Last week’s blog played the perfect foundation for us to discuss the importance of pest prevention. Pest prevention methods implemented early in the season will decrease pest pressure in the seasons to come. Even organic pest control methods can be damaging to the garden, so in this blog, we will discuss several techniques to prevent pesky critters from being introduced to your garden in the first place. These methods will require less work from you in the long run and less need for unnatural products to combat pest pressure. Permaculture practices will lead to more robust, healthier plants, which are less susceptible to harmful pests and diseases; in this post, we will learn more about that.
How do foreign products harm your garden?
Any foreign pest control products, regardless of if it is successful, can still harm the garden. Without pest prevention, pests infest plants in large chunks, and we attempt to control the outbreak in as little time as possible. Unfortunately, when we use any topical application to get rid of pests, we also damage beneficial insects and microbes. Damaging these essential players in your garden puts your plants on constant defense which takes away their chance to thrive! Most products will leave a residue on the leaves of your plants. Any leftover residue acts as a barrier preventing a plant's photosynthesis process. Secondly, if any product is left on your plants' blossoms, precious pollinators will be in danger in your garden! We definitely don't want to hurt them! From the ground up, topical pest control can be tricky to deal with. Even the pH of your soil can change, depending on the products being applied.
Step 1: Soil
Putting proactive pest prevention methods into practice (ooh, I love P's) will be a little time consuming at first. However, it is a great way to spend the winter months! Healthy soil is the first step to creating a happy and healthy garden. The first and most important step is to get a soil test ready for your garden. Reach out to your local extension office for a full soil testing kit. The soil test will determine your growing medium’s chemical make up which will be a blueprint for your prevention strategy! The second step to protecting your soil is to add walkways to your garden. Designated paths will decrease the level of disturbance to your soil structure. Soil that is rich in organic matter will create the perfect environment for beneficial insects and microorganisms. Add compost, livestock nutrients, or worm castings for a nutrient boost to your soil. As we have covered before, adding a no-till method in your garden will preserve your soil's nutrients remarkably well. After setting the ground level building blocks, we can look into how to choose our plant layout.
2: Strategic Pest Preventing Planting
One thing that might require updating is your planting strategy. Intercropping and agroforestry are both remarkable techniques for preventing pests naturally. These methods confuse pests by flooding the garden with biodiversity. Intercropping and agroforestry throw off the scent of pests and redirect them away from the vegetable garden. Planting trap crops for certain pests is another helpful technique. These plants will draw pests in and distract them from harming other surrounding plants. Useful trap plants are nasturtiums, dill, and radishes. If these plants become overrun with pests, remove them and add them to the burn pile. When you are planning your garden this spring, consider masking your precious food crop with fragrant varieties that will act as a protective mask. Taking note of your experiences with pests to keep track of patterns in your garden. Understanding patterns of pest, weed, and disease invasions will strengthen your strategy for the season to come! If you have an invasion of pests, write it down so you can take note and improve your plan for the following year.
3: The Last Straw of Pest Prevention
If you're having a particularly pesky season, there are a few things you can do to control intense outbreaks. Beneficial insects like ladybugs can be purchased in bulk and released into the garden without causing any harm, except to pests. This technique works best when there are enough pests to keep the ladybugs occupied for a while. If you continue having problems with unknown pests, try to capture a few and identify them! Would you be able to identify pests from their larval stages? Most cities have an extension office for this reason. If you can't identify it yourself, local guides may be able to assist you. To find your local extension number, click here. Utilize your surrounding community, in person and online! Send a picture to MIgardener on Facebook or any other website that offers garden help. Knowing exactly what kind of pests your garden is susceptible to will help you learn more about what preventative measures will work best!
Every issue we run into in the garden is a moment to learn. Every gardener in history has had to learn how to work with and around pests. As you move forward in your gardening journey, take a few moments to jot down how you are handling the situation. Note any signs you saw that signaled the problem and the steps you took to combat the situation. Always follow this with the practices you plan to put into place in the next season to avoid the same issue. Gardening gives us the promise of the next season. This promise gives us the grace to make mistakes and learn. It would be a shame if we didn’t learn from the mistakes and lessons the garden gives us. Don't be afraid to take the first steps!
– Kaitlynn from MIgardener
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