to avoid certain diseases, this is your chance to ask an expert!

This tour will be led by UW Extension Specialist in Plant Disease Brian Hudelson, and is open to the public (donation requested).  For complete details about this and other garden walks, please visit

Evening Walk – July 13 – Insects In The Garden

Garden Tour Featuring Insect Specialist – Please Join Us For A Great Learning Experience With The Great Bug Man

University Display Garden –  An evening garden walk focusing on the insects lurking your backyard will be held at 6:30 p.m. on July 13 at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Come learn about common insects and how to deal with the pests your yard or garden. If you have questions about an unknown bug, this is your chance to bring a critter in and have an entomologist help you identify it! This tour will be led by Extension Specialist in Entomology Phil Pellitteri, and is open to the public (donation requested).  For complete details about this and other garden walks, please visit

Location: 8502 Mineral Point Road, Verona, WI  – 1/8 mile from West Beltline hwy, west on Mineral Point Road.  Watch for gardens on the right side of road.

Squash Vine Borer

The squash vine borer is here. The infamous larvae of this moth burrow into squash vines eventually compromising the plants ability to transfer water to fruit and foliage. Each year we anticipate the arrival of the adult moth about the second week of June. This year we began scouting June 15th and sighted the first adult on June 18th.

These moths which look more like a wasp are best spotted in the morning on and around winter squash, zucchini, and pumpkins. We have also found they will hang out near the tops of potato plants. These moths will land on the underside of the plant, usually near the base, and lay small reddish/metallic colored eggs. Out of these eggs will emerge larvae that will burrow into the stem of the plant.

We began scouting plants for eggs on June 25th and found only a few. We scouted again on the 29th and found that eggs were on all above mentioned  plants. Our method of control is careful observation and removal of as may eggs as possible. Simply scrape them off with a fingernail.  Next year we do plan on placing a floating row cover over the plants to prevent the Squash Vine Borer from laying eggs.

We will continue to monitor the vines and look for symptoms of larval burrowing. Midday wilting of vines with nighttime recovery is often a good indicator of a borer.  At this point check vines for entry hole and frass. You may be able to use a paper clip to spear the unwanted larvae at or near this entry point. Please refer to the following UW Extension fact sheet for more information.                  

Japanese Beetles Are Here

Yes, the dreaded Japanese beetles have arrived and appear to be growing in numbers as the temperatures rises today.   We saw one yesterday and now have numerous beetles on the grape vines.   Their appearance is about two weeks earlier than last year.