Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
July, 2013
Regional Report

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Determining whether insect eggs will hatch into beneficial or destructive species requires a little research. These barrel-shaped eggs with circular lids will become stinkbugs.

Practicing Good Garden Stewardship

In the balance of nature, most living things, whether plant or animal, have in their environment that which sustains them and that which harms them. An insect, for example, has a host that sustains it -- your favorite geraniums, perhaps. In an ecologically balanced environment, there are also natural enemies; other insects or pathogens that attack it. But when an insect has few enemies, it can become a pest. Maintaining a healthy balance in the garden by purposefully avoiding the use of chemicals is one part of practicing good garden stewardship.

Good garden stewardship means knowing the enemy, learning its life cycle (and when it's most vulnerable to control), and being patient enough to allow natural enemies to restore the natural balance. Cultural and mechanical pest control strategies are good first-line strategies and if they're thoughtfully applied, you'll rarely have to sometimes problems burgeon and its time for a little more firepower. That's when you can go to the pantry and whip up something special for the troublemakers.

Hot Enough For You?
One of the most basic home remedy pest controls is a hot pepper spray. There are commercial products available, but making your own using hot pepper and garlic is easy. Use 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper flakes and 2 cloves of garlic, a dash of liquid soap and 1 quart of water. Pop everything into the blender and mix well; then strain the mixture and pour it into a hand sprayer.

Spraying this mix on soft- bodied insects such as aphids makes them leave in a hurry. Caterpillars and beetles usually avoid munching on leaves sprayed with a hot pepper solution. This recipe also works well repelling critters such as rabbits, but you'll have to reapply this mixture after a rain.

Bug Cocktails
Although not for the squeamish, another effective pest repellent is bug juice -- beetles, caterpillars, or slugs pureed in water. It is most effective when sprayed wherever you find the ingredients. Whether it's the smell of panic hormones that are believed to be released prior to and during the blending process, or just common sense, bugs don't return to an area that has been saturated with their blended colleagues. For obvious reasons, you may decide not to spray your vegetable crops with this mixture!

Baking Soda for Roses
For healthier leaves and better blossoms, dissolve 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts in 1 gallon of water and apply to roses once a month. There's another homemade recipe that will help roses, as well. Baking soda, when sprayed on rose leaves, will prevent the spread of powdery mildew and black spot diseases. Research at Cornell University shows that mixing 3 teaspoons baking soda with 2 tablespoons horticultural or summer oil in 1 gallon of water will create a mixture that stops these fungal diseases when sprayed on rose leaves. This is a preventative spray, though, and won't kill the disease once it has started.

Biological Controls
Sometimes a commercial spray is in order. Different strains of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) have been used for years to control chewing pests. It's a bacterium that must be ingested, so some chewing is necessary, but the correct strains are very effective against cabbage worms and other caterpillars and Colorado potato beetles. Spray this biological agent in late afternoon to avoid the hot summer sun and add a dash of liquid soap to help it stick to the leaves. Insects eating treated plants will die within a few days. This is a great control because it only affects targeted insects and is harmless to beneficial insects, animals, and humans.

Monitoring the garden, identifying the pests, and using least-toxic control measures are important elements in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. You may even find that you actually enjoy the challenge of trying to outwit pests in your garden.

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