Weekly Update and Insect Pests at the Garden

Hi everyone! It’s Gabriel again with my last blog post for the summer, but don’t worry there will be more posts from our other interns. Next week is my last week at the garden and I am so grateful to have been a part of the garden for the summer! I had a wonderful time planting, caring for, and harvesting all the fruits and vegetables that we have at Morven and giving them out to people to enjoy.

This week was a relatively quiet week. More planting, weeding, and harvesting, so business as usual. On Monday the interns were left to care for the garden on their own as a test for this upcoming week, when their fearless leader, Steph, will be on vacation. They did a great job making sure that all the plants were watered and cared for and the garden was still standing at the end of the day. The interns visited Bellair farms again on a rainy Tuesday and stayed inside most of the time cleaning vegetables to get ready for their CSA. On Weed Wednesday, an official holiday at the garden, you guessed it, we spent time weeding. We weeded the peppers which are starting to come in nicely and they should be ready to give to our CSA very soon. We also planted some more squash and zucchini to fill in the holes where the plants did not seem to germinate. Thursday we prepared for our CSA by cleaning harvesting materials and deciding which vegetables we should give out that week. On Friday we harvested for our CSA and delivered the tasty fruits and veggies to our subscribers.

An update on plot B, the buckwheat is now fully grown!

While in my last blog post I talked about some ways we can control pests, with companion planting, row cover, and organic sprays, this week I am going to talk about specific pests in our garden, where to find them, and how we try to get rid of them. Hopefully this will help everyone better understand the insects we are fighting every day and give all the home gardeners a way to combat them too. If you are not familiar with plant families check out our post from two weeks ago where our intern Julia gives us an in depth look at all the plant families that are present at Morven, because I will use some plant family names.

Cabbage Worm – Pieris rapae

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: White rock shaped eggs they hatch in about 7 days.
  • Larval stage: Light green in color, about one inch long, they are in this stage for 2-3 weeks and feed on plants during this time, then go into pupa form.
  • Adult Stage: Emerge from pupa as a white butterfly with black splotches on wings, wingspan one to two inches long. These adults then lay eggs on underside of leaves.

Preferred Crop: Brassica family

Signs of Pest:

  • Holes chewed through leaves of the Brassica family.
  • Tiny dark green pellets (excrement).

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Row cover over the plants.
  • Handpicking the pests off and killing them or putting them in soapy water.
  • Sprinkling rye flour or corn meal on the crops, waiting for the worms to eat it which kills them.
  • Spraying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacteria, it is only poisonous to certain caterpillars and does not harm beneficial insect, animals, or humans.

Harlequin Bug – Murgantia histrionica

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Resemble tiny white kegs laid on the bottom side of leaves, can hatch between 4-29 days depending on temperature.
  • Nymph stage: This stage consists of 5-6 instars (phase between two periods of molting) and they can take anywhere from 4-9 weeks before they reach sexual maturity. The head of the nymph can range from orange to black depending on what instar they are on. During this stage they feed by sucking the sap out of the plants.
  • Adult stage: In this stage they resemble stink bugs, but with red and black spots, the identifying feature of this bug is the X or hourglass shape on their back while they are at rest. They also feed on plants, but are the only stage to survive through the winter.

Preferred Crop: Brassica family

Signs of Pest:

  • White or brown spots on leaves of plants where the bug has sucked the sap out of the leaf.
  • Wilting and death of plant.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Handpick bugs off leaves.
  • Row cover.
  • Weeding in winter time to get rid of cover for hibernating bugs.
  • Insecticidal soaps, but be careful it can also kill beneficial insects.

 Squash Bug – Anasa tristis

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Small brown eggs on underside of leaves, egg laying usually starts early summer and goes to midsummer. They take about 1-2 weeks to hatch.
  • Nymph stage: About 1/10th of an inch long and spider like, they feed in groups on leaves. They have five instars and take about 6 weeks to become adults.
  • Adult stage: They are about 5/8ths of an inch long and have a shield like shape with a hard shell. When young they are a green or gray with red heads and legs, but as they get older they become whitish gray with dark legs. They overwinter and take shelter under dead leaves, rocks, and debris.

Preferred Crop: Cucurbit family

Signs of Pest:

  • Yellow and brown spots where the bug has injected a toxin when sucking the sap out of the plant.
  • Wilting, crispy black leaves, called “anasa wilt,” can resemble bacterial wilt caused by cucumber beetles, smaller plants may die while bigger ones can recover if feeding stops.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Plant resistant varieties.
  • Hand pick bugs off plants at all stages.
  • Place boards on ground near plants with wilt, at nighttime they are used as shelter by the bugs so they can be used as traps to be collected in the mornings.
  • Row cover.
  • Organic insecticides.

Cucumber Beetles – Acalymma vittatum(striped) and Diabrotica undecimpunctata(spotted)

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Unlike other insects we have covered, these lay their eggs in the soil at the base of the host plant and they take about 2-3 weeks to hatch.
  • Larval Stage: The larvae of this bug are small and white, they feed on the plants roots for 2-3 weeks before pupating in the soil.
  • Adult stage: The only stage of the bug we can see easily, the bugs are about 1/5th of an inch long and are yellow with either black stripes or 12 spots on their backs. They overwinter in protected areas and become active in mid to late May.

Preferred Crop: Cucurbit family

Signs of Pest:

  • Holes in leaves, yellowing and wilting leaves.
  • Bugs can spread disease called bacterial wilt which can spread through the bugs feces or mouthparts. The bacterium can cause blockage of vessels in the plants causing it to wilt and eventually die.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Practice crop rotation with cucurbits and plant them in a different place.
  • Check newly planted cucurbits for signs of beetle, especially when plants are seedlings.
  • Use sticky traps to catch the cucumber beetles, could catch other insects that can be beneficial, but it is an effective way to slow down the cucumber beetle.
  • Pull up plants infected by bacterial wilt to stop the spread of the disease.
  • Could hand pick bugs off, but much harder than other bugs because they are very fast.
  • Plant nasturtiums next to cucurbits because they have shown evidence of reducing cucumber beetle populations.

Tomato HornwormManduca quinquemaculata

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Spherical green eggs laid on the underside of leaves, laid about midsummer and take about 5 days to hatch.
  • Larval stage: This is the most harmful stage to the plants. They are likely to be the largest caterpillars you see in your garden and can be 3-4 inches in length. They are bright green in color with white stripes, false eyes, and a blackish red horn on its tail end. They have 5-6 instars and take 3-4 weeks to grow to full size. After this they burrow in the ground and go into their pupal stage.
  • Adult stage: They take 2-4 weeks to develop from the pupal stage and then make their way to the surface to mate and lay eggs on leaves.

Preferred Crop: Solanaceae family

Signs of Pest:

  • Stripped of leaves at the top of tomato plant.
  • Chewed fruit.
  • Droppings from the caterpillar look like dark green or black pineapples, if seen look directly upwards to find the worm. They are very difficult to find because they blend in very well with the leaves.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Good to practice crop rotation because they pupate underground.
  • Handpicking might be the most effective way because they are so big.
  • Introducing beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps to help control the population.
  • Could use Bt spray for younger worms, but might not be enough to kill larger ones.
  • Rototill after the harvest to kill the overwintering pupae in the soil.

Thanks for stopping by to see what is going on at the garden and have a wonderful week!


Cabbage Worm: Source1  Source2

Harlequin Bug: Source1  Source2

Squash Bug: Source1  Source2

Cucumber Beetle: Source1  Source2  Source3

Tomato Hornworm: Source1  Source2

Help from the Office of Sustainability and other news at the garden

Hello! Michael here as I just finished up my third week as an intern at Morven Kitchen Garden (MKG). It has been an enjoyable few weeks. I have adjusted to working at the garden and have been learning a lot about agriculture and growing vegetables.

MKG is divided into three plots: plots A, B, and C, each consisting of multiple beds where different crops are grown. One of our main accomplishments this past week was preparing plot C for fall vegetables that we are planning to start seeding next week. We have begun growing various vegetables in the greenhouse to get them growing in a controlled environment before planting them outside. This helps them get over the first hump of germinating and leads to a higher survival rate. In order to prepare plot C for seeding we had to move a black tarp that was covering a part of it to the side and then till the land below it. We then used twine to separate the plot into beds and walkways (see picture below). Lastly, we placed straw in the walkways to help inhibit weed growth and put compost in the beds so we can begin planting new crops in them.

Plot C after we separated the beds and walkways with twine.

On Wednesday, we were lucky enough to have interns from the Office of Sustainability at UVA come to the garden and help us place compost in the beds in plot C as well as straw in the walkways of plots B and C. It was a lot of fun to have them join us and we definitely got a lot of work done in a short amount of time with their help, so a special thanks to them for coming out! Check out the pictures below of all of us! Other than prepping plot C for seeding, we have been doing lots of weeding and harvesting as per usual. Our grape tomatoes have started flourishing so we are expecting to get a lot of them in the coming weeks. We have also continued to get a plethora of squash and basil.

I hope everyone stays cool in the blistering heat and has a great weekend! Thanks for tuning in, until next time!

Plant Taxonomy and the Families of Morven

Hi there! Julia here this holiday week for a blog post on plant families! 

Plant taxonomy is the process of naming, identifying, and classifying plants. To classify plants they are sorted into division, class, order, family, genus, and species. The process of classifying plants into families is based on plant features that reflect the possibility of common ancestries such as the number shape and position of leaves, flowers, and petals and other characteristics such as how the stems and roots grow. The families common morphological features help us identify that family and understand the plant members relate to one and other. With a morphological understanding in place, farmers and gardeners are able to identify trends within the family such as preferred soil, heat, and water conditions, which also vary a lot by region.

Knowledge of the plant families is both helpful and necessary. The practice of crop rotation has derived from a knowledge of plant families. Crop rotation is a process of rotating the land used to grow each plant family year by year. It is best to give a plot of land a 1-4 year break from a plant family if possible. Crop rotation helps to prevent the spread of soil diseases, insect problems, weed problems and is vital to soil health.

Below is a list of the plant families that Morven is home to, some families are less represented than others but overall it’s a diverse bunch! All plant families end in aceae which derives from aceus in Latin and means belonging to or the nature of.

ALLIACEAE – The Onion Family

Currently living at Morven: Green onions and Garlic

Past visitors: White and Red Onions


  • Mostly biennial or perennial
  • Require good drainage and loose sandy soil
  • Most store nutrients in swollen bulb underground
  • The fruit grows in a capsule, long thin leaves shoot up from the bottom
  • This family likes cooler weather and can start early and grow late

Other family members: Leeks and Chives

AMARANTHACEAE – The Armanath Family

Currently living at Morven: Beets, Swiss Chard, and Pigweed (common weed)


  • Does well in cool weather – best planted in spring or late summer
  • Bolts in hot weather
  • Deep roots that break up soil and recycle nutrients – need well-drained soil
  • Amaranths such as pigweed are hardy and drought tolerant and need lots of sun

Other family members: amaranth, quinoa (Amaranthus), lamb’s quarters
(Chenopodium), spinach (Spinacia), cock’s comb (Celosia).

ANACARDIACEAE – The Cashew Family

Currently living at Morven: Poison Ivy! Not in the garden of course, but in the surrounding land you are likely to come across it.


  • Trees, shrub, lianas, or perennial herbs
  • Plants in this family tend to have toxic sap called urushiol, an oily chemical compound with allergenic properties.
  • Most of the family is native to tropical areas but a few including poison ivy and poison oak are found in the colder regions of North America

Other family members: cashew (Anacardium), sumac (Rhus), poison oak (Toxicodendron), pistachio (Pistacia), mango (Mangifera), pink peppercorn tree (Schinus).

APIACEAE  – The Carrot Family

Currently living at Morven: Parsley

Past visitors: Carrots


  • Members with edible portion underground need loose, deep, and well-drained sandy soil.
  • Most direct-seeded.
  • Colder weather planting, best six to eight weeks before the last frost.
  • Can also be seeded in late August. 
  • Flowers arranged in umbels, hollow stems, leaves alternate and are often dissected
  • Slow germinating seeds, can cross-pollinate.

Other family members: caraway, celery, celeriac, chervil, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, parsnips, root parsleyon

ASTERACEAE – The Aster and Sunflower Family

Arriving soon: Lettuce mix, Sunflowers, Yaro, Mugwort (common weed)

Past visitors: Chamomile


  • Fast growth period
  • Some members have sensitive roots; best if direct-seeded or transplanted a few weeks after starting
  • Common for the flower head to be a composite of many small flowers forming a disk
  • Lettuces do best in cool-season and shade
  • Need lots of organic matter in the soil
  • Attracts beneficial insects

Other family members: artemisia, cardoon, chamomile, chicory, chrysanthemums dandelion, endive, escarole, globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, marigolds, safflower, salsify, scorzonera, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum), tarragon.

BRASSICAEAE – The Mustard Family

Currently living at Morven: Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Collards, Turnips, Radish

Past visitors: Kohlrabi


  • Herbaceous plant growth, alternating leaves
  • Cooler season crop
  • Does not need loads of water, the skin has a waxy cuticle that helps retain moisture.
  • Fruit a capsule with an inner wall
  • Frost sweetens plant taste
  • All above-ground parts of Brassica plants are edible
  • Cabbage moths lay eggs on Brassica plants and the caterpillar eats leaves (to identify: small white moths eggs become a light green caterpillar; caterpillar poops dark green pellets on leaves)

Other family members: white mustard (Sinapis), garlic mustard (Alliaria), horseradish (Armoracia), brussels sprouts, kale, collards, rutabaga, canola, black mustard, turnip (Brassica), arugula (Diplotaxis,‘rustica’ type), mouse-ear and thale cress (Arabidopsis), yellow rocket (Barbarea), radish (Raphanus), woad (Isatis), watercress (Nasturtium).

CONVOLVULACEAE – The Morning Glory Family

Currently living at Morven: Sweet Potatoes


  • Herb or shrub having climbing tendencies
  • Native to tropical or temperate areas- woody shrub in drier areas, climbers with long trailing stems in tropical areas.
  • Virginia climate – best to plant in late May or early June and keep until the fall
  • Do not survive the frost

Other family members: morning glories

CUCURBITACEAE – The Gourd Family

Currently living at Morven: Zucchini, Cucumbers, Zephyr Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Butternut Squash

Past visitors: Melons


  • Fast grow time
  • Thrive in moist soil- best to use compost
  • Sensitive to transplanting, direct seed or transplant when only a few weeks old
  • Risk of mildews and blights when grown on the ground – trellis to avoid
  • Cucumber and flea-beetles threaten plant health

Other family members: cucumber, gourds (angled luffa, bitter gourd (balsam pear, bitter melon), hard-shelled gourd, smooth luffa, snake gourd), melons (cantaloupe/muskmelon, casaba, honeydew melon, watermelon), squash/marrow (acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, cheese, crookneck, delicata, golden cushaw, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin, scallop, spaghetti, zucchini/courgette), west Indian gherkin

FABACEAE – The Legume Family

Currently living at Morven: Green Beans


  • Vine plant growth
  • Fruiting a legume that splits open with seeds on one side
  • Roots form a symbiotic relationship with a type of bacteria that coverts’ atmospheric nitrogen into a type of nitrogen that plants can intake, this process is called “nitrogen-fixing”
  • Sensitive roots; transplanting will decrease nitrogen-fixing abilities; best to direct seed and thin by pruning not uprooting

Other Family Members: alfalfa, beans, clover, cowpea, fenugreek, lentil, Lupin, peas, peanuts, tares/vetches, trefoil

LAMIACEAE – Mint Family

Currently living at Morven: Basil, Lemon Basil, and Cinnamon Basil.


  • Herbaceous
  • Leaves opposite at 90 degrees to each other
  • Mostly perennial
  • Drought tolerant
  • Not picky about soil
  • Extensive root systems

Other family members: mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, sage, and cat nip

POLYGONACEAE – The Buckwheat Family

Currently living at Morven: Buckwheat


  • Simple toothless leaves, swollen nodes on the stem, small flowers with colored sepals, and no petals
  • Many have triangular seeds
  • Great cover crop, attracts beneficial insects

Other family members: rhubarb (Rheum), buckwheat (Fagopyrum), smartweed, knotweed, pinkweek, persicaria (Polygonum, Persicaria, Fallopia), sorrel (Rumex).

SOLANACEAE – The Nightshade Family

Currently living at Morven: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants

Past visitors: Tomatillo


  • Herbaceous in temperate areas, often woody in tropics
  • Fruit in the form of a berry, drupe, or capsule
  • Best in rich damp soil with lots of organic matter — plant in warm soil after frost
  • mostly perennials, but commonly grown as annuals
  • Toxic greens (leaves), potatoes exposed to the sun while growing turn green and become toxic
  • Should be started as seedlings before the last frost; all members except potatoes need warm soil to be planted
  • Tomatoes can be planted with lower stems submerged- stems will become roots
  • Potatoes must be hilled, stems or greens submerged will become potatoes

Other family members: garden huckleberry, peppers (Caribbean red hot peppers, chili pepper, habanero, hot paper lantern, sweet pepper), paprika, tobacco, tomatillo/husk cherry


For biological specifics on each family:link1  link2
For gardening specifics on each family:link1  link2  link3
History of plant taxonomy: link
Defining plant taxonomy: link
Crop Rotation: link
Modern applications of plant taxonomy and the evolving field: link

BONUS: Cooking suggestions with CSA veggies

Vegetable filled quiche

Quiche above has roasted potatoes and sautéed kale, carrots, shallots, and garlic scapes.

Chard wraps: repurpose your wilted chard!

Leaving chard in the fridge unwrapped achieves the perfect texture for a wrap.

Zucchini or Zephyr Squash Bread!

Zephyr or any summer squash can be substituted for zucchini in a zucchini bread recipe. The bread above was made with zephyr squash.