Avoid the Garden Pest Blues

There is nothing more frustrating than putting love, sweat, and tears into your vegetable garden… only to watch your plants be gobbled up by pesky pests. Many fall bugs like to chomp on broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or collards leaves this time of the year, and some gardens are visited by squirrels, deer, or other larger pests that feast on vegetable plants. While this can discourage new and seasoned gardeners alike, don’t let pesky pests get you this fall season--follow a few of these tips on how to keep them in check.

· Keep soil and plants healthy – Pests are drawn to weak or stressed plants and will attack unhealthy plants first. Maintain a healthy vegetable garden by adding compost to your soil each season and by preventing stressful situations like crowding or over-watering.

· Remove old plant debris and keep weeds to a minimum – Plant debris left behind from seasons past can harbor pests. Weeds can also attract insect pests. Remove plant debris, or add it to the compost bin, and make sure that excessive weeds are pulled.

· Protect plants from large pests with physical barriers – Try putting a fence around your garden, planting your vegetables in raised garden beds, or creating a mesh or cloth row covers for your garden to keep the critters away.

· Use companion planting techniques – Some plants can actually deter pests, while other can attract beneficial insects that eat garden pests. Marigolds ward off beetles and harmful nematodes, and flowers can bring in ladybugs and lacewings, both of which feed off of many garden pests.

· Use a bucket of soapy water – If you see any caterpillars or eggs on the underside of your vegetable leaves, place them in a bucket of soapy water to inhibit further reproduction. If you want to spray your plants with the soapy water to take preventative action, make sure your soap is all-natural and does not contain detergent or antibiotics (not anti-bacterial).

No matter how hard we try to keep bugs away from our gardens, they always find a way to come back. Be sure to sign up for the Get Growing: Fall Pests & Diseases class on November 8th to learn how to identify common pests and diseases in your fall vegetable garden and how to make organic remedies that can keep your garden looking great.