A common question I hear is: “What can I do to control insects and diseases without pesticides?”
Most often, though, it is easier to prevent problems than to cure them. Here are a few tips to getting a jump on garden pests.
When planting the garden, rotate vegetables away from the spot where they were grown last year. Pests that occurred on that crop last year overwinter in the soil and emerge with the crop to wreak havoc on it.
Vegetables are grouped into families based upon similarities of culture and pest problems.
Do not plant one member of the family behind the other in successive years.
Vegetable Families: solanacease - tomato, pepper, eggplant; salad greens — lettuce; cole crops — broccoli, cabbage, collards; vine crops — melons, squash, cucumbers; onions — onion, chive; legume — all beans and peas.
A well-fed plant is a healthy, disease-resistant plant. Take a soil sample and follow the recommendations. Improve soil with organic matter (compost or cover crops).
Mulch around plants. This provides a more even water supply and prevents water stress. Stress weakens plants and opens the way for disease.
Plant early. Early planting avoids much of the pest pressure by maturing a crop before the pests buildup to very high levels.
Plant the main crop to be used for preserving early in the season when pest pressure is low.
This will allow you to get your freezer full early and subsequent planting can be small, just enough to give a supply of fresh produce for the table.
Finally, learn to accept a little damage.
Not all produce has to be picture perfect. Timely harvest may help you get to the harvest ahead of the pests, but some insect and disease damage is to be expected.
For more information, contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.