In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
August, 2001
Regional Report

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These mustard flowers are not only beautiful to look at, but they bring beneficial wasps on a direct path to the garden where they help eliminate all sorts of pests.

Preventing Pest Problems

We're at the height of summer and my vegetable garden is thriving like I never expected. This is one of the best years for vegetables I've ever had. I'm proudest about the lack of insect pests. I have plenty of insects in the garden, but they're mostly good guys.

Watch the Garden

I've refined my pest control techniques over the years. My most indispensable technique is to simply make the rounds every morning and observe. This is a time just for looking, not harvesting, planting, or weeding. I make a thorough inspection of plants hand picking insects and egg clusters before they hatch. Early morning is a good time to handpick insects because many are still sluggish from the cool night. I've learned to recognize bad insects and their egg clusters, while leaving alone beneficial insects.

Timing Crops

I did very well timing crops this year to avoid insect pests. For example, because of our unbelievably cool spring, I started cucumbers in paper pots in a cold frame. These good-sized plants went out later than usual and immediately started growing fast. I got earlier cukes and had no problems with cucumber beetles and bacterial wilt. The larger plants were able to fend off their attacks.

Cover the Plants

I was also diligent about placing row covers on my cabbage and kale, so I've had no problems with cabbageworms. The row cover lets in light, air, and water but keeps out the adult butterflies and moths. I chuckle every time I see a cabbage butterfly darting about, frustrated because it can smell my cabbage, but can't get through the row cover to lay eggs. Last year when I put row covers over my crops I discovered a few days later that I'd trapped the butterfly inside. I had to spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to take care of the larvae produced by that industrious little butterfly.

Attracting Good Guys

Another practice I've used for years is to let plants in the mustard family such as arugula, radish, broccoli, and sweet alyssum go to flower. I grow mustard greens every year and let some bolt to produce the profusion of small yellow flowers. Flowers from mustard family plants are a magnet for beneficial wasps. An added bonus is the mustard reseeds itself and I never have to replant. I just move the tiny plants to where I want them in spring.

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