Reducing Garden Pest Problems

It didn't seem like February would ever end! Too many cloudy days and too many snowy days just didn't sit well with me. I'd much rather endure the cold with sunshine. But spring is on its way (March 20 is the actual date) and the days are lengthening and soon we'll be in the garden planting.

Seed catalogues have arrived and many have placed their order. But some of you will purchase your plants and seeds locally. Consider the following that could provide some benefits in terms of improved satisfaction and yields.

First, when selecting varieties, always consider the disease resistance abilities of the variety. Diseases are one of the most difficult pests that gardeners deal with. And if you can purchase a seed or plant that is naturally resistant to a disease, why wouldn't you? Of course, there are other factors that determine selection: yield, taste, growth habit, etc.

But all things being equal, choose the disease resistant one. The disease resistance was developed through traditional breeding methods and is not GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds. There are only a couple of vegetable seeds that are available as GMO, these include sweet corn and papaya. There are only a very few varieties of sweet corn that are GMO, but the majority of papaya is GMO, which was developed to resist a virus that was killing out the crop.

You're probably comfortable with the old standby varieties, but you should always try some new ones. Ask your friends and neighbors what new varieties you should try. You don't need to plant the whole garden to them, just try a bit, but you'll never know how new and improved varieties will perform unless you try them. Garden catalogues usually highlight them, and there are even All American vegetable selections.

And make sure to label and record where you plant each variety. I like to record just about everything, that way when I look back on the season, I can do so with clarity. I'll write down planting date, harvest dates, amount harvested, how the variety performed relative to others, any insect or disease issue, vigor of the variety, plus anything else that might prove useful.

Weeds are another nemesis of gardeners. But weed control can be made somewhat easier with the use of mulches. Simply place 4-5 sheets of newspaper on the soil (after the vegetable has emerged and any emerged weeds are killed) and place a 3-5" layer of straw or grass clippings over the papers to keep them from blowing away. The mulch will block sunlight to prevent annual weeds from germinating. You may need to add additional straw/grass throughout the season, due to walking etc. At the end of the season some of the mulch will be broken down and the rest can be tilled in to provide organic matter.