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Protect your garden from pests

June and July are critical months to the success of next year's strawberry production. The runner, or daughter plants, produced during the 6 to 8 weeks period following harvest or renovation will be the most productive plants next season. Be careful to not allow the plant to enter into moisture or nutrient stress during this period. Daughter plants produced after mid-August are generally least productive, so if bed width is maintained by cultivation, it is better to do this in late summer and early fall rather than at this time.

Squash bug. (ARS photo by Scott Bauer.)

Prolonged humid conditions are especially conducive to the buildup of disease problems in the home fruit orchard and vegetable garden. By maintaining a preventive disease control program with scheduled applications of recommended fungicides, the home gardener will be much more successful in harvesting top quality produce.

July is the time insects become invasive in the garden. Some to look for are:

--Corn earworm (larvae): Sweetcorn growers should spray silks as soon as they appear and continue until they turn brown.

--Tomato fruitworm: The same insect as the earworm, feeds on tomatoes. Spray 7 to 10 days for worm control. Do not use Sevin too often as it can create a spider mite problem on tomatoes. A weekly spray of Bacillius thruingiensis will control the fruitworm and tomato pinworm.

--Spider mites: Perhaps the worst problem for most gardeners, spider mites love hot, dry weather and multiple rapidly. The best way to inspect for mites on your plants is to place a white piece of paper under a stem and shake it. Mites will appear as small red to brown dots. If they move, they're mites. Spider mites will attack almost any plant grown in the garden during the summer, and seem to really like tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes and squash. Planting marigolds next to tomatoes will not help. The mites will kill the marigolds and move to tomatoes.

Insecticidal soap can be used to control spider mites, or spray with insecticides such as Kelthane if you still have some.

--Squash bugs: The best control in the garden is to hand pick the bugs and kill them. Also crush the bronze egg masses. This control works well on small planting, but is not practical on larger areas. Chemical controls should be directed against young bugs (nymphs), as the squash bug is very difficult to kill as it gets older.

--Tomato hornworms: Inspect tomato and pepper plants for these big eaters. They can be detected by their droppings (frass) on the ground below the area in which they are feeding. Fresh frass is soft and green, hard and black when old. Hand picking is the best control for these non-poisonous worms.

--Pill bugs, or roly-polies, can injure seedling plants by eating roots or girdling stems. These insects tend to feed on rotting plant parts and other organic matter. They prefer moist, unprotected areas such as underneath brick, trash piles and other debris. However, a heavy population can injure seedlings.

Taking action to control the bugs may be considered if tender vegetables, flowers or strawberries are present. Spraying the soil surface with a product designed to target these insects is an effective method of control.

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