GardenABCs

Photos from left: Praying mantis, lady beetle, cabbage moth, Japanese beetle

July


Pests really can take the fun out of gardening, but using pesticides isn't always an option either, especially when you want youngsters to touch plants and taste right off the vine. That's why many gardeners rely on Integrated Pest Management methods to keep pests in check. 

The goal of IPM is to prevent pest infestations from happening in the first place.  Here are some ways to reduce the likelihood of pests:

  • Allow for adequate air flow around plants by spacing seeds and thinning seedlings according to the seed packet.

  • Rotate crops every year.  For example, plant tomatoes where you grew cabbage last year. That way, pests and soil-borne diseases won't be lying in wait for them.

  • Water in the early morning to prevent fungal growth.

  • Get vining plants up off the ground: stake tomatoes, give cucumbers a trellis to climb, etc.

  • Cover 'em up: Keep cabbage moths, their voracious green caterpillar offspring, and various beetles away from plants by covering crops with a lightweight material that lets in the sun, lets out the heat, but bars insects.

  • Remove diseased and dying plant material.  Do not put this in the compost bin.

  • Create an environment ideal for beneficial pests like ladybugs and praying mantis, which eat the garden troublemakers.

  • Pluck off insects like Japanese beetles by hand and drop them into a pail of soapy water.  Insects detest soap, so keep a spray bottle of water and baby shampoo on hand to douse any pests.  Depending on the pest, tea, tobacco, Tabasco, cayenne pepper, garlic, even flour, can help keep the buggers in check. Two great sources for sustainable pest control are Gardens Alive and Jerry Baker's book, The Backyard Problem Solver.  

  • Realize that "picture perfect" fruits and vegetables may not be possible without using pesticides.  But, just because they don't look perfect doesn't mean they don't taste great.  Try cutting off the part in question and tasting what's left.  We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


copyright Anne Nagro