Organic Pest Control Potatoes

Potato Talk – Varieties/Potato Beetles/Help from Wasps

Potatoes are in more than a dozen spots throughout my garden. The plants are beautiful and looking at them is enjoyable as I check everything each day.

I grow several varieties: Chieftan, Norland, Butte, Yukon Gold, Rose Gold, Kennebec and another russet whose name has been long forgotten.

When Bill was alive more potatoes were needed. Now it’s no longer necessary for me to buy seed potatoes. But I still want (and have) an abundance for eating fresh and also making soup. (For more on how I grow potatoes you might want to check out this post.)

Potato Beetles

Do any of you remember being driven crazy by potatoes beetles? I certainly do. Having to kill hundreds of larvae and/or adult beetles each day is not a fun task.

Or maybe that’s your situation right now. Be encouraged by the fact that as you continue to improve your garden AND if you take a proactive approach, potato beetles will decrease over time and become “comfortably controllable”.

Things in my garden have improved to the point where I have very few potatoes beetles. Found only two  adults in mid May. Found several larvae each day for the past few days. A very insignificant amount considering the number of plants I have all around the garden.

Helping Me with “Search and Destroy”

I see a variety of wasps checking the potato plants each day, although their main focus this year seems to be on my broccoli and cabbage. (Yeh!)

It’s fascinating to stop and watch these wasp take away cabbage worms and/or potato beetle larvae. They take them back to their nest and feed them to the wasp larvae.

Of the many varieties of wasps in the garden, the ones I’m most familiar with are the ones that commonly build their nest under eaves or between my storm window and regular window in the bathroom upstairs. (Not convenient for me at all.)

Will they Sting?

For almost 40 years, hundreds of bees and wasps have patrolled my garden with me.  I’ve brushed against them as I move through the plants. My hands and arms are right next to them on a daily basis.

I’ve never been stung inside the garden. Although I did back into the tiniest bee I’ve ever seen many years ago. That was enough to bring a loud “Ouch!” and the kids that were there at the time thought it was hilarious.

Last year, in pulling up a dead lavender plant in a border that had not had timely attention, what a surprise to have a dozen wasps let me know that I was invading nest-territory. I was stung on the face twice, but it was nothing compared to what they’re capable of. I’d like to think they knew it was me. 🙂 It certainly seemed that way.

The Biggest Mistake Made With “Pest” Insects

I think probably about the biggest mistake gardeners can make with “pest” insects is to ignore them.
If you’re proactive and address the problem when you first notice it and are diligent about “search and destroy” you can keep them under control.

(I made the mistake of ignoring harlequin beetles and the various cabbage worms back in 2012. I swore off growing brassicas for a while after that. Full story here.)

Even though I have next to no problem with potato beetles, I pay attention to the plants as I pass each day — or at least every other day. A few larvae gone unattended can turn into a much greater number within a month.

Do the math:
Each female potato beetle can lay up to 350 eggs over 3 to 5 weeks. Eggs begin to hatch about two weeks or sooner. Larvae can complete development in as little as 10 days; then drop from the plant, burrow into soil and pupate and emerge as an adult in 5 to 10 days.

Handpicking as a Control

As unpleasant a task as handpicking is, it might be the best method of control.  Before deciding that you have too many potatoes for hand control, you might want to review what Jim Gerritsen, one of the foremost potato growers in the United States, had to say about it.

Final Thoughts

Potatoes in bloom.

Some of the early varieties are in bloom. That means new potatoes on my menu soon!

If you’re not growing potatoes, I hope you’ll consider it for next year.  You’ve never really tasted potatoes until you grow your own in great garden soil. Nothing can compare.


Related Posts:

Organic Pest Control – Is It Just About the Soil?

Oil Seed Radish/Brassicas/ And A Bug Story

Potatoes/ Green Sprouting / Advice from A Leading U.S. Grower

Growing Potatoes – Is the Natural Way the Best?

Potato Beetles – Organic Pest Control – Programmed Responses

Growing Potatoes – It’s Hard to Mess Up


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  • I Haven’t grown potatoes; yet. But I did try onions as you suggested. The Ailsa Craig you advised looking great for green onions and I’m working up to trying them soon. I was given some seeds by a friend that are supposed to be Vidalia (Granex). Both seeds were started on the same day and planted same day. The Ailsa are at least twice the size and the others not appetizing at all so I think you made a great call. Thanks once again.

    Happy gardening

    Ray Kent

  • Hi Ray,

    The variety Alisa Craig is a very large onion. This probably accounts for the fact that they’re twice the size of the other you grew.

    Also – keep in mind that a “true” Vidalia onion can only come from (be grown in) the state of Georgia. Yellow Granex is one of the granex varieties that the Vidalia farmers can grow to obtain Vidalia onions.

    Enjoy those onions Ray!

  • Theresa,
    Do you always plant your potatoes in the spring?
    Have you ever planted in the fall?
    Since I also follow Paul Gautchi I have found it easier to plant in the fall.
    Last fall was so mild for so long potatoes started sprouting and many potatoes were froze out by spring.
    The potatoes that grew are looking extremely healthy. We are already experiencing hot summer weather.
    Seems like at least 15 days in the low to mid 90’s.
    If you have planted in the fall where do you get seed potatoes for fall planting?
    I just have followed Paul’s method try to plant the same day of harvest.
    It means using some of the harvest as seed potatoes.
    Thanks for all the info.

  • Steve, I think most beginner gardeners are better off planting in the spring until they get a feel for what they’re doing, what potatoes do, and also until they’re satisfied their soil is disease free and extremely healthy.

    Also, if one has a problem with potato beetles and they winter over with the potatoes, that’s looking for trouble.

    I don’t think seed potatoes are available in the fall — at least I’ve never seen them offered.

    Until Bill died, my potatoes came from 2 sources — purchased seed potatoes (usually from Wood Prairie Farms) and from “my” potatoes (those grown in my soil). “My” potatoes you can call “fall” planted although they literally stay in the ground all year. Sometimes in the fall I’ll space them out a bit. I’ve done that for more than 25 years.

    I never replant potatoes that have been “held” out of the ground any length of time (or over wintered). They don’t have the same vitality as those that have been protected (stored) in dry garden soil (mulched of course).

    Buying seed potatoes is not necessary for me because “my” potatoes supply me with all I can eat and sometimes more.
    When Bill was alive, we ate a lot more potatoes.

    In spite of my success, I still watch things very carefully, because should I see any signs of problems I would take the required action immediately.

    I gave a link in the post and also at the end to another post that explains more about how I grow potatoes. You might want to check it out:

    Hope this helps.

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