Preventing Pests and Other Problems in Your Vegetable Garden
Part of the Vegetable Gardening For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Before you reach for the insecticide sprayer to attack pests in your vegetable garden, try some of these lower-impact methods to reduce problems from harmful insects and diseases. Often, a pest problem in a garden can be averted before it actually becomes a problem.
Plant your vegetables in the proper locations. Many pests become more troublesome when plants are grown in conditions that are less than ideal. For example, if you grow sun-loving vegetables in the shade, mildew problems are often more severe.
Choose resistant plants. If you know that a certain disease is common in your area, choose plants that aren’t susceptible to that disease or that resist infection. Some vegetable varieties are resistant to specific diseases. For example, some tomato varieties resist verticillium, fusarium, and nematodes.
Know the enemy. The more you know about specific pests and diseases common to your area — when they occur and how they spread — the more easily you can avoid them. For example, some diseases run rampant on wet foliage. If you know that fact, you can reduce the occurrence of these diseases simply by adjusting your watering so you don’t wet the plants’ leaves or by watering early in the day so the plants dry out quickly.
Keep your plants healthy. Healthy plants are less likely to have problems. Water and fertilize regularly so your plants grow strong and more pest resistant.
Keep your garden clean. By cleaning up spent plants, weeds, and other garden debris, you eliminate hiding places for many pests and diseases.
Encourage and use beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are the good bugs in your garden — the insects that feed on the bugs that bother your vegetables. You probably have a bunch of different kinds of beneficial insects in your garden already, but you also can purchase them to release in your garden. In addition, you can plant flowers that attract these insects.
Rotate your plants each year. Avoid planting the same plants in the same location year after year, especially if you grow vegetables in raised beds (any planting area that’s raised above the surrounding ground level). Rotation prevents pests and diseases that are specific to certain plants from building up in your garden.
If an insect or disease does get out of hand, treat it effectively without disrupting the other life in your garden, which includes everything from good bugs to birds. Control measures may be as simple as handpicking and squashing snails, or knocking off aphids with a strong jet of water from a hose.