Pest Scouting in Your Garden

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As the season gets warmer and our crops grow larger often pest problems start to appear. The best way to control pests and keep your garden as healthy as possible is to scout. Scouting is going out to the garden on a regular basis and observing the health of your plants and the presence of pest that will negatively affect your crop. Often this means looking at the plants for signs of stress, flipping leaves over to observe the undersides as well as the tops and looking at both immature and mature fruit for signs of damage.

Basically scouting is looking at all of the parts of a plant to determine if there is any damage or signs that damage will occur. When scouting you are looking for anything that can negatively affect the garden, this could be insect pests, diseases or weeds. Keep in mind when scouting that most insects are not pests and can actually be beneficial so just because you see a bug in the garden doesn’t mean that it has to be controlled.

Properly identify the insect and make sure that the bug you are seeing is what’s causing damage to your crop. If the insect or disease is causing enough damage to warrant control then first consider why the pest pressure is high. There may be a lack of beneficial insects to control the pest or you may have been growing the same crop in the same spot year after year.

Rotating your crops to new spots often help with pest pressure. Growing your plants in the proper amount of sunlight and regular watering also help with keeping pest populations down. As a last resort chemical applications may have to be used. If you decide to apply a product to control a pest be sure to read the label carefully and follow all directions. It’s best to avoid spraying plants when they are flowering to prevent harming bees and other pollinators that will be foraging on the open blooms.

So the next time you are walking through your garden or field take a few moments to take a detailed look at your plants. If you do this regularly you will find it much easier to manage your crops for a successful harvest. If you need help identifying a pest in your garden or field and would like to talk about how to control it give us a call at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Union County office at (704) 283-3801.