It’s always fun hearing about the progress and the eventual harvest from different gardeners around our area. I’ve seen squash, potatoes, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and a host of other vegetables in local gardens. It’s not only fun and rewarding to begin to pull the fruits and vegetables from the garden, but nutritious as well.
Whether or not your garden is currently yielding produce, take time every day to really study your garden. This will help you establish a feeling for what is normal plant appearance and can help you identify problems as they arise. In some cases where you think you may have an issue developing, you might want a magnifying glass or a small hand lens to assist you with this.
Identification of problems before they over-run your garden is extremely important. We can treat insect, mite, and fungal problems, but we cannot treat them in the same manner. Not all pesticides are created equal and there is no product that cures everything. In fact, some problems cannot be “cured” and if left alone too long, you may have to abandon the crop.
Remember that insecticides treat insects, miticides kill mites, fungicides treat fungal diseases, and herbicides treat weeds. Without knowing what is afflicting your plant, you will not be able to choose the most economical, safest, or most effective treatment. In many cases, some type of environmental modification maybe is all that is needed to improve your garden.
Let’s talk about sanitation. Good sanitation begins at planting. I’m sure you used fresh seed from a reputable source since some diseases carry over on seed. Use a disease-free potting mix if you are starting your own transplants. Sterilize trays or pots that you start seeding in with a bleach solution before filling them with soil. Some diseases can be transmitted on infected tools, so rinse tools with bleach or other disinfectants prior to use after working with problematic plants.
As the growing season progresses, water in the morning, if possible, and water the roots to avoid wetting the foliage. Fungal diseases need moisture to survive and will thrive on leaves kept wet for a long time.
If leaves or fruit on a mature plant show signs of disease, strip them off and dispose of them. As leaves or fruit fall from the plant, remove them from the ground. Diseased plant material that is allowed to stay near a host plant can re-infect other plants.
As one crop finishes up, clean it up. Remove the spent plant material – you can compost healthy material, but be sure to dispose of any material that was diseased or had insects during the growing season. Plant material that is left over in the garden can provide a place for insects and diseases to reside until the next growing season.
And if you just cannot get ahead of a problem, cut your losses and pull the plants to try with another vegetable. I was looking at squash earlier this week in one of Lufkin’s biggest gardens. Squash had been planted there for the past couple of years and the disease pressure that had built up was greatly affecting this year’s crop. There was no solution but to pull them out and replant with something other than a cucurbit crop. Crop rotation is a staple of an integrated pest management program. Rotating species (such as nightshades, cucurbits, legumes, and others) will reduce the occurrence of crop-specific pests.
For a thorough understanding, do a quick internet search for ‘AgriLife home garden Integrated Pest Management methods on reducing pest problems in your home vegetable garden without the use of any kind of pesticides.