Using Row Covers for Insect Control (Flea Beetles, Squash Vine Borers)

I’m trying something new this year.  Last year my usual practice of planting strong healthy eggplant seedlings and giving them extra fertilizer when the flea beetles attacked was not that successful.  My eggplant crop was reduced and this year I am trying using row covers.  The tiny holes they make in the leaves may not seem serious but these sap the plant of energy and reduce yield.  This season I delayed planting for two weeks and now have my plants under summer weight row covers.  These let rain and about 80% of the sun in but keep insects out.  I’ll have to remove this cover when the plants bloom or I’ll get no eggplants, of course.  I’ve secured the row cover and the bottom with earth so there is no way the insects can get in (unless of course they’re in the ground already.)

Eggplants, Safely Inside (for now)

Eggplants, Safely Inside (for now)

On the zucchini, I’ve tried a lot of strategies to defeat the squash vine borers.  At the outset I’ll say that I’ve found the yellow crookneck is less susceptible and works fairly well as a substitute in most zucchini recipes so I grow two hills of that.   Hilling up the stem (piling earth over it) will allow rooting along the stem as it grows out and thereby strengthen the root system. I could also re-sow the zucchini after it succumbs, as it always does, but by then the garden is overflowing and there’s no room.  If I see the little mound of frass (squash borer leavings) on the stem early, I can run a toothpick or skewer up the stem working it around to kill the larvae, but I often miss the early signs.  I’ve tried panty hose to cover the stems but they seem to get under that.  I will try pantyhose again this year, last year it may have delayed the damage, but it came anyway and they died.  This year I’m doing row covers on these as well.  I’ll let you know how it works.  Please think good thoughts for my eggplants and squash!

Squash Have Sprouted.  I'm covering them as soon as they do.

Squash Have Sprouted. I’m covering them as soon as they do.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mary said,

    I read putting aluminum foil on the ground around the stem disorients the moths so they are less likely to lay their eggs on the plant. I did this a couple of years and I think it helped. Have you ever tried it? I hope the covers work for you! Mary

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    • 2

      I’ve never tried that! Thanks for suggesting it. So far, so good on the squash but it’s early yet. No flea beetles on the eggplants yet either. I didn’t mention in my original post but I have had luck hilling up damaged zucchini vines when they are big enough and they sometimes root along the stem.

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  2. 3

    […] June 3rd I wrote about my experiment with row covers to control insects, particularly flea beetles on my […]

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  3. 4

    […] with using row covers to combat flea beetle on my eggplants and squash vine borer on my zucchini (see this post).  The eggplant experiment worked well but the zucchini on found that the row covers were […]

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