|Dirty Rotten Asparagus Beetle|
O-M-G! For the past 5+years we’ve been growing Asparagus and I’ve been exclaiming how very easy it is to grow… But this year I’ve been proven wrong 🙁 We have a horrible infestation of Asparagus Beetles, the kind with the red spots on their backs.. they eat away at your baby asparagus, opening the tight flower heads, leaving trails cut into the stalks and planting little egg things all over the plants.
We have 2 raised asparagus beds (1) 4ft by 8 ft and (2) 4ft by 8ft which gives us a total of 96 sq/ft of asparagus. The thing about growing Asparagus is it slowly increases in quantity year by year. You can’t even pick any asparagus until year 2 after you planted the crowns! Then year 3 you pick all the asparagus for a week or two then let the ferns grow (they need the top plant to feed the roots lovely vitamin D sunshine! – bigger root system, more asparagus) Year 4, you pick 3-4 weeks, Year 5 you pick 5-6 weeks, etc.. you got the concept right? Each year the roots have grown/expanded and are sending up more shoots. We’ve been enjoying asparagus from our first (smaller) bed for about 4 years now.. the larger bed we started a couple years later so which we just really started harvesting last year… SO It’s a complete bummer when I go out every evening (yes you have to pick asparagus every day or else it flowers and is yucky) that all my beautiful asparagus is chewed up and covered with bugs.. the darn bugs are even eating the tiny ferns that are from very new/young roots… remember if the plant can’t send out it’s solar panels to collect the sunshine it can’t keep growing roots, the plant will die…
I started researching how to kill these Asparagus Beetles, between my gardening books and the internet, the solution is simple, Insecticidal Soap! Great, I thought, I can do that! Look out bugs here I come! Insecticidal Soap is just soap in water… it’s not scientific, it’s not precise.. or so I thought! I grabbed one of my spray bottles, filled it 3/4 of the way with water then added about 1T Seventh Generation Dishwashing Soap gave it a little shake and out the door I went to kill some bugs!
Asparagus Beetles 1, Hayley 0….. I failed. None died, So back to research.. ok so I added more soap 2T and 1T olive oil – oil is supposed to help coat the bug/plant to make it stick better.. Asparagus Beetles 2, Hayley 0.. Failed again… Back to research again… someone swore by Dr Bronners Peppermint soap in their insecticidal soap – Great! I have it.. I started over water, peppermint castile soap and olive oil.. Asparagus Beetles 3, Hayley 0.. this sucks.
Ok, everyone searching for an Organic/Natural solution comes to a point where the question the hassle of the direction they are going.. is this worth it? what is the cost to loosing all this Asparagus? Sometimes I almost wish I didn’t know how bad things like Roundup, Sevin Dust, etc are us and are planet…. times were simple 10 years ago I sprayed weeds with round up and dusted everything with sevin dust, gardening had little frustrations… but I can’t forget what I know and there has to be a solution!! And with complete honestly, I can’t imagine spraying a chemical on my asparagus to kill some bugs with all my chickens standing right next to me.. in the overspray.. looking for bugs and worms all around the asparagus.. breathing and eating such horrible things.. because we eat their eggs and we eat their meat.. I don’t want to eat contaminated meat and eggs or feed them to my friends and family!
Yet again, I set out looking for more ideas to kill these bugs and save my asparagus.. I saw references to cayenne peppers, essential oils, garlic, etc added to insecticidal soap. I decided that I might have to really make up a formula that’s a little more complex that soap in water.. and that’s ok. I’ve come to accept that if it takes some time this year to figure out a fool-proof solution, it will provide me with years of beetle free asparagus…. and I’ve got to admit it’s kinda fun to be a mad-scientist running tests to find a cure! I mixed up a recipe that I thought was covering every option I’ve read about, filled my sprayer and even took some paper plates to collect beetles on and watch them (hopefully) die. It was a success! I found a solution!!!!! Here’s my recipe:
Asparagus Beetle-Killing Insecticidal Soap
3 cups water
1t crushed red pepper
2 cloves of garlic
3T Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castile Soap
1T Olive Oil
*Warning, do not put everything in a pot and bring to a boil, it will get foamy and boil over, making a big mess on your stove!
Bring the water to a boil, remove pot from burner. Add in the crushed red pepper, garlic-no need to peel, just coarsely slice, soap and olive oil. Let everything marinate until the liquid is cool then fill up your sprayer (don’t drain the peppers/garlic out, leave it in) This should be enough to fill a standard dollar store or recycled spray bottle (roughly 24-30 ounces)
I’ve yet to test this mixture on a variety of bugs, but I did kill 2 tent caterpillars with it too!!!