For home gardeners trying to use organic methods to growing veggies, controlling pests without using pesticide sprays can be a daily struggle, especially with record-breaking 90+ temperatures.
Take a few tips from the farmers of Northeast’s urban farm, the California Street Farm at 22nd Avenue and California Street: use natural barriers like cardboard tubes to keep cutworms from decapitating tomato and pepper plants, mulch between rows, and manage the bad bugs by hand—that might mean squishing slugs, cutworms, and squash bugs on a daily basis. And, when aphids appear, “we root for the ladybugs to show up in force,” said Chris Barth and Ashley Thorfinnson.
Identifying insects on fruits and vegetables is easier than you might think. A quick visit to the University of Minnesota Extension website https://extension.umn.edu can help you
identify “insects, spiders and other bugs that particularly help, harm or feed on fruits and vegetables in the home garden,” and provides safe methods to control the bad ones.
Keeping your garden plants healthy by watering them regularly during hot, dry spells, like the one we’ve been experiencing, can be a challenge. The U Extension site recommends watering twice a week if you have sandy, well-drained soil. For soils that hold moisture, such as heavier clay soils (like much of Northeast Minneapolis) or loamy soils rich in organic matter, once a week should be fine. Also, soil covered by mulch will retain water better, and you may need to water less often.
During hot, dry spells, you can determine if it’s time to water by digging down into the soil in your garden. If the soil is dry two inches below the surface, it’s time to water. And, if your plants are wilting or showing signs of stress, it’s time to water right away.
Want to save some of the water that’s going down your drain? One idea is to keep a clean, plastic ice cream bucket or other container next to your sink. Instead of running water down the drain as you wait for your water to heat up or cool down, save the water in the bucket and use it to water your houseplants or outdoor gardens.