In the garden: Sad beds
Here's the disaster area, actually looking better than it did:
The sign of hope is the electrical connection I run from the house, through the garden, and thence to the table where I can put my laptop. And happily, my WiFi woes are over.
The raspberries are sad because I was hasty and lazy and cut the canes all back (instead of only cutting back the exhausted ones). My excuse was that two year ago I did the same thing and it wasn't a problem. However, during the winter they got covered with sand. And then spring is at least two weeks late. So now some new canes are poking up, so we'll see if I end up with my living fence after all. I will say that the layering of sand -> raspberry canes -> leaves seems to produce nice black soft earth; I went in and dug around all the raspberry plants to expose them to light, just so they aren't confused about what time of year it is, and there are plenty of worms. So perhaps they will be less sad soon.
The bee balm will do the bee balm thing, hopefully attracting hummingbirds once again!
The beds are sad because I haven't laid any more earth down, or sheet mulched them (no money even for hay). Hopefully, that will change soon, and if it doesn't, I'll just plant what I can. But the beds are really sad because last year I had squash bugs. I'm going to move the squash to another part of the garden, on the other side of a driveway, so perhaps, if I grow from seed, I'll be avoid infestation. But what about the existing squash beds? My thought was to level the squash mounds and scatter bentonite (and wood ashes?) everywhere, then sheet mulch it all. (Bentonite has microscopic spikelets that get into chinks in the squash bugs' chitin armor and cause the squash bug to dehydrate (Experts please correct!)) I could try Neem Oil. Or I might try companion planting:
CATNIP: Deters flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils. Fresh catnip steeped in water and sprinkled on plants will drive away flea beetles.
If I put cukes where the squash were:
DILL: Improves growth and health of cabbage. Do not plant near carrots, caraway, lavendar or tomatoes. Best friend for lettuce. The flower heads of dill are one of the best nectar sources for beneficial insects in the garden attracting hoverflies, predatory wasps and many more. Repels aphids and spider mites to some degree. Also may repel the dreaded squash bug! (scatter some good size dill leaves on plants that are subject to squash bugs, like squash plants.) Dill goes well with lettuce, onions, cabbage, sweet corn and cucumbers. Dill does attract the tomato horn worm so it would be wise to plant it somewhere away from your tomato plants. Do plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Even their caterpillars are beautiful.
Or possibly radishes:
Squash and cucumbers benefit from being planted with icicle radishes, which deter insects. Icicle radishes are also a tasty addition to your garden. They have a rich, spicy flavor and a pure white flesh that is milder than the common red radish. Sow two or three radish seeds in cucumber or squash hills to repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs.
Or maybe a crusade against squash bugs per se is doomed, and I should just add more resilience and complexity:
In my own, personal experience, in my own, personal garden, there is no such thing as plants that repel squash vine borers, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The things to do are:
1. Plant lots of different things in your garden
2. Add lots of compost and mulch
3. Grow resistant varieties. (For example, I had to give up on yellow crookneck squash, even though we love it, because the squash vine borers ALWAYS got it. Now I grow Costata romanesca zucchini, which is also yummy, and doesn't seem to care much about the bugs. Neither did Bening's Green Tint pattypan, the one year I grew it -- but the one year I grew it, we had SO MANY pattypans that I haven't been able to stand the thought of growing it since :-).)
So, who knows? I'll be putting mostly seeds in the ground this year, and not flats; I hastily got flats of squash last year for the first time, and after that I got squash bugs. Sigh!
As it turned out, I lucked into planting resistant varieties like Butternut. But they're nasty bugs and who knows what this year's crop will bring?