Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2010
Regional Report

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Remove individual leaves that are heavily infested with aphids.

Integrated Pest Management Part 3: Mechanical Control Methods

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) starts with the simplest control method and works up to stronger measures, as needed. Prevention is the first step: growing healthy plants with good cultural methods as described in my previous report. Mechanical controls are next on the list. Mechanical techniques prevent insects from getting on the plants, or remove them if they do, without the use of chemicals. Here are some easy-to-perform mechanical IPM methods:

Erect barriers. Floating row cover, a lightweight material, prevents flying insects, such as leafhoppers and moths, from landing on plants to feed or lay eggs. Place cardboard or plastic "collars" made from paper towel rolls or yogurt containers around young seedlings to prevent cutworms from chewing through the stems. Barrier bands around tree trunks stop pests that climb up to lay eggs, such as cankerworms and gypsy moths.

Set traps near susceptible plants. Sink plastic margarine tubs or similar containers into the soil. Fill with beer or a mixture of sugar, water, and yeast. Slugs are attracted to the sweet concoction and fall in and drown. Sticky yellow traps can be purchased or you can make your own with yellow cardboard smeared with petroleum jelly or Tanglefoot, a commercially available sticky substance. Leafhoppers, whiteflies, flea beetles and other moving insects are attracted to the color yellow and get stuck.

Remove entire leaves that are heavily infested with insects or larvae.

Handpick large insects such as tomato hornworms or cabbage loopers. It is more efficient to remove a few caterpillars than spray an entire plant.

Knock off insects with a blast of water from the hose. Be sure to spray the entire plant, including the underside of foliage. This works well against smaller insects, such as whiteflies, aphids or spider mites. This treatment can be repeated as often as needed. Spray in the early morning before the sun heats up to prevent sunburn and drying salt residue. If you spray in the late afternoon, allow sufficient time for leaves to dry before cool evening temperatures arrive because wet foliage provides an environment conducive to fungal disease. If the pest population is tenacious, a soapy water spray may work better than plain water.

In my next report, I'll cover biological controls--some of the terrific beneficial predator insects who will consume pests for you.

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