Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Growing a garden despite the stink bugs

After fifteen years of planting tomatoes, corn, zucchini, spinach, cucumbers and more, this year’s question is: do I dare go through all the work to grow seeds indoors and spend hours tending to them throughout March and April, just to plant them outside for stink bugs to destroy?
I checked with Jon Traunfeld, director at the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Center for some advice.
“Calls to our hotline (1-800-342-2507 M-F 8am to 1pm) and observations, indicate that stink bugs are more of a problem on some crops than others. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and corn seem to be most susceptible to damage from this new invasive pest. Spinach, chard and lettuces are less likely to be affected, so plant away,” Jon said.
He offered these strategies to protect your vegetables:
- Use floating row cover (a white, light-weight fabric with a gauze-like appearance) which is draped over plants and secured to the ground. It allows light, air and water to penetrate, but excludes pests.
- Monitor daily for stinkbugs and brush them into a bucket of soapy water to keep their numbers down.
- There is some evidence that the early life stages of this pest are more susceptible to chemical controls such as insecticidal soap, neem oil and pyrethrums
I’m going to plant my garden as usual. And remember, the stink bugs came to the U.S. via fruit from another country. If you plant a garden AND buy your produce locally, not only are you supporting your neighborhood farmer, but you’re potentially keeping bugs out of your yard, too.
Much research is being done on this pest. Here is a link to the latest information:

Happy planting! :)