Dealing with Vegetable Pests

If you build it, they will come, sorry to say. Because you're growing edible plants, you should be very reluctant to throw chemical remedies at pest problems in your vegetable garden. Fortunately, you can choose from plenty of proactive, less-risky strategies and deterrents.

Of course, as with so much of gardening, a plot in good health — with good soil, ample fertilizer and water, and elbow room for good air circulation — resists such problems better than an unkempt or crowded one. Also, always

  • Select disease-resistant varieties. ^ Clean up garden debris promptly.
  • Keep after and yank out all weeds, which harbor and feed various pests.
  • Rotate crops (see the earlier "Turning your garden around with crop rotation" sidebar).

Always make sure you know what or who is attacking a crop — watch at odd hours, such as in the morning or evening, set a trap, or creep in close to the affected plants and look under leaves and in nodes (where leaf stalks meet the stem). Telltale signs also include nibbled leaves and collapsing stems — here again, a little poking around should reveal the culprit. If it's an icky bug, capture a few, stick 'em in a baggie, and show them to someone who can help you identify them.

There is not much that home gardeners can safely do if the vegetables have fungal disease. The best thing is to purchase disease resistant varieties and grow them under good conditions (sufficient air flow, fertilizing and watering). If disease is suspected, it is usually best to uproot the plant and discard it in the trash, not the compost pile.

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