- Soil testing and appropriately amending your soil is an easy way to prevent "abiotic diseases", which are caused by deficiencies in micronutrients. UMass is a great place to send your soil (University of Maryland no longer does testing.) UMass will email you back with the results of your test along with very clear instructions on how to correct any nutrient deficiencies you may have. Not all testing sites give the appropriate reference ranges and recommendations. Go to: http://soiltest.umass.edu/ordering-information to get information on how to send in your sample. It takes about 10 minutes, costs $10 and will help you produce better, healthier plants, as well as reduce overuse of fertilizers that will run into the Bay. It is recommended to test every 3-4 years.
- Garden diary should include type of plants, when planted, weather, plant date, harvest date, when you had first insect damage. If you have aphids in mid-July, for example, and the weather is similar the following year, you will know when to watch for them.
- Plot garden prior to planting taking into account distance needed between plants. (For example, tomato plants should be 3 feet apart to prevent fungal disease). Plan for plants that grow well in our local area- Zone 7. Zone 6 plants may not be able to take our hot summers.
- Fertilize appropriately with organic materials as directed per your soil test. Keep in mind that a vegetable garden has different requirements than blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, so if you are growing berries, do the test specific for them.
- Trap plants can be used as decoy plants to attract insects away from the plants you don't want to be eaten. For example, amaranth, pictured above can be used as a trap plant for cucumber beetles as well as making a great cover crop.
- Biodiversity means planting a wide variety of crops which will help attract "good" insects to control "bad" insects.
- Don't bother buying ladybugs unless you have aphids, otherwise ladybugs will have nothing to eat and most likely fly away.
- Praying mantises are not necessarily helpful as they eat good insects as well as bad, so do not purchase them. However, if you find them in your garden, it is a sign of a healthy garden.
IV. Organic Chemical
- Neem insecticidal spray
- Bacillus thuringiensis (BT)- for gypsy moths
- Note- I will talk more about these sprays and their safety in a future post
******This information was adapted from a talk given by Master Gardener, Norman Cohen at the last meeting of the Rodgers Forge Garden Club. He will be available at the Towson Farmers' Market to answer gardening questions from June 13 thru September, 10am-1pm on Allegheny Ave near Fader's. No sessions on Sept 5 and 19 and Aug 8.