Best Preventative Maintenance

The warm weather growing season at Harvest Farm Community Garden is off to a strong start. Lots of rainfall, warming temperatures and longer daylight means veggies, weeds and insects are growing vigorously. How to keep undesirables at bay? First and most importantly, keep your plot weeded and cleared of dead plant debris. Obviously, weeding early is easier than letting unwanted plants get well established. And plant debris can be a breeding ground for some pests. Secondly, your fingers should be the removal agent of choice: pick or flick off unwanted insects, then squash them so they don’t end up in your neighbor’s plot. You also may be able to dislodge insects by blasting them with a stream of water. Only if an insect infestation is beyond this strategy, should you use an appropriate organic control: diatonaceous earth (DE) on surfaces for soft bodied crawling insects (take care not to breathe this and note that it must be reapplied if it gets wet); or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to naturally control caterpillars. Insecticidal soap can be used for pests such as whiteflies, aphids, leafminers and others that damage plants. Keep in mind that organic insecticides such as Neem oil and spinosad are deadly to beneficial insects, including pollinators, as well. Such approaches should be your last recourse only. Enjoy your garden.

By Carol Hassell, HFCG plot holder and Gwinnett County Master Gardener