Pest Free / Long Life Plants

Asked July 8, 2020, 10:57 AM EDT

I'm new to the area and as a physician with sporadic ability to tend to my garden, I noted that squash borer, squash bugs, and japanense beetles are prolific here. I'm hoping for a lower maintenance proliferic garden next year. 1. What varieties of squash/ melon/ pumpkin/ cucumber are most resistant? 2. List of fruits and vegetables varieties (species) that grow best here and most pest/fungus resist?

Douglas County Nebraska

1 Response

Welcome to the area! We do tend to have lots of insects that love to feed on vegetables, especially squash. Here's a few management tips to help you out with those squash pests-

Squash Vine Borer
1. Schedule a second (or first) planting for early July. Plants will mature after adults are done laying eggs
2. Butternut squash, cucumber, and melons typically aren't attacked by borers
3. Crops that vine across the ground are more resilient since they can root in multiple areas. Bush types that don't are more susceptible since they can't root in multiple places.
4. Use a row cover over young plants to delay egg laying - you can remove it once the plant starts flowering for pollination. You may still get borers if you planted early, but delaying can extend the life of the plant.
5. Use of an insecticide at the base of the plant can help prevent egg laying/hatching/initial boring but isn't effective if the boring already has happened. Neem (or the concentrated active ingredient azaridachtin) or Bt are organic options, Carbaryl and bifenthrin are conventional options. (Apply according to label)

Squash Bugs
1. These are a bit more difficult, since their number increase throughout the season.
2. The most susceptible and attractive crops are yellow summer squash, zucchini, and pumpkin as well as Hubbard squash. Watermelon, cucumber, muskmelon and butternut resist damage and provide poor food quality for adults and nymphs. Resistant varieties also include sweet cheese pumpkins and royal acorn squash.
3. Use row covers (see 4 above)
4. Use of Neem, Azaridachtin, Carbaryl, or Bifenthrin can reduce feeding (apply according to label).

Japanese Beetle
1. JBs will eat just about anything, so there isn't too much resistant to them.
2. Control is usually warranted if feeding is heavy, light feeding typically isn't an issue.
3. Use row covers or chemical treatments as listed above (for squash bugs). Spinosad may also be another organic option.
4. You can try a product called Surround. It is a powdered kaolin clay that you mix with water and spray on. It coats the plant and confuses feeding due to the texture and color change.

As for disease resistant plants, there are long lists for about anything you want to grow. A good general resource for almost every common vegetable that I found is this page from Cornell.
Please feel free to email back directly if there are any specific vegetables not on the list that you need help with.