Look Behind You!
Posted: January 30, 2012
It was a wet, cold spring followed by a wet early summer, a dry July and a wet rest of the season. And don’t forget that pesky hurricane in late August that brought strong winds and lots more rain. So how did your garden fair?
In reviewing your insect pest problems, what was there, on what plants, when were they there and was the population low enough you didn’t care or did they enjoy a wonderful feast? Some insect problems can be lessened (please note I did not say eliminated) by simply adjusting your planting time. For example, if you have had Carrot Rust flies on your carrots, celery, parsnips and parsley, plant after June 1 after the adults have emerged and moved on. You may have some damage from a later generation but you should be able to get one good crop.
Plant cole crops in late May after the emerging Cabbage Maggot adults have emerged to lay eggs. With no preferred host plants to lay eggs next to, they will move on. Although there are multiple generations, it is the first generation that tends to be the most destructive. These work well as long as there are no other alternate hosts that they like near by.
Another very effective method to reduce pest damage is by covering the plants with row covers, cloches or other materials that prevent the insects for gaining access to the plant. Make sure the covering is sealed along the edges, that you aren’t planting in the same area that had that particular pest last season or earlier in the same season, and that if you are covering plants that require pollination be sure to open the ends of the covering during bloom. If you had flea beetle, squash vine borer, striped cucumber beetle, Colorado potato beetle or potato leafhopper problems in the past, you may want to consider using row covers.
If you were caught by surprise with the arrival of destructive insects, try using insect monitoring traps. They will help you know when the pest has arrived so you will be able to better manage them. For a list of places to buy monitoring traps, contact your local Cooperative Extension office or search on-line.
And while you were seeing the ‘bad’ bugs, did you happen to see any ‘good’ bugs? Maybe you did but weren’t sure what you were looking at. Take some time this winter to learn what the ’good’ guys look like. Cornell University has an excellent website with pictures to help you. Penn State Extension's Entomology Department also has Insect Fact Sheets.
The wet season created challenges with regards to plant diseases. If you sprayed fungicides, organic or inorganic, did they work? If yes, great. If not, first and foremost check to be sure the material you were using was for the disease you needed to control. Then check the rate and your spray intervals. Think back to the coverage—was it thorough and even? If it worked in the past but didn’t last season maybe the rain washed it off before you thought it had and the plants were unprotected for the next rain.
The wet season also created quality problems such as splitting of tomatoes, some varieties more than others. We can’t control Mother Nature but we can choose varieties that are resistant or tolerant to several diseases as well as splitting. Bolting was common with the heat. If you experienced this last season, avoid planting those vegetables going into the heat of the summer. Plant them to be harvested by early summer and again in the fall.
Did you observe problems that didn’t fit damage from insects, disease or mother nature? Maybe the problem was nutritional. When was the last time you had your soil tested for pH and the macro nutrients? You can collect soil anytime during the year. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for soil testing kits.
Now that you have looked back on this past season, noted all of your successes and any changes you will make this coming season, enjoy catalog surfing.