Insect pest control, especially in the vegetable garden, is more complicated than it used to be because of concern about persistent pesticides. Many of the old standbys are no longer allowed in the vegetable garden for the simple reason that they last too long.
Why do we have so many insect pests, anyway? Our typically mild winter climate presents a mixed blessing. While it allows us to grow something in the garden nearly year-round, it also allows many insect pests to live through the winter season that might otherwise not survive if a long, cold spell occurred. With the past winter being unusually mild - thanks in part to El Nino - we can expect insect pests to be persistent adversaries during the late spring and summer season.
When we plant a garden, we change a lot of Mother Nature's ideas about ecology in part by reducing the diversity of plant types in a given area. For instance, in nature a single plant species does not grow naturally in a row. Growing a single plant variety (which is typically very uniform genetically) in a limited area tends to favor the buildup of those insect pests that attack the plant.
Today's favorite garden varieties have been developed primarily for flavor and texture. Insect-resistance is great but no one is willing to eat lettuce if it looks like it has been used for target practice or has the taste and texture of leather.
Because we've become so accustomed to having good quality vegetables, it's difficult for most of us to accept insect-damaged vegetable. Although pesticides have done an admirable job of controlling most pests, most of the time, the use of as many non-toxic or low-toxic organic controls as possible is certainly justified.
The following recommendations range from non-toxic to low-toxic and should help to shift the balance of nature in your favor as you deal with insect pest problems this season. Many also have applications for insect problems on fruit trees and landscape plants.
Try to spray this material in the evening or early morning because it is broken down by ultraviolet light. Best of all, this preparation is non-toxic to other animals including bees and other beneficial insects.
Regardless of whether your chemical attack is synthetic or organic, always be sure to treat all insecticide with utmost caution and follow the manufacturer's directions.
This web site is maintained by Master Gardener Laura Bellmore, under the direction of William M. Johnson, Ph.D., County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.
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