Answer: The very best way is to grow healthy plants! Research shows that insects and disease actually seek out stressed plants for attack. Keep your plants strong by building a healthy soil by adding plenty of organic matter each season. Continue to add lots of organic matter each year, which over time will not only improve your soil's fertility and drainage, but will also increase it's ability to retain moisture and nutrients. It also provides food for earthworms and microorganisms that do the soil-building process. You can never add too much compost! Make sure each plant species has the correct sun exposure and water that it requires. Monitor plants regularly and intervene early before problems get out of hand. If you can regularly monitor and tolerate some damage to your plants, over time Mother Nature strikes a balance, with the beneficial insects (e.g., lady beetles) coming in to control the bad guys (e.g., aphids). It's really important to identify exactly what is damaging your plants before attempting to spray something on them. You may do more harm than good. Spraying will kill beneficial insects as well as the "bad guys." Also, it's best to start with the easiest, most benign method first and if that doesn't work, move on from there. Caterpillars are easy to control by handpicking. Aphids can be controlled with daily blasts of water from the hose. If your plants are suffering from a particular insect or disease, send another email to the Q&A site describing it in detail and we can try to provide a solution. Hope this info helps!
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