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Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

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Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/20/2013, 2:22 pm

I was trying to see if spraying diluted milk on my plants would help with some virus and/or bacterial wilt problems, as I'd read it would. So I sprayed with a solution of half milk and half water.

It occurred to me a couple of days later that I hadn't been seeing cucumber beetles lately. (Before I had seen so many! Over a dozen cucumber plants I had died.) Also, of the many dozens of cucumber flowers I've had, at least one or two has finally become a fruit instead of turning greyish tan and wilting to a crisp every single time. My cucumber leaves are finally turning a dark, rich green instead of their usual pale green that almost looks yellow (and IS pure yellow in some areas).

Coincidence? A lull in the breeding cycle after which swarms of beetles will again appear? I don't know, but I hope not. But even if the result is not mass beetle avoidance but simply the killing off of some infections, I'm happy with that result too.

I did read that the beetles find the milk proteins indigestible and off-putting, but haven't seen that repeated enough to know whether it's true. Many adult humans can't digest milk proteins either, though, so why not an animal that was never bred to drink milk at all?

Just a thought to put out there for consideration. If you have cucumber beetles you almost certainly have wilt, and perhaps opportunist viruses striking a weakened plant, right? So maybe milk is worth trying for either problem or both.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  CapeCoddess on 7/20/2013, 2:45 pm

This is good news, Marc. Thanks for sharing it. Please keep us updated if things change?

CC

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/20/2013, 3:23 pm

Will do! Smile

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  sanderson on 7/20/2013, 4:08 pm

Marc wrote: "My cucumber leaves are finally turning a dark, rich green instead of their usual pale green that almost looks yellow (and IS pure yellow in some areas)."

Did you do anything else to the cucumbers except spray with diluted milk? I wouldn't mind a dark leaf here and there!

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/20/2013, 5:54 pm

Once every week or two I've been giving them a sort of lazy-man's worm compost tea, made from a store-bought worm compost bag. I just put a few teaspoons in an empty one gallon milk carton and shake it good to aerate it, maybe shake it once or twice more later, then use it the next day on their soil, after regular watering. The gallon gets split between a dozen plants. I haven't done it much (I could only put many of my plants out in June because spring and early summer were so cold at night). I was doing it in the same haphazard way when the cucumber beetles were destroying my plants too.

I do the same-ish thing with steer compost and a five-gallon bucket over at the neighbor's place, where almost all of my garden is. I just let it sit for two days or longer with a daily stir. It seems to help the plants out a bit; I've got plenty of green growth and blossoms, and if the hornworms weren't eating all my non-cherry tomatoes, I'd guess I could say I've been getting plenty of tomatoes. But many of my tomatoes have very deep green leaves, which somehow looks especially healthy to me. Brandywines, a Better Bush, some Early Girls in particular. Probably a lot of it is just that our nights are getting warmer, making the plants healthier overall. But the tea seems to have an effect, to my eye anyway.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Triciasgarden on 7/20/2013, 6:12 pm

Oh wow, that sounds wonderful!  It would make sense that the cucumber beetles wouldn't like it!  What a quick and easy solution.  I think we will all want to keep up on how your plants are doing with this!  I wonder if this would work on the horn worms!  Compost tea is a great thing!

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/20/2013, 6:19 pm

You know what, I didn't even try the milk on the hornworm-plagued tomato plants, since they didn't have any wilt or disease. But heck, I might as well try it. I couldn't have any worse results than I have now, which is eating NO tomatoes from my pested-out tomato plants!

I think I'll spray the tomatoes early tomorrow morning. Thanks for jarring me into thinking of it!

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Triciasgarden on 7/20/2013, 6:51 pm

Ya never know til you try.  It always helps me to get other peoples' opinions and suggestions.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  cyclonegardener on 8/8/2013, 10:48 pm

thanks I think I will try the milk next year for my melons and watermelons. Had a trouble with wilt in mid May and then the beetles started chomping on my roots, which led to the wilt again this month.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/9/2013, 1:01 am

Wow, the roots too? That's nasty. I didn't know they ate the roots.

Whatever they eat, though, is too much of it. But the wilt is even worse.

By the way, an update on how my plants are doing -- cucumbers are doing much better, and I don't see too many cucumber beetles anymore. Tomatoes have been doing well, but some are having trouble with the two solid weeks of forest fires blocking out the sun. We got some sun finally today, and some of the drooping plants already started springing back to life a bit.

Hornworms seem to have gone away too -- probably all moths by now. I think the milk deterred them a bit, but not entirely. They abandoned a few plants soon after the milk spraying, but refused to leave two or three of them alone.

I do have, of all things, two marigolds that shriveled up. I thought they were almost impossible to kill. Not sure what's going on there. Also one of my tomato plants shriveled up within a week of the spraying, but I'm not sure if that's coincidence or causation. It could have been both -- an outwardly healthy plant that nevertheless was a little weak and got pushed over the edge somehow by the spray. But I sprayed a lot of plants, and those were the only three that I saw a negative result on. If the milk was even the causative factor in the first place.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  mollyhespra on 8/9/2013, 1:13 pm

Marc, this is a great experiment.  Thanks for keeping us posted.  A quick question: did you do "straight" 1:1 ratio of milk & water?  No added oil or soap?  Did you use whole milk (which would have more milkfat naturally) or skim, etc.? 

The article I came across for control of PM used one part milk to 9 parts water.  Here's the link: http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/Forms%20and%20Publications/PDF/Home%20Remedies.pdf.  It has other useful homemade remedies you might find interesting.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  grownsunshine on 8/9/2013, 2:06 pm

Hey Mark - I used a 20% milk to water ratio and sprayed my plants, especially my zukes, because of a white mildew powdery substance. My zuke is doing great now and the leaves looks really nice, dark green and shiny, but I stopped because of how well it's doing. Maybe I'll go back to spraying most of my plants once a week, now that I'm hearing how well your plants are doing. Smile 

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/9/2013, 5:26 pm

I didn't use any oil, as I recall. I used milk at 50% concentration. I think I just spaced or something, because I'm pretty sure I had heard by then to dilute it more.

I haven't gone and done a regular milk spraying, but may do so again once the sun comes out and the plants have had a few days to recover. Two weeks without sun is too much, and I want to be extra careful about interfering with mother nature until then. Luckily there are so few cucumber beetles around lately that I can afford the luxury of not worrying too much about them for a while.

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

Post  Triciasgarden on 8/12/2013, 10:25 pm

Marc, wonderful post and keeping us updated!  I am so glad your garden did so well and also that you are getting some sunshine finally!  I was wondering how your garden was doing.

Good questions Molly!

Growinsunshine thank you for your input also!  It's good to see other's experiences also.

Cyclonegardener that is too bad your plants had the beetles and the wilt.  Hopefully next year you will be able to defend against them!

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Re: Cucumbers, beetles, and milk

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