Many people are trying to grow their own food during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Hands are drawing blueprints on paper. Window boxes are appearing on the balconies. The seeds are sprouting in reused plastic containers.
For some of us, this is a family ritual. For others, the practice of growing food is a whole new territory.
Regardless of experience, most home gardeners will face the challenge of pests. The word plague describes any organism that causes harm to humans or human interests. Pests can cause sudden and significant damage to homegrown food.
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However, with a little planning, monitoring and intervention, there are steps you can take to reduce the probability and severity of these losses. Here are some thoughts to consider:
Cover your bets
The impact of the pest varies considerably over short distances (for example, sunny front yard to shady yard). Some pests are finicky and only feed on a few types of plants. For example, the Colorado potato beetle feeds on night shaders, including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes.
Other pests pose a risk only at certain times of the year. For example, slug damage to seedlings is most severe in early summer.
By planting a diversity of plant species in different locations with staggered planting dates, you can increase your chances of a bountiful harvest. Check the back of your seed pack for an estimate of how many days it will take for the plant to reach maturity to ensure that late starters have time to reach their full potential.
The popularity of the garden grows in crisis
Observe the animals around you and plan ahead
Think about the animals you see regularly in your neighborhood and plan your lines of defense.
Deer have a particular fondness for crops like beans, peas, spinach, and sweet corn. If deer can access your plants, you should consider investing in fences or nets. Deer tend to lift their noses at heavily scented plants like mint, onion, or oregano, and these can be planted in places accessible to deer.
If your neighborhood has a healthy raccoon population, container gardens may be a good option for you. By planting in containers, you can move your garden indoors at night and protect your crop.
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Are you losing your tomatoes? Try harvesting them before the fruits reach full maturity. Placing green tomatoes in a paper bag for a few days will allow them to ripen safely.
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Not all insects are bad.
Many of the major agricultural pests are insects and cause major food losses worldwide. However, an insect on your plant does not mean it is causing harm.
Try to look at the insect for a moment. How does it behave Does it seem to be eating or laying eggs? If so, you could have a plague. Otherwise, it could be a predator looking for a smaller insect to eat, a pollinator that warms up in the sun, or just a passerby heading elsewhere.
If you have access to a digital camera, try taking a clear photo of the mysterious insect. You can upload this photo to the iNaturalist platform along with the time and location of the observation. Interested members of the public, scientists, and even a clever algorithm can help you identify the creatures you find.
Be careful if you use pesticides
When the impact of the pest is severe, some choose to use pesticides. The active ingredients of pesticides (even if they are labeled natural or organic) can be harmful if used incorrectly; always follow the directions on the label.
Pesticide labels are legal documents that must be followed. They are written to protect your health, that of your family, your pets and the environment in general. Some regions prohibit the use of certain types of pesticides, so familiarize yourself with local regulations before using.
Preventing hospital visits is even more important given the pressure facing our healthcare system under COVID-19. Before using pesticides, try lower-risk options, such as integrated pest management practices, such as growing pest-resistant plant varieties, using row covers, or including plant species that are highly attractive to natural enemies (such as wasps). parasites) inside the garden.
Ask for help
If you are a new or experienced home gardener, pest problems can be a real head scratch. Social media is a great way to connect with other gardeners to ask questions. Try #growyourown on Instagram, horticulture forums on reddit, or gardening groups on Facebook.
There are also several great blogs if you prefer to start with background reading.
While we are still physically distant from each other, try picking up the phone and calling a friend who likes the garden. Take this time to connect with others about the challenges and joys of growing food.
Be kind to yourself
The food you buy at the farmers market and grocery stores is expertly grown with knowledge, technology and dedicated time. Due to market demand, most of the time, the food on display is the best of the best.
So-called ugly products are processed, used to feed livestock, or wasted. Some of the food you grow will be ugly, often due to pest activity.
You can find caterpillars inside ears of corn or holes in your kale. Rather than worry, use your discretion. Try to remove the damaged portion with a clean, sharp knife.
Enjoy the rest. It will be delicious, or at least, home grown.
Paul Manning, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Agriculture, Dalhousie University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.