Gardening Advice: Pest-Control Tips

Regional and seasonal gardening advice for where you live, including pest-control tips.


| June/July 2004



Ripe Tomatoes

Leaffooted bugs and their relatives, including the green stink bug, are hard to ignore during this season. They love developing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans and, especially, Southern peas.


Photo courtesy Fotolia/Dusan Kostic

New England/Maritime Canada

The greenhouse is looking empty, the garden, full. Time for a second planting of lettuce, mesclun and cilantro. By late June or mid-July, most garden plants will be well established and looking very lush unless you are plagued with any one of the "terrible three" — flea beetles, striped cucumber beetles or squash bugs. Tiny flea beetles chew pinhead-sized holes in the leaves of greens and brassicas, turning them to lace. Their larvae attack plant roots, too. I opt for a fabric row cover over my salad greens as a physical barrier to protect them, but I use cottonseedbased dormant oil on brassicas. Used as directed, this "eco" oil works extremely well to deter flea beetles. Time usually takes care of striped cucumber beetles. Row covers or hand picking can protect young plants until they gain enough size to withstand the damage. Squash bugs are more of a challenge. To get a jump on our short growing season, I always set out squash and melon seedlings, rather than planting seeds. On the day of transplant, these tender beauties are protected with a roomy bonnet of row cover. After they send out runners, outgrowing the row cover, they must be diligently monitored. Squish the bronzegold egg clusters on the undersides of leaves or smother them with dormant oil. Later, continue to check under the leaves for young and mature beetles. As a last resort, the plant-derived insecticide rotenone kills them, but it is very strong and should be used only as directed, and with great caution. Rotenone is no longer approved for certified organic products.

 — Roberta Bailey [FEDCO Seeds, Waterville,
Maine]

Mid-Atlantic

Take a moment in mid-June to sow brassicas for a fall crop. Plant thickly under a protective fabric row cover, and then on a wet day in August, move the seedlings out into other beds. When corn reaches 18 inches in height, try planting some heat-tolerant lettuce between the rows. Keep watch for Colorado potato beetles and foil them with hay or straw mulch, or pick them off the plants. Chickens and runner ducks are better at this than humans, and enjoy it more. Lure cucumber beetles away from crops with golden amaranth (the beetles" favorite); when the amaranth is well infested, release your fowl to spring the "jaws" of this trap. Where Mexican bean beetles are a problem, try "Black Valentine" and "Royalty Purple Pod" beans. These can be grown, harvested and tilled in just before the beetles complete a life cycle, and both have proven resistant to bean mosaic virus. For flavor, yield, and disease and insect resistance, the old-fashioned yellow crookneck squash cannot be beat. Try "Thompson" broccoli for a fall harvest of exquisite disease-and harlequin-bug-resistant heads. The bottom line, though, is that the best key to pest prevention I've encountered is healthy soil. Watering plants with compost tea will strongly combat many diseases and fungi, and, when in doubt, side dress with compost, too.

 — Cricket Rakita [Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral,
Va.]





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