The Edible Garden :: Natural pest and disease control

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How to keep your garden healthy with out chemicals
The most important things that your plants need to do well are sun, water, nutrients and space. Allowing your garden to bring you outside every day to take a breath, connect with the passing of the seasons and take a moment for yourself is arguably the most valuable thing your vegetable garden can do for you.

Let your vegetable garden take your stress away and slow your life down. Even for just a moment. Spending 10 or 15 minutes a day strolling around and enjoying your garden will alert you to any problems before they get out of control, and will keep you harvesting your food at its peak.
The most important thing for a healthy garden is to make sure that your plants are in good health. Healthy plants are very resistant to pest and diseases. Lots of water, nutrient-rich soil and proper weeding along with beneficial insects will do most of the pest and disease control for you.

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Japanese beetles. An invasive species without a lot of options and no natural predators. Fortunately they are slow and easily trapped by shaking the affected plants over a bucket of soapy water. To be effective, shake daily. [Top left pic below]

Leafminer. A small fly that lays eggs on the underside of leaves (especially beets and Swiss chard). The larvae burrow into the leaves creating brown filmy damaged patches on the leaves. Put yellow sticky traps around affected plants to trap adult flies. Remove damaged leaves as soon as they appear. [Top right pic below]

AphidsGroups of small soft bodied insects, can be black, white, red, brown or yellow. Remove affected plant or plant part and put in the garbage. If the infestation is wide spread spray with a soap spray {2 tbsp. Murphy's Oil Soap and 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol in one liter of water}. If the infestation is not wide spread spray the aphids with a strong jet of water to knock them off the plant. [Middle left pic]

Slug and snails. Slimy inch long squishy creatures that eat ragged holes in the leaves of leafy greens. On kale and Swiss chard damage looks like burns. Trap with yeast or beer traps. Dig a small cup into the garden and add beer. Refresh beer and remove carcasses frequently Most effective control is hand picking daily at dusk. [Middle right pic]

Cucumber beetle. Ladybug-sized black and yellow striped beetle hanging in or around the yellow flowers of cucumbers, squash or melon plants. They are slow as well, and are effectively controlled by hand picking, but it is important to do it daily. Yellow sticky traps traps tucked into the affected plants are a good way to handle more difficult infestations. [Bottom left pic]

Powdery Mildew.  A fungus usually on leaves of cucumbers and zucchini plants. These white spots on plant leaves spread quickly if left unchecked. The best control is to remove affected leaves right away. You can also prevent powdery mildew, or prevent it from spreading by spraying leaves every few days with a Baking soda solution {1 tsp. baking soda to 1 liter of water with a few drops of dish soap (Sunlight is best) in a spray bottle}. This changes the pH of the surface of the leaves making it impossible for the powdery mildew to establish itself. [Bottom right pic]

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Writer Byline: Tereska Gesing is the owner of Urban Seedling [www.urbanseedling.com], an edible landscaping and vegetable gardening service in Montreal. She grows 65 different kinds of vegetables, berries and fruit trees with her husband and two young children in her Verdun backyard. Find out more at www.urbanseedling.com