Some insects are great for your garden. For example, Lady Bugs eat those pesky aphids that suck the life out of your plants. However, there are lots of bugs who think that you planted your herb and veggie garden just for them. They're happy to enjoy your delicious plants before you get the chance to. So what can you do about them?
The first step is to identify if you have a problem. You can tell that you have an insect pest problem when parts of your plant start disappearing because they're being eaten up. This can show up as holes in your leaves, or even leaves that are missing entirely, with just their stem remaining. If you see any of these signs, it's important that you deal with the pests right away.
To insects, it is as if they were hungry on a dessert island, and someone just installed a free, all you can eat buffet. Once they've had a taste, they're going to come back and invite all their friends along the way.
Fortunately, there are several options you have to keep them out of your tasty buffet. You can put a barrier, a non-toxic pest control, or a pest control product.
- Barrier- A barrier is like a wall that you'd place around your tasty buffet. It makes it hard for bugs to access your plants. The benefit of this is that you don't use any chemicals. The drawback is that if there are any pests that are already at the buffet when you put up the barrier, they're going to love it. It keeps their friends out while letting them have all the veggies they could ever want. Because of this, it's important that you make sure there are no pests inside the area when you're installing a barrier. The best time to do this is right when you're planting since pests haven't had a chance to come to the plants yet. If you're doing it later in the growing cycle, it's a good idea to apply a pest control product before putting up the barrier. HERE is a link with some good ideas on what you can try.
- Non-Toxic Pest Control- This would be like putting stink bomb in the middle of the veggie buffet. The veggies are still there, but you'd need to be really committed to stay because the terrible smell. It does not eliminate the pests, but can often help prevent or minimize pest damage. The problem with this option is that if you are on a desert island with no other food around, you would still go to the stinky buffet. That means that some pests will still go after your tasty plants if the conditions are right. This option is good if there is only light insect damage or pressure.
- Pest Control Products- This option helps eliminate your pests. Both organic and conventional pesticides act this way. With all pest control products, it is important to read the label's instructions and follow them carefully. If you know you have issues with a certain pest, then you'll also want to check the label to make sure the pest control product you're planning on using helps control that pest. Some pest control products only work with certain pests. With some products, you can apply them and pick the veggies to enjoy yourself within a day. However, with others, there is a period of waiting required as the pesticides come out of the plant. HERE is a link to some effective pest control products.
Managing pests is like brushing your teeth-- it's something that is important to do to keep them healthy and strong. If you've never brushed your teeth before and they are in bad shape, it's a bit of work to get them up to par. Once you get them clean and working well, they become a lot easier to maintain. It's even easier if they're kept clean from the beginning. Because of this, it's great to regularly keep an eye on your plants and keep on top of any pests that might be trying to eat them.
Pesky pests at only some of my plants?
You might be wondering why some plants got attacked while others didn't. Pests, like people, have tastes. Some people like pizza while others like sushi. It's the same with pests! Some like cabbages, others like tomatoes, and others like lettuce. Depending on what you have in your garden, they'll go to their favorite foods first, before moving on to others. Some pests are even like kids-- they'll never touch your broccoli!
Since Leaf'd Box ships you a mix of different plants that work well in your area and season, if you have pests, you have a first row seat to see what types of veggies your local pests enjoy most.
Will my pest damaged plants come back?
So you've had some pesky pests take a snip at your tasty garden. You've dealt with them so they won't come back to your backyard buffet. What about the plants they went after-- will they come back? This all depends on what part of the plant they ate.
It all revolves around Growing Points. To understand growing points, think of your hair. If you have a haircut, you're not worried about going bald. You know your hair will come back. On the other hand, if you get laser hair removal instead of a haircut-- your hair's not coming back. That is because it stops the growing point of your hair (the hair follicle).
Plants have similar growing points. You can identify them by looking for where the smallest leaves are (usually in the middle of the plant). If you pick the outer (bigger), leaves, the plant will still grow and produce new leaves. If you pick the growing point, then the plant often won't keep growing new leaves because their source was damaged.
So to know if your plants should continue to grow after some insect damage, if the insects enjoyed your outer leaves, then the growing point will often continue to produce new leaves and the plant will recover. If the insects ate or damaged the growing point, then the plant might not continue to grow new leaves. It will continue to maintain whatever leaves are currently there.
The Main Point
The main point is to enjoy delicious homegrown food. Staying on top of controlling or preventing pests helps make sure you can enjoy eating as healthy and local as it gets-- your own back yard. So keep up the great work, your veggies will appreciate it and so will your taste buds...