The seeds and the starter plants are in the ground, now what? The hard work is done, for a while, so between planting and harvesting what needs to be done in the garden? There are three most important things to do: watch, defend and feed.

Be on the look-out for pests that may try to invade your garden, either animal or insect. If you see that your plants have holes in the leaves you need to investigate further to find the culprit(s). Look to the air for moths, especially white moths if you have any cole crops like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and such. Those cute little moths will lay its eggs on your plants, the eggs will hatch into green worms that will devour your produce. To combat the white moths, first inspect your plants, look for the clusters of eggs on the leaves of your plants, if you find any, remove and destroy them, then cover your plants with a floating row cover. I use bridal tulle, just lay it over the plants and secure it down so it won’t blow away. If you have any little kids, get them a butterfly net, let them chase and catch as many as they can. Many people put lights in their gardens because it looks cool at night, try to refrain from doing this, night lights attract moths. 

Look to the ground, snails, slugs, and pill bugs all come out at night and munch on your plants, you can lay traps to catch them while you sleep. Pour beer in a small container, put the container in the ground so the beer is level with your soil, it will attract the pests. I recently had a problem with pill bugs (aka potatoes bugs), so I took a cantaloupe rind and turned it upside down in the garden by the potato plants they were eating, in the morning it was full of the bugs so I just carefully lifted the rind and dumped out the bugs into a container, along with some scooped out soil that was under the rind and full of the bugs, and then fed them to our chickens. I did this for several days and the potatoes were saved!!  For snails and slugs, get some ducks, they will eat them by the thousands, copper wire is also said to work against snails and slugs. 

Keep an eye on the plants, look for grasshoppers, worms, and beetles. For these types of pests, you need to hand pick them off and dump them into soapy water. Use a glove if you do not like to touch the little beasts. I have used a long bubble wand that comes in the large bottle of bubbles to scoop the buggers off the plants into either the bubbles or a soapy water bucket. If you suspect animals are getting into your garden the only way to keep them out is to fence off the garden beds. There are many tricks you can try, and they might work for a while, but the critters will come back if they are hungry enough. 

If your squash plants look like they are wilting and you know you have watered them enough, then look at the stem of the plant where it touches the ground, if it looks scabby and orangish you most likely have a vine borer. This flying insect lays its eggs on the soil by the plant, the larvae will hatch, and attack the crops as a big grubby worm; it infiltrates the stem of your squash plant and devours the inside of the plant stem leaving behind its frass, a tell-tale sign of vine borer infestation. To stop this from happening, you can wrap the base of your plants in tin foil, it should keep the grubs away from your plants. 

Many people ask what kind of pesticides to use for controlling the insects in their gardens, I say none, unless you have tried everything in your power already and it isn’t helping. We will use organic neem oil on our fruit trees though, but we have not had to use it in our vegetable garden, yet. The main reason we don’t have problems in our vegetable garden is because we use companion planting, we rotate the crops every year and we don’t use chemicals to kill off the good bugs while trying to kill off the bad bugs. We plant to attract the beneficial insects needed to keep the bad bugs under control. Lady bugs will eat aphids like crazy, I plant cilantro/coriander to attract parasitic wasps that will kill tomato horn worms, praying mantis’ will eat beetles, moths, grasshoppers, and many other destructive insects. You can buy lady bugs and praying mantis egg sacks in many garden stores or you can even order them on-line. 

At the end of the season and before planting in the spring, we will let our chickens and ducks in the garden beds and let them dig up any grubs they may find hiding in the soil, this helps to keep bad bug populations down quite a bit. Bugs are less prone to bothering healthy plants, so it is important to keep your plants disease free and keep weeds from invading your growing space. Pull any weeds you find in your beds so they do not rob the nutrients your vegetables need to grow properly. Remember to promptly remove the vegetables when they are ready to harvest, you do not want food rotting on the ground inviting unwanted guests. 

Feed your plants with some compost, adding compost as a side dressing is often enough to keep your plants fed correctly. You can also make a compost tea, throw some compost in a big bucket, add water, and let it sit in the sun for a few days, then feed your plants a cup-full, or so, of the tea every 2-3 weeks. Mulch around the bottom of your plants with organic straw or mulched leaves, this will help keep your plants disease free, many diseases are soil borne and if the plant’s leaves do not touch the soil, they should stay healthy. 

While this seems like a lot of work, it really isn’t, it only takes a few minutes to look over your plants. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to water your plants if it hasn’t rained enough!!