As the gardening season looms in the not-too-distant future, I’m always reminded of some of the challenges I faced the season before. Pest insects are always on that list, but what I and many other gardeners have discovered is that with pests, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And so, I thought it fitting that as we all plan for the next growing season, I should talk about a few of my favorite pest-prevention tips. Perhaps they’ll give you a jump start on a gorgeous 2013 gardening season.
This light-weight, translucent white fabric is laid on top of new transplants or seedlings. Row covers form a barrier over the plants to prevent the pest insects from landing to feed while also allowing light and water to reach the plants beneath. Row covers can rest directly on top of plants or can be stretched over wire hoops to create a tunnel over an entire row of plants. They can be used for several years before replacing.
For crops requiring pollination, row covers will have to be removed when flowers open so bees and other pollinators can access the blooms. Use over cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kohlrabi to prevent cabbage loopers. Use over carrots to prevent root-tunneling maggots and on cucumbers to keep both spotted and striped cucumber beetles away. Cover other crops to protect them from bean beetles, potato beetles and flea beetles. My favorite use for row covers is over my Swiss chard plants. It keeps leafminers from marring the beautiful leaves. Row covers will also provide summer shade for cool-season crops, such as lettuce and spinach, extending their harvest by a few weeks. Heavier versions also work to protect plants from early frosts.
Surround the stem of young plants with 1-inch-high paperboard collar situated about 1 inch from the base of the plant. Nestle the lower half of the collar into the soil. This prevents cutworms from chomping off young seedlings just below soil level. Similar collars constructed of copper stripping will keep slugs at bay. Slugs sizzle when they come in contact with copper due to a chemical reaction between the copper and their slime. Use a 3 inch wide strip of aluminum foil to form a snug collar around the lower portion of squash (summer and winter) stems. Make sure the ends overlap enough so that as the stem expands, the collar will grow with it. Adult squash vine borers won’t land on the foil to lay their eggs.