Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My plant leaves look chewed! Do you know what type of insect might do that?
A: Insects that have the ability to chew plants must have special cutters in their mouths for this purpose. Such insects may include caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, for example.
Q: There is something sticky on my plants’ leaves. Do you know what it might be?
A: It’s most likely the honeydew from “sucking” insects. These insects have mouthparts that allow them to penetrate the plant tissue and suck the juices of the plant. They then secrete the honeydew which is the sticky substance found on plant leaves. Such insects include aphids, thrips, squash bugs, and mites.
Q: We want to start a garden in an area of our backyard. How should we get ready for it?
A: One of the best ways to prevent insect problems in your soil is to till the soil. When you till it, insect grubs and larvae will be brought to the surface where they likely will end up dying. To ensure their destruction, remove any by hand if you see them. Be sure to till the soil at least a month or so before planting and then again right before you actually plant your vegetables, fruit, or flowers. At the end of the season, after you have harvested your plants, remove any leftover plant debris and till the soil again to destroy any insects, larvae, or eggs that are attempting to overwinter in your garden.
Q: I want an organic garden, so I don’t want to use harmful chemicals. Will the organic products work as well as the chemical pesticides?
A: Yes, they will be even better for the environment and for your insect control needs. Organic control methods target the specific insect pest, usually without harming the beneficial insects you want in your garden to help with insect pest control. At one time it was thought that a general chemical pesticide which would wipe out all of the insects was the best method, but since then, insect pest control has come a long way. It was realized that there are beneficial insects that are natural predators of insect pests, and these should be allowed to live in your garden, helping to control small infestations. In addition, the environment cannot safely handle general “umbrella” pesticides, which become absorbed into the ground soil and carried into streams and groundwater, resulting in toxic pollutants being released into our environment.
Q: If I use a floating row cover, how will bees and other pollinating insects reach the plants?
A: They won’t be able to so. You will need to pollinate them yourself by hand. Check with your local garden center or farm supply store to find out how to hand pollinate them. You may want to remove the row covers during times of insect pollination.
Q: Can aphids or other insect pests spread viruses from one plant to another?
A: Yes, many insect pests can transmit a virus from one plant to another. Pumpkins, potatoes, lettuce, melons, cucumbers, beans and beets are just some of the vegetable plants that can be affected.
Q: Can insect pests survive the winter and affect my garden next year?
A: Yes, many insect pests can survive cold winters by “overwintering” under plant debris and leaves on the ground. This is why it is very important to remove plant debris after harvesting this year’s crops and then till the soil. By tilling, you are removing places these insects can “overwinter,” destroying larvae or pupae in the dirt, and burying the eggs so far down in the soil they won’t hatch in the spring. Very cold winters of the far north may kill the adult insects or larvae, but the eggs may remain unscathed and ready to hatch as the weather warms.
Q: How do I know if my plant is being attacked by an insect or a disease?
A: If it’s an insect, the plant may have holes in its leaves. Turn the leaves over and you may see the insects themselves clustered on the underside of the leaves. You may also see and feel a sticky substance if it’s an insect because the insect will leave a secretion on the plant.
Q: My pumpkins have a white powder on their leaves. What is it and how can I get rid of it?
A: It sounds like you are talking about powdery mildew. There are fungicides on the market that can work effectively in controlling powdery mildew.
Q: How do I get rid of anthracnose on my dogwood tree?
A: The best way to control anthracnose includes several measures. Starting with varieties that are resistant to disease, especially anthracnose, be sure to prune the tree during the dormant season by removing dead branches. Apply fungicides in the springtime just at bud break. You will probably need to do this once every week or two until the leaves have fully stretched out. You may need to apply the fungicide during the summer if there is a lot of rain.
Q: I've already planted my seeds in my garden, but I want to add mulch. Is it too late?
A: Since you have already planted your seeds, you will need to wait until seedlings begin to appear. After the you see a few leaves on seedlings, you can place about an inch or two of mulch around them. This will help in weed prevention and soil moisture retention.

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