Most gardeners face plant-muching pests in their vegetable garden from time to time, and usually they aren’t that big of a deal. But, sometimes pest numbers rise to an unacceptable level and the little buggers cause more than mere aesthetic damage. As gardeners become more and more aware of the potential dangers of exposure to synthetic chemical pesticides, many of us want to skip the sprays altogether and turn to other pest control methods instead. By far, the most useful technique for controlling garden pests is preventing them from nibbling on your plants in the first place.
The good news is that preventing pests in your garden is easier than you think, if you employ the very effective strategies I outline below.
Plant in the right place
Reserve plants that need full sun for full sun areas. Likewise, plant crops according to water needs. If a crop requires more water to stay healthy, grow it in an area that stays moist longer.
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Choose resistant varieties
Selecting varieties that are known to have some resistance to common pests. Spend a little time researching seed catalogs for suitable varieties to reduce pest problems later on. Look out for carrot-fly-resistant carrots, for example, or seek out potatoes that shake off eelworm attacks.
Encourage beneficial insects
While pollinators are great to have in the garden, the beneficial insects I’m talking about here are those that take a literal bite out of pest insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, damsel bugs, and other beneficials naturally help keep pest numbers down by eating the bad guys for lunch or using them to house and feed their developing young. To attract these good bugs to the garden, you need to supply them with protien-rich pest insects to consume as prey, as well as carbohydrate-rich nectar.
But, not just any flower will serve as a nectar source for beneficial insects. They need a special type of floral architecture from which to source nectar. Here is a list of some of the best plants for beneficial insects. The more pest-munching beneficials you have around, the less likely it is for pest numbers to get out of hand. It’s all about creating a good balance.
Give your plants room to breathe
We've all been guilty of trying to squeeze in as many plants as will fit in any given space (and then some). This will give you a temporary sense of abundance, but can easily lead to trouble in the long run.
Since warmer air rises, the exhaust fan sucks out the hot, stagnant air. The portable inline duct fan provides an excellent supply of cooler, CO2-filled fresh air. This technique allows for a constant supply of fresh air for your plants. It also helps keep temperatures to a manageable level.
Water in the morning
This one is always easier said than done, but we have to give it our best shot. If possible, water in the morning. This offers two advantages. First, your plants will be well hydrated when the hottest part of the day comes around. They'll be less apt to wilt and become stressed. This makes them less appealing to insect pests who prey on stressed plants.
Secondly, the leaves will have time to dry off before evening. Damp plants, especially if you also have the tendency to plant things close and densely, are ideal hangouts for many garden pests, like slugs, snails, and earwigs.
And it's better to water deeply once or twice a week than to only wet the surface of the soil, and the leaves, on a regular basis. Annual plants may need even more water since they tend to have a more shallow root system.
As for unaccommodating rain, a little is always welcome. A lot can cause trouble. You'll just have to keep an eye on things and wait until the garden dries out.
Preventing pests in your garden can also be the result of increasing the diversity of your vegetable patch. By inter-planting different vegetable crops with each other – and with flowering herbs and annuals – pests may have a more difficult time locating their host plants. Rather than planting a single crop in a row or block, mix everything up to keep even small monocultures out of the garden.
Though there’s much research still taking place regarding exactly how intercropping works, it appears that this technique “confuses” the pest insect. In order to locate and confirm that a particular plant is a suitable host, some pests may have to land on the plant a certain number of times. When crops are interplanted, the pest might land on a different plant species every time, making it harder for the bug to hone in on its dinner.
Keep plants healthy
Finally, make sure plants are as healthy as they can be, because strong, healthy plants are less susceptible to pests. Stress-free plants have their own pest defenses which more often than not allow them to see off pests without help from us. So grow plants in the right conditions, keep them well fed and water well in dry weather. Don’t forget to feed the soil too – with plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as compost – to promote a thriving root system that supports healthy growth above ground.
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By employing these 7 strategies in your vegetable garden for the long-term, you’ll be able to gain a good balance between good bugs and bad, and you’ll have fewer pest outbreaks as a result.
Those pesky pests keep us on our toes don’t they! But arm yourself with the right strategies and you can keep them well away from your crops.