GUEST POST BY NIKI JABBOUR
Come May, I’m already on the lookout to prevent garden pests: slugs, cabbageworms and aphids. Hand-picking them helps, but preventing them in the first place is even better. Here are three of my favorite strategies for preventing garden pests.
1. First, pick the right varieties. Not all varieties are created equal and a little research before you plant can save you time and frustration. If you have problems with diseases like tomato blight, opt to grow blight-resistant tomatoes like ‘Jasper’, ‘Mountain Merit’ and ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’. Do squash bugs bug you? Try growing ‘Butternut’ or ‘Pink Banana’ squash, which show good resistance to squash bugs.
2. Next, use protective barriers. I rely on row covers as frost protection in my early spring and fall vegetable gardens, but I also use fabrics in summer to prevent garden pests. Lightweight insect barrier fabrics allow light, air and water to penetrate, but they keep out insect pests. As soon as you plant susceptible crops, cover them with the fabric, leaving excess to allow for plant growth. I use them regularly on my pest-prone potatoes, squash, cucumbers and cabbage. If you’re covering plants like squash and cucumber that rely on pollination to produce a crop, uncover the plants once flowering begins. By that point, they should be mature enough to withstand some insect damage. Keep in mind that barriers only work when paired with crop rotation.
3. Lastly, keep plants healthy. Healthy crops can withstand or ward off insect infestations or disease far easier than those stressed for nutrients, water or light. Start by planting crops in the right site. Most need full sunlight in order to grow well. If your garden offers less-than-ideal light, stick to shade-tolerant crops like lettuce, spinach and other greens. Also keep on top of soil health by testing your soil every few years and by feeding it with regular applications of organic matter.
Niki Jabbour grows edible plants all year near Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is the author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener and Groundbreaking Food Gardens. Learn more at savvygardening.com