Join in the Big Bug Hunt to Beat Garden Pests

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on March 19, 2017

BigBugHunt logo

How much would you give to know when bugs and other garden pests were coming so you could take preventive measures?  The Big Bug Hunt is asking for your help to develop an app that does just that.  Since gardeners are the ones who generally find new bugs first, the Big Bug Hunt is asking for your help.  They need you to report every bug you see in your garden.

What is the Big Bug Hunt?

  • The Big Bug Hunt is an international research project to track when and how garden bugs spread.
  • Participants are helping to create a pest-alert system that will warn gardeners when pests are heading their way.
  • Anyone can take part and reporting a bug takes seconds.  The more reports received, the quicker the pest-alert system can be developed.
  • Now, in its second year, The Big Bub Hunt has already identified patterns in the way some major pests spread.  Additional reports will improve accuracy and speed development of the pest-alert system is the website where you can report any bug sighting.  An app that you can use on your phone to report bugs is coming.  Any type of insect can be reported, from beneficial insects such as bees to insects such as aphids which are damaging plants.  Once you report a bug, the report is entered into a computer and analyzed to see patterns in how bugs spread.  Gardeners in the path of the bugs are then sent an email warning them the bugs are coming.

Knowing the bugs are headed their way, organic gardeners can use preventive measures to head off the coming invasion.  More conventional farmers and gardeners can also take preventative measures to protect their crops.  Reporting when the bugs appear will help scientists to develop more accurate predictive data.  This will allow gardeners in the path of the swarm to take measures to protect their crops, such as putting up hoops over their plants.

These bug alerts will be more and more valuable in pinpointing where pests are headed as the number of bug reports increases.  Growing Interactive is working with world class universities to design the app.  Of course, for the app to work properly, it needs data from gardeners on the ground.  That includes you.  Take a minute out of your busy day to enter the bugs you have seen in the database.  You will be helping improve the app and will be more likely to benefit from it.  If you need help identifying the bug, the website has detailed pest identification guides that will help you identify the bug.  It even has effective treatment and prevention ideas for the bug you found.

Once you go to, you can sign up for updates, bug-busting emails, and free downloadable charts.  You do not have to sign up for anything to register a bug sighting.  In fact, you can send the report while remaining completely anonymous.  It just takes a minute to report a bug, so do so with every bug you come across at  Thank you for your help.


Vegetable Plants To Keep Separated

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on March 3, 2017

basket of garden vegetables

jill111 / Pixabay

Most people have heard that you are supposed to rotate your garden plants between plants from the same family.  Many people have heard of companion planting where you plant certain plants together for a better harvest.  However, few people have heard of vegetable plants to keep separated.

For example, do not plant cool peppers next to hot ones.  Our family learned this the hard way when my Dad planted all his peppers in one row of the garden.  One day he came in carrying a load of banana peppers.  Now, my father likes very spicy peppers.  My mother and sister do not.  Dad offered the banana pepper to my sister, promising it was not hot.  She took one bite, spit it in the sink and started crying.  Turns out the hot peppers cross pollinated with the cool peppers and created one hot banana pepper.  Forty years later, my sister still won’t eat banana peppers.

Cucumbers cause another problem.  They cross pollinate with a lot of plants, such as squash, pumpkins, and melons.  If you plant any Cucurbit near a cucumber, the resulting vegetables will look odd and taste bad.  For example, planting cucumbers near yellow squash leaves you with yellow squash that are elongated and taste bad.  Cucurbits need to be planted at the far corner of the vegetable garden to keep cross pollination from happening.

Herbs sometimes have problems playing nice together, too.  For example, dill and fennel do not like each other.  Plant them together and you get a plant that is not dill.  The plant isn’t fennel, either.  It is somewhere in between and tastes nasty.

If you are going to save seeds from your plants, make certain you have planted vegetables in the same family as far away from each other as possible or your seeds will not produce the vegetable you expected.  Planting several heirloom tomatoes?  Keep them well separated or they won’t breed true for you.  It would be a shame to waste your heirloom seeds by planting them too close to others in the same family.



Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?

February 21, 2017

Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?   By Daniel Mowinski Perennial vegetables are making a comeback. I say comeback because if you were to travel a few centuries into the past you would find plants like Good King Henry and Sorrel in every kitchen garden. Personally, I’ve always wondered why gardeners are so fixated […]

Read the full article →

Dwarf Vegetable Plants Deliver Giant Taste

January 30, 2017

Dwarf vegetable plants can produce enough food for several meals during the gardening season.  Many of these new plants can produce great vegetables in as little as an eight inch pot set on the patio or balcony.  These are part of a gardening craze aimed at people who are busy and have very little room […]

Read the full article →

Update on Rose Rosette Disease

January 8, 2017

Rose Rosette Disease is thought to be caused by a virus that came over to the United States in the 1800s with Asian wild roses.  Many of these roses were planted by settlers all over the United States and have become naturalized.  Rose Rosette Disease is now infecting cultivated roses throughout the United States, but […]

Read the full article →

Planning Your Vegetable Garden

December 23, 2016

It is time to plan your vegetable garden for the coming season. Seed catalogs are coming in the mail.  The weather may be horrible but you can dream of spring and planting your garden.  You can plan your garden and order your seeds and plants while they are still available.  At the very least, you […]

Read the full article →

Waterwise Irrigation Audit

April 8, 2016

Since most of the country has been in a drought off and on for the last few years, cities are restricting watering the yard.  They are fining those who waste water by watering the street or watering too long.  This is an excellent time to audit your irrigation system to make sure you are using […]

Read the full article →

Unusual Garden Vegetables

March 25, 2015

Creating an unusual vegetable garden Set yourself apart from other gardeners this growing season by planting unique vegetable produce. Add spice and life to your outdoor space and full flavor and exciting tastes to your dinner table with some truly delicious and original fruits and vegetables. Strange fruit Say goodbye to the humble carrot and […]

Read the full article →

Adding Native Bees to Your Garden

February 19, 2015

Did you know that one out of every three bites of food we eat is pollinated by a bee?  When we think of bees, we think of European honey bees.  However, there are over 4,000 species of native bees in this country.  One of the most important native bees if the Mason bee. Mason bees […]

Read the full article →

Green Lacewings in the Garden

February 16, 2015

Green lacewings are beneficial insects that eat aphids, caterpillars, and other soft bodied pests as larvae.  The adults feed on nectar and pollen and the occasional aphid or mite that they come across.  Green lacewings are green, with delicate wings that look like lace because of the almost invisible membrane crossed by veins.  They have […]

Read the full article →

13 Ways to Go Green in Your Daily Life

February 14, 2015

You may know your stuff when it comes to the history of climate change, but do you know how to make small differences in your day-to-day life to help the environment? Read on for easy ways to go green. 1. By dealing with just a few degrees difference in the summer and winter months, you […]

Read the full article →

Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

February 12, 2015

One of the ways to reduce pesticide use in your garden is to attract beneficial insects to it. These insects keep the bad bugs in check. A good way to do that is to interplant flowers in your garden. The flowers then act as shelter and food places for the beneficial insects, who will move […]

Read the full article →

Time to plant early vegetables this spring

February 7, 2015

It is time to plant early vegetables once more.  This year we have had very weird weather and things are already blooming and greening up. Before you plant, let your ground dry out enough to work.  Working mud does nothing but damage the soil and frustrate the farmer.  When the ground is dry enough to […]

Read the full article →

Time to Plant for Fall

July 29, 2014

In the South, we are blessed (or cursed) with a long period of warm weather that allows us to have three gardens a year:  the spring garden, the summer garden, and the fall garden.  Of the three, the fall garden generally produces the most and is the most pleasant to work.  Plants are put in […]

Read the full article →

Growing Coriander

March 31, 2013

The Coriander plant produces two different kinds of herbs with different uses.  The greens, or cilantro, are used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American cuisine.  The coriander seed is used as a spice in whole or ground form.  It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal qualities and as an important ingredient […]

Read the full article →

Anthracnose in Tomatoes

October 6, 2012

Anthracnose is a fungal disease that will ruin your tomatoes in warm, moist weather.  It leaves in the soil and gets on the plant when you water it and splash soil on the plant.  The disease doesn’t do much to leaves or green tomatoes, but causes a rotten circle in ripe ones that can take […]

Read the full article →

Take Care of Your Gardening Tools

October 5, 2012

As garden season winds down, it is a good idea to take some time to maintain your garden tools before you put them away for the winter. Remove all dirt and debris from them with a garden hose and a stiff brush. Sharpen all the tools that cut and cultivate in your garden.  A metal […]

Read the full article →

Growing Fall Asters

September 27, 2012

Fall asters are a delightful addition to your garden.  Their startling lavender petals with gold centers provide welcome color at a time when many flowers are done blooming. They are good to plant around your fall garden to attract beneficial insects. Fall asters is native from Texas and New Mexico  all the way north to […]

Read the full article →

Attracting Toads to Your Garden

September 24, 2012

For those of you who wish to use fewer and less toxic pesticides in the garden, you should attract toads to your garden.  A single adult toad can eat 10,000 insect pests in a single summer.  Toads eat most insects, including slugs, gypsy moths, and earwigs.  In the United States, we have 21 different species […]

Read the full article →

Time to Clean Your Fruit Orchards

September 19, 2012

With the end of fruit season, it is time to clean your fruit orchards.  Remove any debris or fallen fruit from your orchard.  Pick and discard fruit left on the trees.  These steps remove places that pests and diseases overwinter and reduce your problems for next year.  Stop all pruning until the normal winter pruning […]

Read the full article →

How a Tree Dies

September 14, 2012

Home owners are frequently stunned when a tree that appeared to make it through the drought last year “suddenly” dies.  Actually, trees take a long time to die.  Many trees that appear to be dying now have been dying all year from the drought.  It wasn’t just the drought that killed them, but the high […]

Read the full article →

Fall Gardening in Full Swing

September 12, 2012

September is a busy month for gardeners in North Texas.  Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale should be put out in the first part of the month.  Watering them in with a dilute solution of fertilizer will give them a boost as they start out. Radishes, beets, Swiss chard and turnips can be […]

Read the full article →

Growing Cilantro

July 4, 2012

Cilantro is a Greek herb that is in the same family as parsley.  It is used in a variety of dishes in cuisines as varied as Mexican and Thai.  Coriander, the seed of the cilantro plant, is also used to flavor a wide variety of dishes.   Cilantro prefers light, well-drained sandy loam soil, but […]

Read the full article →

Growing Dill

July 1, 2012

Dill was introduced into this country from Asia and is used as a culinary herb.  Both the fernlike leaves and the flowers are edible.  After the first year, dill readily self-seeds and will come back year after year. Dill is seeded directly into the garden after all danger of frost is passed.  Seeds should be […]

Read the full article →

Hand Pollinating Squash and Cucumbers

June 27, 2012

Are you having problems with your cucumbers and squash growing to two or three inches long and then rotting?  You may be having pollination problems.  Normally, squash and cucumbers have male and female flowers.  Bees bring pollen from the male flowers to pollinate the female flowers.  With the problems bees have been having with colony […]

Read the full article →