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Bringing the farm home, March 14, 2012

Bringing the farm home, March 14, 2012

Controlling insect pests, disease is top priority

By Farmer Bubba Scott

Aloha yall! After writing two columns on containers, raised beds, and in-ground gardening and soil, it's time to move on to the garden.

This week was going to be about planting plants. But I made a u-turn. A lot of you have already started planting, or are going to plant, your garden in the coming week. So this week, I am going to discuss insects and plant disease and how to control them both.

To start this conversation, I'm sharing information I use in one of my gardening companies, 'Bugs Off Drugs' (BOD). I like to think of 'BOD' as the only Betty Ford rehabilitation clinic for plants and insects. I'll be talking about how to 'detox' and 'quarantine' your plants and how to use 'natural' remedies to solve pesky critter problems in your garden.

031412BubbacaterpillarIMPORTANT: We've had a mild winter here in Florida, and some insects have 'overwintered'. This means they vacationed in the dirt and they didn't freeze. The insect didn't die off during the winter as they normally would. Now these garden homesteaders are ready to make your garden miserable. But we can fix that.

Many gardeners buy their plants at local garden shops. When you bring those plants home -- DON'T PUT THEM IN THE GARDEN WITH THE OTHER PLANTS.

If plants you bring home from the garden shop have bugs or problems, and you quickly plant them in your garden plot, you have just introduced the problem into your garden. Look at it like this. If someone has the flu, you don't let them sit around the table and eat with the healthy family members. You put them in another room until they start feeling better.

You should quarantine your new plants the same way. Put your new plants somewhere away from the garden for a week or so. After a while of isolation, you will know if the plants brought some little 'friends' home with them.  This is also the main reason you should know where your plants come from and who grew them.

Always check the plants before you buy them. Check the leaves starting at the bottom. These little leaves are the first to grow and the first ones to show signs of infection. If you buy plants in 4 or 6 packs, notice how the plants are bunched up close together. If there is any problem with a plant, this is a breeding ground. Be sure to spend time looking the plants over. It will make a difference, and you will be happier in the coming months

When you bring the plants home, you can 'detox' the roots of the plants by using a good natural liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion and manure or compost tea. When you water seedlings, water them until the water runs out of the bottom of the container.

This watering  flushes as much of the starting fertilizer out of the dirt as possible. Then when the plant is transplanted into your garden, the plant will be used to its new 'drink' of water.

But you don't want to over water. That is, you don't want to water like this every day.

031412BubbasBLIGHTDISEASE: Rule #1 is diseased plants should never go to the compost pile. Doing that will help the bad guys breed and more pests will grow in the compost. Bag up the varmints and send them to the trash.

A gardening friend has already discovered garden pests this year. Some of his plants have been invaded by a tobacco mosaic virus. If you have this virus, destroy the plants. Another early season problem is early blight, a fungal disease that destroys all varieties of tomatoes and potatoes each year. This can be controlled if you catch it early. Eggplant and peppers are also susceptible to early blight. Wind, air, and unwashed hands transport these viruses from plant to plant. If you have one of these problems, identify the problem and take action. Wash your hands!

031412BUBBAhornwormINSECTS: Insects love to overwinter in your garden. Now, with these guys, you don't necessarily have to destroy the plant. The green hornworm, right, and aphids have already made an entrance this year. There are a lot of natural ways to get them under control. With chemical sprays, you run the good guys out of town, and the bad guys are at the saloon partying up because they build up an immunity to chemicals. Very few chemical sprays kill the egg, larva and adult insect at one time. That's why it is time to bring the sheriff in instead of a gang of mercenaries. The best sheriff for your garden is the Lady Bug. My hero. NOTE: Chemical sprays kill or keep the good guys out of your garden.

031412BUBBASdrugsUsing chemicals on plants to get rid of bugs is like having mean people living next door who do drugs, and you are their supplier. They're going to stay around a while. Switch them to cookies and milk, and they're gone. What's the difference between chemical and natural remedies? If you wanted to get to the fridge, but your floor was full of broken glass and you were barefoot, it would take a while. Natural remedies work like that – they keep the insect in their bare feet. It's a natural approach instead of a chemical approach. With chemicals, the insect is slowed down at first, but that's because it is learning how to grow tennis shoes to get to the food even faster. So keep your garden natural.

But you do have to do something to drive the bugs away. For that there are things you can spray that are natural. Liquid Copper, Thuricide (BT), Neem and Organocide are the products I use on the farm. I also make my own sprays. I know a lot of people out there have already planted a garden. This is why it's a good idea to start a weekly spray routine to keep pests from starting families. Just keep your sprays Natural. Even if you don't see any disease or insect problems, trust me, they're there waiting for you to slip up.

Next week I'll be talking about planting in your garden, fertilizers and nutrients.   It's all about the plants. I'll show you ways to have a productive garden for months to come. Example: If you're just starting a garden, I'll help you find a good location. It's all about the sun. Also, tips on what you should plant to keep your garden healthy and happy. Ever heard of companion planting? You will.

- From the desk, on FarmerBubba's Farm, Aloha.

AAsmallknifefork0311

Do you have a gardening question for Farmer Bubba or a photo of your garden you would like to share?  Email Bubba or add your question in the comment window below, and Bubba will try to reply as quickly as possible.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Farmer Bubba Scott is a licensed nursery grower specializing in container farming of vegetables with many years of experience and some unique perspectives on vegetable farming.  Farmer Bubba sells his container-grown vegetable plants at Oliver Dahlman Feed & Agriculture in High Springs.

Last modified onMonday, 19 March 2012 05:45

2 comments

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    reverse phone lookup Tuesday, 25 June 2013 04:36 Comment Link

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  • Cymthia
    Cymthia Wednesday, 14 March 2012 21:12 Comment Link

    Thanks for the information! I will use it in my garden...!

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