The garden’s not the only thing wrapped in layers of fleece during this exceptionally cold spring here in the Pacific Northwest. I must say, I’m beginning to tire of complaining about the record-breaking cold temperatures – and gardeners love to complain about the weather!
Our only consolation – you might even call it a “cold comfort” – is that the cooler temps have lessened the pace with which the garden overtakes us. Yes, growth may be slowed when our overnight temperatures still flirt with 40 but flowers remain fresh and lasting for weeks on end in Nature’s big outdoor floral cooler.
Even the bugs have slowed their pace of reproduction. At this point, I believe I’d trade a few chewed leaves for a couple of warm days in a row!
More Integrated Pest Management (IPM) control tips from my article in Northwest Garden News:
Barriers and repellants
Horticultural fleece (Remay), a lightweight, gauzy fabric, allows light and moisture to get to protected plants while providing a physical barrier to keep pests out. Fleece may be the only way to keep your carrots free of carrot rust flies and your broccoli rid of little green worms. Fleece or netting will also protect newly sprouted peas, beans and corn from being picked off by hungry birds and it may mean the difference between the crows and a blueberry harvest. Slugs and snails will not cross copper tape or banding to avoid a nasty electrical shock (something to do with natural salts present in pure copper.) Protect raised beds, encircle emerging hostas or band shrubs and trees to minimize damage.
Garlic or onion based sprays repel and confuse insects who find their target plants through a highly developed sense of smell. Don’t worry, the pungent odoriferous oils are absorbed by the sprayed plants and spread throughout plant tissues to fight off pests from the inside out, leaving your garden to smell of sweet soil and flowers rather than the neighborhood pizza joint. I wish the same could be said of various concoctions of predator urines developed to deter larger mammals like deer, cats, dogs, and rodents. I recommend only applying these at some distance from pathways, patios and windows.
Insecticides – the big guns
Employ these measures only when other measures have failed to establish an equitable balance or when your family begins to fear the approach of dinnertime. Insecticidal soaps work by desiccating soft bodied insects, thus, you need to actually hit the insect for the control to be effective; tricky for flying pests and those that hide in nooks and crannies or on the underside of leaves.
Plant-based insecticides such as those containing pyrethrins or neem provide a broader spectrum of control. These products should only be used when other measures have failed as they can kill good bugs along with the bad. Just because a product is “organic” does not mean it is non-toxic. Often in addition to killing on contact, these stronger controls have a repellent as well as a residual effect; effectively persisting on plants to kill when ingested or working to interrupt a pest’s life cycle and prevent maturation. Biological controls like Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) and beneficial nematodes work to control caterpillars and grubs but must be applied under strict conditions to be effective.
Check the shelves of your local neighborhood nurseries for these organic controls. I find the following websites to be an excellent source of accurate information an advice when it comes to pest and disease controls:
But wait there’s more! What about beneficial insects – the good guys? They may not be wearing white cowboy hats but they’re on your side in the battle to round up the bad guys in the garden. They’re just not as cute as you think they are.