Diversified Planting

Many insects attack plants belonging to a certain species or family and reject unrelated ones. For example, striped cucumber beetles enjoy cucumber, squash and melons (cucurbit family) and are not a pest of corn or beans. Thus, do not plant all those cucurbits or others of the same group in one place in the garden if you can avoid it. If you have many tomato plants, do not put them all in the same location. Insects that begin to attack a particular vegetable often will spread to similar neighboring plants. You may be able to reduce your losses if you do not put all of one group in the same location. Groups of related vegetables are as follows:

Cole crops - cabbage, cauliflower, collards, brussels sprouts, broccoli

Greens - lettuce, endive, mustard, turnips (tops)

Root/bulb crops - sweet potatoes, onion, garlic radishes, turnips, beets, carrots

Cucurbit crops - cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkin, squash

Legumes - beans, peas

Do Not Plant Seed Too Deep

Seed planted deeper than accompanying directions may often rot before they germinate and crack through the soil.

Use Physical Barriers

Transplants such as tomato, pepper and eggplant can be wrapped with a 4 X 4 inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent cutworm damage and contact with the soil-borne southern blight organisms. Wrap the stem area between the roots and leaves with foil and plant so 2 inches of stem are below the soil and 2 inches are above the soil. Do not allow the soil to touch the uncovered stem above the foil.

Companion Planting

There is little data to prove or disprove the value of companion planting, although this arrangement has been used by many gardeners who claim success. Presumably some herbs and other plants repel specific insect pests and planting these in association with a particular vegetable gives some protection. A few common plantings are as follows:

  • Interplant beans with rosemary to control Mexican bean beetles.
  • Interplant tomatoes with basil to repel the tomato hornworm.
  • Interplant eggplant with catnip to repel flea beetles.
  • Interplant cucumbers with radish or nasturtiums to control cucumber beetles.
  • Interplant cabbage with thyme to control imported cabbageworms.

There are many other combinations found in the literature, but remember there is little definite information available on their effectiveness. The latter four listed have been tested in south Georgia with disappointing results.

Water the Garden

Furrow irrigation is ideal. If overhead sprinklers are used, water after the dew dries in the morning or early in the afternoon so the foliage will dry before night. Do not allow foliage to be wet for more than 8-10 hours.

Harvest Vegetables

The longer a vegetable is in the garden, the longer it is exposed to insect attack. In addition, overripe vegetables are more attractive to certain insect pests and invite an unwanted invasion.

Weeds in or around the Garden Area

Some insects are first attracted to weeds and will then move into your vegetable garden. In addition, heavy weed stands increase humidity and subsequent insect severity. Constant weed control is essential, because destruction of a heavy weed stand can cause migration of an insect population to the crop. Mulching is a good way to keep the weeds down in the garden, and it has many other benefits as well.

Use Bacillus thuringiensis

This biological insecticide contains a toxin of a bacterium that is deadly to cabbageworms (and other caterpillar species), but harmless to humans, pets and beneficial insects. It is available under the trade names of Dipel ® , Thuricide ® and others.

Handpicking Some Insects

Destroying insects that are large enough to pick and slow enough to capture, and destroying egg masses are often quick methods of insect control. Tomato hornworms are often easily controlled by handpicking. Removing Colorado potato beetles by hand is also successful.

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