Who’s Eating My Cucumbers? Pickleworms, That’s Who.

My humble vegetable garden is, of late, my pride and joy. Since I don’t have a particularly green thumb, the mere fact that we were able to get seedlings to grow, and we were able to actually harvest¬†what we planted, well, that was an accomplishment.

We harvested a total of six cucumbers before I encountered a nasty pest that has forced us take drastic measures to eradicate it (without having to turn to harsh chemicals or pesticides.) The culprits? Pickleworms.

In case you’d like to see what a pickleworm looks like, here’s one I caught on my cucumber plant. I took the picture after I cut the stem off.

Apparently, pickleworms are larvae from a specific moth, and they attack mostly cucumber, squash, and other cucurbit plants. I spotted the eggs first this morning, though I didn’t know what they were at the time. I just found a bunch of gooey, white blobs around my cucumbers. Then, early this evening, we were performing our normal rounds in our garden: watering, pruning, inspecting. My husband noticed two of the cucumbers were ready to cut, so I got the shears out and was getting ready to cut when I noticed the above critter on one of the cucumbers. It was on the outside, apparently munching on the skin. When I cut the other one, I noticed two minute holes on one side. After my initial gross-out, I gave the cucumber with the worm to my husband so he could take care of it, and I proceeded to dissect the other cucumber. Though it has those two holes, there is no evidence of pickleworm inside, much to my relief. However, I’m not sure if I can do anything with the butchered cucumber, nor do I know if I want to, especially since the holes means the pickleworm was inside that cucumber….that just doesn’t sound very appetizing to me.

We busted out our organic pesticide, chopped off all remaining fruits (all which had pickleworm holes and egg residues) and damaged leaves. Instead of the immense foliage we had, we’re now left with a bare-boned plant. I have no idea if we did the right thing, but after much consulting online, it seems as if there’s little to do once these pests take hold. Very sad day for me.

I also discovered another possible pest:¬†Vegetable leafminer. I’ve been wondering why the leaves of our plants (from the larger cucumber and squash leaves to the small basil ones) have these zigging and zagging lines on them that look like this:

Photo taken from http://www.sciencephoto.com.
Upon some “googling,” I found my answer.
I think I now understand why chemical pesticides are used; and why it costs more to grow organic.
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Growing Gardens

In early March, a few month’s after my son’s school had planted a garden and my son came home excitedly talking nonstop about cabbage, broccoli, and carrots, I decided to try our hand at planting a vegetable garden. This was also around the same time that my health was pointing me towards healthier, organic alternatives. So son in hand, we headed to Home Depot and picked out a few seed packets, a greenhouse kit for kids (with cucumbers and tomatoes), and an herb set. We planted the cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon-basil, oregano, chives, and thyme first. In those first weeks, the herbs took off, as did the cucumbers. The tomatoes died.

As our “garden” started growing, we decided to invest in a larger area for the vegetable garden. In BJs, we found an inexpensive option for a raised bed, and converted a part of our backyard into our garden. We transplanted the four original herbs, and the cucumbers, and planted more seeds: summer squash, peas, lettuce, mixed greens, dill, spinach, and radishes.

The verdict? We’ve already harvested two cucumbers (and five more are growing), lettuce, and herbs. The peas are almost there. The radishes, well, those I had to replant because the first ones didn’t yield anything. The squash plant is large and leafy and healthy, but I don’t see any squash yet. I’ve already had amazing salad with my own lettuce and cucumber (and some organic carrots, nuts, seeds, raisins, cranberries, and chia seeds). I’ve already cooked meals with my thyme, oregano, basil, and chives. The dill is just getting ready to harvest, so I’ll be using that soon.

I’ll post some pictures soon. I’ve been feeling quite proud, as before this, neither my husband nor I have ever had a “green thumb” – this is certainly a step up!