Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekend Gardening: Planning for Pests

    As May ends each day finds us warmer and more humid; perfect weather for pests. Just this week a heavy thunderstorm drenched our gardens followed by warm sunny heat. As you can imagine the garden became a welcome home for some newly hatched creepy crawlies.
   Today's garden walk revealed holes in the leafy greens and the dark detriments of a few caterpillars; time for action. My first step is always find the culprit and remove him. Coffee can in hand, I pick and pluck nasty bugs from the plants and feed them to my chickens: caterpillar, stink bugs, grasshoppers..anything I can catch. If eggs are spotted I remove them as well. If the pests are just starting then this may be all I need.
   When the problem becomes bigger than this I reach for my diomaceous earth (DE). Gently dusted or added to water and sprayed, this natural element often thwarts the enemy with a few applications. Tough pest problems, such as a mass invasion of stink bugs, get Neem oil treatments.
    You may be asking..what do you recommend? Have a plan..and a back up plan. When you prepare your garden and start planting that is the time to determine your pest plan (not when the pests arrive). Take the time to know beneficial insects from the pests; plenty of resources are available for quick reference. Decide if you are keeping with organic practices or if you are willing to use some measures to ensure a harvest. Purchase a few 'on hand' items to keep on hand for that first problem.
   As for me. My motto is 'less is best' At the first sign of chewed leaves or spotted fruits, my first attempt is remove it by hand. Second step is basic and natural, and from there my last ditch is to send in the chickens. Organic gardeners, I recommend a bag of DE, some Bacillus Thergenus (BT), and some Neem oil. Non-organic gardeners, grab some Round up and blast it (as some of my fellow Master Gardeners love to say).
   Above all, enjoy your garden. It takes work, patience, persistence and a whole lot of faith to grow those wonderful plants.

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