Not all insects are bad for your plants. Some actually consume other dangerous pests and keep your garden infestation free. If you’re growing green leafy vegetables, introduce brachonids, ichneumon wasps and/or chalcids by inter-planting them with carrots, celery or parsley. These insects prey on leaf eating caterpillars.
Consider introducing ladybugs, lacewings or hover flies into your garden also to help control aphids and other insects pests like mites. All three of these pests can be purchased online or through your local garden center then released into your garden. However, there are certain plants that if inter-planted with your crops will attract these beneficial pests naturally. Ladybugs are attracted to tansy and yarrow; while lacewings and hover flies are attracted to composite flowers such as asters and black-eyed susans.
Praying mantis are also an excellent addition to your garden because they prey on most garden pests. You can find their eggs through online stores or at your local garden center. To introduce them, set out the eggs spread evenly about your garden and leave them to hatch. Once they’ve done so, they will get to work.
Sometimes you may not even know that you have pests until you notice that your sprouts are not growing. Cutworms, beetles and root weevil larvae ruin sprouts even before they grow into seedlings. If you introduce nematodes as you are preparing your garden for planting, you can prevent this.
Like praying mantis, nematodes also come as eggs purchasable in your local garden center or through an online catalog. However the eggs are very, very tiny and imperceptible to the human eye and so they come in a small sponger that carried almost a million eggs at a time. Soak the sponge in water to release the nematodes then sprinkle said water into the soil. When they do hatch and your plants start sprouting, go through the garden washing them off the leaves and back to the ground so they can consume the pests that they are intended for.
If you want to keep your soil healthy and to have consistently high yields that do not deplete over the years, then it is important to have seasons when sections of your garden are not being actively used. Basically during these seasons, you are allowing your soil to rest and recover from the nutritional depletion it has undergone as a result of continuous planting. In theory, it would make sense to leave the land bare and unused and just ignore it. However, you do not have to contract with the weeds around to leave your garden alone. Then, with the soul being so bate, there is a high chance or erosion.
Your best solution is to mix compost into your soil, then plant Cover Crops. Cover crops are plants that have been planted with the some intention of minimizing weed growth and soil erosion. They also make sure that your soil retains its texture by reducing compaction. They include crops like Australian field peas, bell beans and vetch. When you’re ready to use the land again, instead of harvesting the plants, till them into the soil in order to return the nutrients they have absorbed from the soil.
Preventing Pest Infestation & Re-infestation
Regardless of how much you do, there will be some pests that will slip through the cracks. Knowing this is a likelihood, it is important to prevent these cunning pests from multiplying and taking over your garden. Apart from the pest control methods you use like sprays, there are ways you can control pests even before you plant your crops.
One of these pest-infestation prevention methods in Inter-planting. More often than not, pests are plant specific i.e. they have a preference for certain kinds of plant and keep attacking them over and over again. Some pests are attracted to leafy green vegetables e.g. Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, oriental greens etc; Some are attracted to legumes e.g. broad beans, peas etc. Others prefer fruit bearing plants such as tomatoes, corn, eggplant, cucumber; while others prefer root plants like beetroot, sweet potatoes, celery, shallot and leak.
When you inter-plant crops from different families, the pests will have a harder time spreading because their path to the next preferred plant is blocked by something they do not like. Check the families of the crops you plan to plant and then inter-plant it with a plant coming from a completely different family.
While inter-planting prevents infestation, Rotation prevents infestation and re-infestation. As with inter-planting, it is based on the theory of pests being plant specific. However, the main difference is that instead of planting different families on one plot of land, this time you’ll divide your garden into different plots depending upon the number of families you plan to plant.
When pests that have created a home for themselves in a particular section of land are deprived of their preferred family of plants, they will eventually decline or die. Rotation is also a way to balance the nutritional value of your soil because different plants have different needs. By mixing them up, you are giving them a chance to restore its nutrients before the crop that needs to returns.
Let’s say you’re planning to plant spinach, kidney beans and sweet potatoes. Each of these plants will have their own plot of land and if any inter-planting occurs it will be with another plant in the same family. Some garden enthusiasts will also save one piece of their land for cover-cropping; so that means your land has now been divided into four pieces. During this season each family will remain in its specified plot but come next planting season, you’ll make sure that the family is planted in a completely different plot. The families will move in a clockwise/anticlockwise direction through the plots each planting season till they come full circle.
Obviously this will take a bit of planning by you to make sure that the same family doesn’t come back to the same section of land until the full rotation is completed but the results after are pest-free and healthy yields. Some gardeners have three rotations (two plant families and one cover-cropping) while others have six rotations (four/five plant families and two/one cover-cropping). It all depends on how many families you’re interested in having your ability to track your rotations. Plan your rotations before the season starts, mark out sections and add compost (even in the cover-cropping section) in preparation for planting.
Up Next: Day-To-Day Activities For Pest Prevention