The Garden Patch: Identify the pest to learn how to control it

Well, we’ve talked about a lot of things during this year’s growing season but let’s talk more about pest management (no, I don’t mean the guy next door) and then we’ll be too smart for them for the remainder of this year and all of next gardening season! Here goes … integrated pest management.

Striped Cucumber Beetle, bane of cucurbits.

The Striped Cucumber Beetle, bane of cucurbits everywhere.

The most recent concepts of pest control emphasize integrating preventive management, alternative pest control measures and chemical controls to deal with a wide variety of pest concerns associated with vegetable growing. Chemicals are used only when considered necessary and in limited concentrations, reducing disruptions of ecological balances. Pest concerns often are specific to one type of vegetable or its relatives. It’s difficult to generalize about specific insect or disease concerns because each is distinctively different. Integrated pest management requires good knowledge of the pest including the following factors:

  • The pest’s life cycle and dynamics of growth.
  • Tolerance levels or how much damage can be tolerated.
  • Other symptoms that may result.
  • Other crops that may be damaged.
  • Climate influences on the pest and the control measures.

With knowledge of the pest, specific control measures can be determined. Chemical controls might be reserved for difficult-to-manage pests that can spread to other plants.

The following steps are suggested in applying the principles of integrated pest management for controlling insects and diseases:

Grow resistant varieties or choose disease-free or treated plants or seeds.

Inspect purchased plants carefully. Avoid diseased or injured plants. Many disease and insect symptoms can be present prior to setting the plants in the garden. Rely on reputable sources and AVOID highly discounted plants and seeds of poor quality.

Fertilize and water properly. Some symptoms may be due to fertilizer excess or deficiencies.

Water in moderation. Excess watering in critical times may intensify insect or disease injuries.

Control weeds. Weeds can be hiding places for pests that may spread to other garden plants.

Mulch plants. Mulching improves root environments and evens out fluctuations in moisture supply, resulting in healthier plants. There may be a few instances where mulches provide hiding places for certain insects; however, the benefits of mulching certainly outweigh any concerns.

Remove and destroy infested plants to prevent the spread of disease and insects.

Rotate. Certain disease and insect concerns can be reduced by moving to a new area of the garden. As a rule of thumb, use a 3- to 4-year crop rotation. Don’t plant the same crop of crop relative in the same location for 3 to 4 consecutive years.

Be aware of situations you can tolerate versus those that require immediate attention.

At the first sign of a symptom, make sure you get it properly identified. Consult a garden professional at your local garden center or Extension office if you need more information.

Use pesticides as a last resort. Use specific pest control measures carefully and judiciously. Several general-use disease and insect control measures are available that provide effective control with little environmental disturbance. Do I need to say it? Yup, always read the label carefully and follow the directions for use.

Apply pesticides properly for effective control. Thorough coverage of the plant surface is usually required. The use of a fine spray mist directed to all plant surfaces usually is the most effective way to ensure proper pesticide action while using or wasting as little material as possible. Any material used in excess or that does not cover the plant may become an environmental contaminant.

OK! Short column this week, but a lot to remember, or cut me out and put me with your garden tools for next spring. Hang in there, keep gardening and may your vegetable bins overflow! Till next time!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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