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Questions & Answers

Mid-season Garden

Bugs are taking over; what do I do?  The community garden, like Dickinson College, follows a system called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to start and keep a garden healthy.  This means starting with great soil and nutrition, adequate watering, good garden sanitation, choosing disease-resistant varieties of vegetables, and attracting beneficial insects to the garden.  Unstressed plants are less prone to diseases and insect infestations, and produce a much stronger harvest.  

To get started, you first must identify the insect pest and then select an organic control method.  Here is good research-based information from Penn State on vegetable pests, including the booklet “Identifying Vegetable Insect Pests in PA”. 

If you still cannot identify the pest, collect a couple insects in a plastic bag and take to the Penn State extension office in Cumberland County for identification and control methods.

Not all insects in the garden are bad; in fact, only about 3% of all insects are considered pests, and many, which we call beneficial insects, help manage these pests.  Beneficial insects include lady beetles (ladybugs), green lacewings, syrphid flies (which can look like bees), dragonflies, ground beetles, parasitic wasps, spiders, and more. 

To help attract these beneficial insects to the community garden each gardener is asked to plant a flowering annual plant that will attract these insects to the garden.  These plants include marigolds, annual salvias, zinnias, cosmos, and alyssum.

In the community garden we have had the most trouble with flea beetles, cucumber beetles, stink bugs, tomato hornworm, Mexican bean beetle, cutworms, and squash vine borers.

What about diseases?  Since most gardeners plant tomatoes and peppers, Septoria leaf spot and early and late blight are three of the most common diseases found in the garden. Septoria leaf spot starts at the bottom of the plant because the fungus, which lives in the soil, is splashed up on the leaves from rain or watering. Mulching around the plants, and watering only the soil around the roots and not the leaves are two good ways to help prevent this disease. The two blights are similar, but distinct diseases and can very quickly destroy a plant.  Here is a good place to get you started on vegetable disease identification.