It’s an unfortunate fact that mild winters often lead to buggy summers.
With temperatures in the 50s, mosquito and tick populations are already active on Long Island. Garden bugs are also on the rise, including pesty cabbage moths, infamous for destroying carefully cultivated leaves.
Combating insects without harsh pesticides can be challenging, but using the following techniques can help nix the disastrous effects of uncontrolled pests.
Kennon Kay, Director of Agriculture at the recommends moving plant families to different planting areas so pests can’t set up shop. “Moving plants prevents the availability of a food source. It complicates matters for bugs, which tend to feed on certain plants.”
Planting later in the season is another deterrent for pests like squash bugs. Squash bugs, similar to stink bugs, lay eggs in a V shaped pattern on the underside of leaves and eat vine crops like squash and pumpkins. Small yellow specks on leaves that later turn brown show that squash bugs are slowly stealing nutrients from plants. Planting later in the season takes away valuable food sources and encourages pests to look elsewhere.
According to Kay, companion planting creates a natural buffer against pests and disease. Planting two dissimilar plants beside each other reduces the likelihood of a disease or fungus striking an entire crop. A companion plant is usually immune to a strain that would affect its companion, creating a barrier. Planting thyme with cabbage repels cabbage worms and flea beetles while attracting honeybees and beneficial insects.
Companion planting is also said to increase flavor. Try planting basil and tomatoes together to protect from flies and to enhance tomato quality.
Crop trapping is another way to deflect pests by creating a diversion. Garlic, for example, serves as a wonderful lure for pests, driving them away from other plants. Nasturtium attracts caterpillars from desirable crops they like to harm, like lettuce. Sweet Alyssum provides excellent groundcover, and its sweet scent attracts beneficial insects that eat aphids and caterpillars. It can also be used to combat weeds and is easily removable from soil.
Creating homemade insect repellents can add another layer of protection to your garden.
Chop equal parts of garlic cloves and spicy peppers of your choice. Allow them to soak in water for two hours before straining the mixture and pouring it into a spray bottle. Applying directly to plants will give insects and other pests an unwelcome surprise sure to divert their interests elsewhere.
Other natural combinations like onions, garlic, soap, and spicy peppers can be created to upset cabbageworms and caterpillars.
Fragile plants like berries may be extra susceptible this year to the increase in bugs. Try covering plants with old nylon stockings. The stockings can be stretched over new plants and staked, creating an airy barrier against pests without blocking valuable fresh air, water, and sunlight.
Information on companion planting and other ways to nix pests organically is abundant with just a quick Google search. Take advantage of the great advice and unusual weather to yield a phenomenal crop this year.