Vegetable Garden Pest Control

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  • Pesticide Research Institute Pest Control Bulletins

    Vegetable Garden Pest Control

    Minimize the use of pesticides in your vegetable garden by

    smart planning, crop rotation, and taking advantage of pest

    natural enemies

    Working with Nature Summer is almost here, and vegetable gardens everywhere are moving into high gear with the warm weather and abundant sunshine. The only problem is . . . so are the weeds, insects, fungus and gophers! But with a little planning, you can head off most pest problems before they get started. This bulletin highlights general methods for vegetable pest prevention. For tips on specific pests, see our bulletins on aphids and whiteflies, garden weeds, caterpillars/moths, beetles, slugs and snails, garden ants, gophers and moles.

    A few pest prevention tips are in the sidebar, but one concept is keystart with good soil containing lots of organic matter to provide time-release nutrients for growing healthy plants. Composted cow, horse, or chicken manures, lawn clippings, or kitchen scraps provide nitrogen and potassium.

    Bone meal or rock phosphate are good sources of phosphorus. Rotate your crops to reduce nematode and fungal pests that flourish in soils when similar crops are grown in the same plot of land several years in a row.

    Use low-toxicity pesticides only if necessary. Killing pest insects with a strong insecticide will also kill the predatory insects that are your best allies in controlling pests. Using mulch instead of herbicides to control weeds protects water quality, pets, and humans. See the following page for PRIs suggestions for low impact alternatives and pesticides of concern. .

    Pesticide Research Institute (PRI) is an environmental consulting firm providing research, analysis, technical services and expert consulting on the chemistry and toxicology of pesticides. For more information visit:

    Pest Prevention Utilize local


    Plan for success

    Cultivate beneficial


    Monitor pest populations


    Find out what pests are common in your area by

    talking to local gardeners

    Plant a variety of crops and select those best suited for your growing area

    Create habitat for beneficial insects by planting flowers in and around your garden

    Decide on a tolerable level. Acting early to control pests can prevent problems later

    May 2012

    Use mulch for weed

    control weeds

    Mulch with straw or compost to prevent weeds and provide organic matter

  • Pesticide Research Institute Pest Control Bulletins Vegetable Gardens, May 2012


    General Pest Control Guidance

    Pest Preferred Alternatives

    Insects Plant flowers to create habitat for beneficial predatory insects. Tolerate a few pests. Use insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, neem oil, or

    microbial pesticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

    Weeds Mulch plants with compost or straw. Use mechanical weeding, flaming, corn gluten meal (pre-emergent applications), or essential oils (post-emergent applications).

    Fungi Plant resistant varieties. Ensure good air circulation by proper spacing and pruning of plants. Remove and dispose of infected leaves. Use sulfur dust, potassium bicarbonate, garlic extract,

    or microbial fungicides such as Bacillus subtilis.

    Nematodes Plant resistant varieties. Rotate crops with mustard and small grains like wheat, rye, or oats. Use solarization, dry or clean fallowing.

    Slugs/snails Pick slugs or snails (escargot!) at night for several nights in a row to bring populations down. Use slug traps and iron phosphate baits.

    Gophers/moles Exclude burrowing animals with fencing below the soil line. Encourage natural predators such as owls and gopher snakes. Use traps.

    Low Impact Approaches Type Issues

    Insecticides Broad-spectrum insecticides like organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, and neonicotinoids kill valuable beneficial insects and breed resistance in pests. Systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids end up in pollen and nectar, killing bees and butterflies. Many insecticides are highly toxic to humans, pets, fish and wildlife.

    Herbicides Most herbicides are water soluble and can contaminate surface and ground water. Some of the older herbicides like atrazine and 2,4-D are suspected endocrine disruptors. Many of the newer-generation herbicides can persist in the soil for months to years, reducing crop growth in the next season.

    Fungicides Most fungicides are used preventatively, based on humidity and temperature. Resistance is an issue.

    Molluscicides Metaldehyde-containing baits are a hazard to pets and aquatic animals

    Rodenticides Rodenticides are acute poisons and a hazard to children, pets and predators such as hawks and foxes

    PRI Pest Control Bulletins

    University of California, Davis IPM Online

    National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

    Additional Resources

    Pesticides of Concern

    PRI Pesticide Product Assessment Tool

    Pesticide Action Network PesticideInfo Database

    University of Florida IFAS Extension