Beating the Bugs
by VCE Agent Kirsten Conrad
The information here was originally published in a monthly column on pest control in Between the Rows – A Guide to Vegetable Gardening published by VCE in collaboration with MGNV.
Don’t miss Kirsten’s in depth online class:
What’s Eating My [Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Beans, Squash]? :
Insect Pest Management for the Vegetable Garden
Planning to Prevent Pest Proliferation
There are things you can do NOW as you plan the vegetable garden to help limit your pest problems later. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to outwit (most) of your insect pests.
- Know your site. Select plant varieties and cultivars that are bred for disease-resistance and tolerance of your very local conditions. Here are some variety recommendations for the mid-Atlantic region.
- Know the pests that are most problematic for your chosen crop, what stage of plant growth they are likely to attack, and when they are most active in Virginia. Check out Chapter 2 of Virginia Tech’s Pest Management Guide. Forewarned is forearmed.
- Know your plants’ needs. Provide the best possible conditions for the plants that you want to grow. Healthy plants fend off some insect problems with pheromones and enzymes that repel pests. Sick plants don’t have the energy to do that. No full sun areas? Here are some ideas about what you can grow in shade.
- Know your friends. Utilize companion planting and intercropping to attract beneficial insects and to take advantage of symbiotic biochemical and cultural benefits.
- Cover as much ground as possible with small-flowered cover crops and green manures to improve soil nutrients and structure and to attract beneficial insects. Consider covering the aisles between your planting rows with clover or rye grass. It’s a matter of soil health!
- Choose your planting location wisely. If possible rotate crops annually to avoid the buildup of pathogens and pests in the garden. Consider using containers to add flexibility to your rotation scheme and take better advantage of sunny spots.
Finally, listen to experienced gardeners and learn from them.
- Visit the Extension Master Gardener Organic Vegetable Garden.
- Stop by your local community garden and chat with anyone who has a well-kept plot.
- Consider volunteering some time in the Plot Against Hunger gardens in Arlington where very experienced gardeners are happy to share their wisdom.
- Utilize the services of the Extension Master Gardener Help Desk that are available at firstname.lastname@example.org.