Each season, our gardens offer an ever changing variety of fruits and vegetables. Along with this, comes a variety of insecticidal pests. Nothing can take the wind out of your gardening sails faster than damage caused by these silent foes.
The course of actions vary. There are gardeners who won't hesitate to grab the first full spectrum insecticide they can find. Then there is the organic approach which seems to be gaining popularity. Regardless of your method there is one logical first step:
Know Your Enemy!
Our gardens serve as an oasis for life. With each type of crop you plant, you'll soon come to discover an insect or critter that has found a veritable feast. If left unchecked you can kiss your harvest good-bye. So take the time to recognize your enemies & what they're drawn to. Take the cabbage moth larvea, for example. Holes in my kale.... hmm? If you don't spot them fast, your leaves will be denuded.
HEALTHY PLANTS! Without a doubt, preventing a pest infestation is the best option. Healthy plants are the first place to start. When we can't fight off an infection, we go to the Doctor for help. But if we get good rest, fluids & nourishment, we can often fight off infections on our own. To an extent, the same applies to our plants.
When our garden vegetables are under constant stress, many insects can naturally detect this. They will often target and feast upon those weakened plants. Meanwhile, they may completely ignore the healthy ones that are just a few inches away! Aphids, pill bugs and maggots quickly come to mind. So keep your veggies healthy. Make sure they get proper light, moisture & nutrients.
PHYSICAL BARRIERS: Even the most vigourous of plants can be overcome by the right pests. So you must be prepared to take accountability. They're counting on you! Screens and nettings can be constructed to protect leafy veggies. A physical barrier works great for keeping flies (and leaf mining maggots) off of your spinach and swiss chard. I've used anti-insect greenhouse netting with amazing success when protecting my kale from cabbage moths and their destructive worms. You can even dust your crops with diatomaceous earth to keep away mites and aphids.
COMPANION HERB PLANTING: The inclusion of companion herbs and flowers is a win-win for any gardener. Herbs can be harvested for consumption. Their flowers enhance the beauty of your garden. The fragrances can be delightful. And to top it all off, those very same fragrances that we may love, are HATED by some of our enemies!
Essential oils or volatile oils can be found in thousands of plants across the planet. These oils may contain phenolic compounds which can provide natural defense against harmful insect pests. Exposure to essential oils is often toxic or even lethal. Naturally then susceptible insects tend to stay away.
So why not use that to your advantage? Some gardeners have found garlic to deter Aphids, Cabbage Moth, Japanese Beetles, Tomato Worm or Weevils. Marigolds may help with Asparagus Beetles, Bean Beetles, Nematodes and Whiteflies. You might try lavendar for Fleas, Ticks, Mice or Moths. Basil, Chives, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary and Tansy all help to create a defensive wall that will discourage many pests from even approaching.
INSECTICIDAL SOAP: Once they've broken through your defenses, quick action may be needed. An application of a safe, organic, insecticidal soap will go a long way. Entire colonies can be wiped out with a single application, thereby turning the tides of war in your favor.
ENLIST HELP: Sometimes you need to bring in some extra muscle to do the dirty work for you. It's time to get to know some...