Troubleshooting Next Year’s Garden Now

boston-ivy-smI’m almost done putting the garden to bed for the year. The hostas and raspberry canes still need to be cut back, and I haven’t done the final mulching yet. But the rain barrel is already emptied and turned upside down (to protect it from cracking, which could happen if it sat full of freezing and thawing water all winter). The container plants that will overwinter indoors are in. The tomato vine remnants are history.

As I’m finishing up with this year’s garden, I take mental notes on what did and didn’t work this year, and what I want to try next year. One thing that I want to do is be more pro-active in heading off the infestations that plagued my garden this year (spider mite on the tomatoes, aphids on the roses). I think I’m going to order some ladybugs to release next spring…

Here is a guest post by Bryan Baker  to help with planning organic methods to control pests next year:

Going Organic with Organic Pest Control

By Bryan Baker

Backyard gardens are a place to cultivate something of your own and create an environment for some of the purest and freshest flowers and food. Doing so organically adds another layer of achievement: you’ll see it in the expressions of those who have the privilege of eating your tomatoes or smelling your roses.

So how can we create a truly natural environment, while keeping those detrimental critters from fouling our benefits? Lets start by identifying some of the top culprits:

  1. Aphids are a very large group of insects that suck the sap out of the vessels of your your plants. In turn, leaves will drop and the plant becomes susceptible to disease.

  1. Caterpillars are probably the most obvious because they eat the leaves and sometimes even burrow into fruits and vegetables.

  1. Cutworms will devour a plant at the stem and as a result, possibly cut the plant down (hence the name).

  1. Flea beetles can attack a plant two ways: The adults feed on the leaves, while the larvae attack the roots.

  1. Tarnished plant bugs feed on the early developing plants, fruits and vegetables. This can effect future growth.

We know that these critters are harmful to our gardens. Now what are some options that can be taken to prevent and/or control them?

1. Floating row covers offer your garden protection while allowing the growing plants to push it up. These are not the most attractive additions to one’s garden, but may be necessary. Not only will they offer protection from insects, but they shield the garden from rabbits, deer and birds. Some floating row covers are supported by simple frames, while others are laid directly on top of the garden. They all allow sunlight, air and water to penetrate.

2. Encourage native predators in your garden such as ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial nematodes. You can purchase these online and insert them into your garden. Ladybugs can consume 50 to 60 aphids a day. Furthermore, beneficial nematodes will kill soil dwelling insects. This can be a very fun project for children as they get to learn about some pretty bugs, while doing your garden a favor.

3. Just plain handpicking the cutworms and caterpillars. There is nothing less glamorous than this, but it’s effective. Most gardeners check their garden daily anyway, so while you do that feel free to handpick those critters out of there.

With these options, you have done nothing to tarnish the organic nature of your garden. Try these steps before resorting to spraying your garden with synthetic chemical mixtures. I think you will be pleased with the results.

Bryan Baker works with Moxie Pest Control, which offers unique organic pest control services. He also spends time gardening with his family.

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