Insects and diseases in the vegetable garden and on fruit plantings are minimal under the natural organic program, but the occasional serious pests have relatively easy solutions.

For example, aphids on the new growth of various plants can be easily killed with any of the mild organic sprays or soapy water mixtures. But they are probably there because of mild temporary stress caused by changing weather and will soon move along one way or another — possibly by being eaten by ladybugs and other beneficials, including birds. By the way, have you noticed how many birds we have this year? Watch and listen to the wonderful singing. It may be at least partially due to the cleaner air from less auto traffic and brisk winds.

Caterpillars seem to be less of a problem this year. I saw some tent caterpillars, webworms and even small green canker worms earlier and thought a strong assault was on the way, but it hasn’t materialized. That’s partly because of more and more gardeners going organic and releasing Trichogramma wasps, but I think the increase in birds is also a factor. Some caterpillars such as the Gulf fritillary should be encouraged.

If caterpillar pests do pop up, spray them with Bt or spinosad products, but keep the spraying confined to the infested plants to avoid hurting butterflies. Plum curculio worms may show up in fruits if the trees are too deep in the ground — so get all the root flares dramatically exposed by removing mulch and soil.

Fireblight might hit the pears, but it can be stopped with 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed 50/50 with compost tea, fish and seaweed, Garrett Juice or just water.

Scale insects might hit some of the fruit trees. They are a dead giveaway that trees are stressed and that flares should be uncovered. Spraying with orange oil or one of the essential oil products will also help. Borers might show up in severely stressed plants. Remove soil from the bases of plants, and paint the trunks with a mixture of 4 ounces of orange oil per gallon of water.

Grasshoppers usually are not a sign of plant stress. They just show up and eat anything in their path. Grasshoppers and katydids can be repelled with Surround WP. When mixed with water and sprayed, the kaolin clay product creates a white particle film on foliage and fruit that confuses the insects.

Various animals will crawl up into your wonderful crops and feast. You can’t blame them. All we can do is try to repel them with products such as Scram, netting in some cases, fences and other barriers. An inexpensive product worth trying is Bird Scare Flash Tape. It’s a mylar ribbon, red on one side, silver on the other. Strung in a spiral above and through the crops, it resembles fire and scares the wildlife thieves.

Tribune Wire

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