Buy and Grow vigorous, healthy plants, they will tolerate a few pest better than a plant that is weak, suffering from low fertility, dry stress or that have been over watered.
Stressed plants are more likely to be attacked by insects and suffer more serious damage. Too much or too little water or fertilizer can weaken plants. Pay close attention to your soil, adding lots of organic matter to build good structure, drainage, and water holding capacity. Few plants like their roots setting in water logged soil.
Make sure your soil pH is within the range that your plants need.
Thin plants to recommended spacing so there is ample air flow around plants and keep weeds in check to reduce competition between desirable plants and weeds.
Rotate crops, planting the same crop in the same place year after year can increase pest populations especially populations of soil dwelling insects such as grubs, wireworms, and maggots.
Choose your garden plant varieties carefully. Choose varieties recommended for your area and look for varieties that are resistant to pests you know are a problem in your growing area. For example, butternut squash is resistant to squash vine borer.
Good garden sanitation will go a long way in controlling many pests that overwinter on weeds or plant debris in or near the garden. Remove weeds and organic mulches, which can provide homes for insects, slugs, and snails.
Use barriers to prevent cutworm damage, plant transplants inside collars made from cardboard, roofing paper, or disposable cups with their bottoms removed. The collars should be about 4 inches tall and buried 2 inches into the soil. Squares of carpeting or tar-paper placed securely around young cabbage family plants can prevent cabbage maggot flies from laying eggs at the base of the plants.
Using floating row covers allow air, light, and water through to plants, but keep pest far away from your vegetable plants. Place covers over young crops until they are large enough to fend off pests themselves, or until the pest is no longer around. Use of row hoops is an easy way to maximize the benefits of row covers. Anchor row covers securely with soil, wood, special anchoring pins, or other means so that pests can’t sneak in.
Remove covers about 4 to 6 weeks into the season before temperatures under the covers become too hot for your vegetable crops.
Crops like cucumbers, eggplants, melons, and squash need pollinating insects to set fruit, so remove row covers before plants begin to flower.
Floating row covers are made from spun polyester or other synthetics and are reusable.
Hint: You can also use cheesecloth as a floating row cover.
Take advantage of natural destructive insect enemies. Conserve insects that prey on or parasitize pests. Small wasps, for example, parasitize aphids, leaving bloated gold to bronze “mummies.” Immature lady beetles and lacewings, which look like tiny alligators, also frequent gardens. Other “beneficial insects” include spiders, predatory mites, predatory bugs, predatory flies, and ground beetles.
Introducing predators, parasites, or diseases that kill pests is becoming more practical as we learn more about managing pests. Remember, however, that beneficial insects will move elsewhere if there aren’t enough pests to feed on.
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