Community Gardens – Pest Management (Module 5 Part 2)

Hello. My name is Michelle Wiesbrook. I’m a state specialist in pesticide safety
education with University of Illinois Extension. In this training module I will cover Community
Garden Pest Management with a focus on weeds, insects, and diseases. These pests can damage or kill plants and
reduce yield. Pest management is an important part of garden
care. General garden care practices are covered
by Rhonda Ferree in another module. We’ll focus on weeds first. A weed is a plant growing where it is not
wanted. Weeds in community gardens can create an undesirable
appearance when left to grow. Hundreds of thousands of seeds can develop
from weeds and blow into neighboring plots. Weeds can compete with vegetables for space,
water and nutrients. Some weeds such as ragweeds produce large
amounts of pollen which contribute to allergies. Some gardens will not allow you to return
to the community garden if you allow weeds to grow excessively. Manage weeds in your garden plot so you will
be welcomed back to the community garden the following season. It is helpful to know what your problem weeds
are. Certainly by becoming familiar with your weed’s
biology or life cycle, you will be better armed in controlling them thus making your
weed control battles easier to fight and win. Good weed control begins with proper weed
identification. Knowing this information will help you with
controlling it. It will assist you in choosing the right method
or product to use as well as determining when the weed will be most susceptible. Consult with your local U of I Extension office
for assistance with any pest identification and management recommendations. They are there to help! Weed control is one of the primary maintenance
operations in a vegetable garden. Control weeds early before they set seed to
prevent future weeds. Remove hand pulled weeds from the site as
they can still develop seeds before dying and some can reroot. Not only can weed seeds be abundant but they
can also be quite long lived in the soil with some species such as velvetleaf remaining
viable for as many as 50 years. When short on time, quick hand removal of
flowers and seed heads can help slow production of seeds until more time and effort can be
spent another day. Mulch can be used to prevent weeds. Organic materials such as wood or grass mulch,
manure, and compost can provide many benefits to the garden but unfortunately, these materials
can also contain weed seeds. Be sure to inspect materials carefully and
obtain them from a known source free of problem weed infestations if at all possible. I’ll cover mulch more in just a minute. Prevention practices can go a long way, but
weeds are opportunistic and can invade despite your best efforts. Existing weeds can be controlled by physical
or mechanical means. Certain herbicides can provide long term control
and perhaps very targeted control. Systemic products can be used to move down
into deep roots or rhizomes to kill persistent perennials. Some tips for using these control methods
will be discussed later on. It’s best to take an integrated approach
were a combination of management practices are used. Mulch suppresses weed growth by preventing
light necessary for growth from reaching the weed seeds or seedlings. Mulch will often smother weed seedlings before
they emerge from the soil by providing a physical barrier. Some weeds are lucky enough to survive and
push through the mulch. An added benefit is that mulch helps keep
weeds shallow-rooted and makes them easier to pull by hand. This method controls many annual weeds—those
that germinate from seed each year. Perennial weeds usually must be removed by
repeated cultivation or hoeing. Mulch can be used to conserve moisture through
improved water retention. In mulched beds, soil temperatures are kept
moderate, soil erosion and compaction are minimized thus improving soil structure, and
produce is kept clean. Mulch also helps reduce the risks of soils
that contain high levels of lead. Rhonda discusses this more in her module. One last benefit is that mulch adds beauty
and contrast to the garden. Mulch can be made of organic or synthetic
materials. Synthetic mulches include landscape fabrics,
plastics, recycled rubber, and many more. Gardeners have been known to get creative! Mulch materials are sometimes categorized
as being woven or non-woven (which is often spun-bonded). Each has advantages and disadvantages. Typically, woven materials are stronger while
non-woven materials are lighter weight and easier to cut. Some last longer than others and there are
price differences. They are available in different sizes and
some have pre-cut layouts for ease in planting. Others must be used between planted rows or
planting holes must be cut. Organic mulch materials include straw, hay,
grass clippings, leaf and grass composts, pine needles, wood chips, well-rotted animal
manure and others. Use the most economical mulch available; for
good results, apply to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Mats, squares, and rolls are also available
from such materials as cocoa fiber and burlap. A combination of several layers of newspaper
covered by organic material has shown promise as a summer mulch. Use papers with black ink rather than colored
ink. Most black ink used for newsprint is soy based. As organic mulches decompose, they return
organic matter and some plant nutrients to the soil while improving soil tilth. However, you may need to add nitrogen fertilizer
to prevent nitrogen deficiency in the mulched crop. Existing weeds can be controlled by mechanical
means where they are physically removed. For most home vegetable gardens, hoeing, rototilling
or hand pulling are the best weed control options. Keep in mind, this process must be repeated
as new weeds will germinate. One cultivation alone can remove many weeds
in a short amount of time. However, cultivation also brings viable weed
seed up to the surface where they can obtain enough light to germinate which means future
weeds. Cultivation is helpful but no one system is
perfect. The best management programs use an integrated
approach where preventative methods are used too. Cultivation works best on small annual weeds
(as perennial plant pieces can be spread and larger plants may require repeat cultivation. Use shallow cultivation to avoid damaging
vegetable plant roots. Also, avoid cultivating wet soil so as not
to damage the soil structure. Use sharp tools for best results with the
least effort. Cutting weeds at or just below the soil surface
can minimize the likelihood that once buried seeds will now become a problem. When hand pulling, wear gloves as some weeds
can result in a skin rash. Weeds tend to pull easiest when soil is moist. Be sure to collect and dispose of any weeds
that have gone to seed already. Burning may or may not be an option. Very few herbicides are labeled for home garden
use. Herbicides used by commercial growers are
often very crop-specific and would cause damage to certain vegetables if used on the wide
variety of plants grown in the home vegetable garden. The product label will state which crops or
plants the herbicide may be used on legally. Be sure to read and follow all label directions
carefully! The label will provide health and safety information
about the product and give directions on how and when to apply it. The rate will be a specific amount. Applying too little will result in poor weed
control. Applying too much may result in injured vegetable
plants. It is against the law to NOT read and follow
label directions and certainly it is not wise. The product label will also list weed species
that can be controlled. Be aware that you may not find a product that
you can use on all of your desirable plant species that will control all of your weed
species. Other weed control methods will need to be
used. Certain herbicides can prevent weed germination
for many weeks. Others can be used to kill persistent perennial
weeds but only the ones that are treated that day. Some are applied to the soil and watered or
tilled in. Some are applied directly to the weed’s
foliage. Before you buy any pesticide, be sure to do
your homework so that you buy something suited for your needs and buy only what you are going
to use that season. Some herbicides are available in a ready to
use formulation while others require mixing with water. The latter may save you money, but you must
consider the added exposure risk. Also, would you be buying more than you need? Disposal or storage must be considered. There are many decisions to make. Contact your local University of Illinois
Extension office if you have questions. For more information on weed control, consult
the University of Illinois handbook, “Pest Management for the Home Landscape.” Now that you know some methods for managing
weeds, you will also need to think about insect pests. Insect pests can create a gardening challenge
by damaging plants and produce. Managing them can require some planning under
a community garden setting. Familiarizing yourself with the common insect
pests and diseases of the plants you grow will prove useful. As with weeds, proper identification is critical
to the success of your control. Consider the options as you plan your garden. Some pests can be avoided by not planting
certain vegetables. Others can be reduced by planting pest-prone
vegetables every other year. However, this trick will work only if they
aren’t planted in nearby gardens. Handpicking pests such as the adults and large
larvae of Colorado potato beetle can be effective on some plants. Japanese beetles may be knocked from leaves
into a bucket of soapy water. Of course good old fashioned squishing with
a foot works well too. Traps, barriers, beneficial insects, repellents,
synthetic insecticides, and organic insecticides are all possible options. Pesticides, including insecticides, may be
prohibited in your garden. If allowed, be sure to read the label carefully
before applying insecticides. Remember, the label is the law and it helps
ensure safety. Insecticides can be harmful to beneficial
pollinators. Their use should be limited whenever possible. Maintenance can help by removing weeds, debris,
and spoiled fruit where insects may harbor. Also check regularly for insect pests. Look closely for insect holes in leaves and
hand pick insects as you see them. Some insects like tomato hornworm can blend
in with the stems and foliage and be difficult to see. Frass or excrement on the leaves can be an
indicator that a caterpillar is nearby. Barrier methods like Reemay or other floating
row cover products can be effective. Reemay is a polyester cloth that allows 80%
light and water through but provides a barrier for insects. These products should be secured over plants
early in the season before insects are active. Rocks or soil should secure the bottom edges
to the ground so insects can’t slide in. Vegetables and fruits that require insect
pollination, like melons, will need to be uncovered at a specific time. You can keep row covers on some vegetables
like broccoli and other cole crops for insect prevention until harvest. One final note on dealing with insect pests
is that it’s important to relate to what your crop is. The leaves may be damaged but there may not
be cause for concern unless you will be eating the leaves. A little damage on carrot foliage from black
swallowtails will not hurt the root crop. Put things in perspective. The grasshoppers eating the corn leaves will
be less important than the corn earworm eating the kernels. You will be eating the kernels and not the
leaves. Many times there is no need to worry about
the quality of the leaves, as long as there is enough “green” to produce the food. Additionally, some insect pests may be easily
seen on flowers but may not be causing any damage. This is Western Corn Rootworm that has moved
in from a nearby cornfield to check out this squash flower. Let’s move on to diseases. Disease management is also important in the
vegetable garden as diseases can reduce both yield and quality of harvest. Cultural practices can be used to prevent
many diseases that are caused by pathogens including viruses, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria. These pathogens are spread by insects, transplants,
water-splash, wind, and other means. Prevention is always best. Choose a site that is well drained, sunny,
and with good air flow. Ensure that plants are spaced for proper air
flow and planted at the correct depth. Good garden sanitation is important. Remove dead leaves and severely diseased plants
from the garden. Compost only healthy plant parts as certain
pathogens can survive composting. Avoid allowing extra fruit and vegetables
to decay in the garden and control weeds and volunteer plants that may harbor disease. Many pathogens attack related plants and can
build up in the soil over time. Therefore, rotate your plantings with different
crops to prevent disease. For example, Solanaceous crops such as tomatoes
and peppers should not be planted in the same spot in two successive years. Choose disease-resistant plant varieties whenever
possible and always start with pathogen-free seeds, plants, and planting materials. Buy seed from reputable sources and examine
plants carefully for signs of disease before buying or planting. Choose plants that appear healthy and free
of black spots or yellowing. Do not work with wet plants as this can spread
disease. Water early in the day and avoid overhead
watering. Mulch can be used to prevent fruit rots and
blossom-end rot of tomato and pepper by maintaining soil moisture. There are some diseases that can occur yearly
regardless of cultural practices. Therefore applications of fungicides and bactericides
may be used for early blight disease of potato and tomato and powdery mildew of cucurbits. These materials must be applied before the
disease occurs on a 7- to 10 day schedule. Remember that fungicides may not be allowed
in the community garden but if you are able to use them, read and follow the label carefully. These are just a few preventative methods
to avoid disease problems. Contact your local University of Illinois
Extension office for details regarding your specific crop. Many community gardens do not allow pesticides. Check your garden’s rules and ask questions
before using any products. Pesticides should be used only after all other
control options have been tried. When choosing pesticide products, it’s important
to choose the right product for your needs. You’ll need one that is approved for use
on your crop and one that claims to be effective on your pest. Read the label to determine these things as
well as how, when, and where to apply the product. You’ll want to apply when the pest is susceptible. Once your product has been applied, you may
have to wait a certain period of time to reenter the garden. If the label does not indicate a specific
amount of time, wait until sprays have dried. You may also be required to wait a certain
period of time to harvest produce. This information will be given on the label. During this time, sunlight, oxygen, soil microbes,
and the plants themselves will degrade the product to a level that is legal and safe
to consume. Flagging your applications is not required
but it is a good idea so that unsuspecting bystanders will avoid the area. Pesticides are an important tool in pest management
but in order to use pesticides legally and safely, there are a few things you must know. All pesticide users are required to read and
follow the product label directions. It is the best source of information for using
a product safely and accurately. Labels will list crops, plants, or areas where
the product may be used. This varies from product to product. Similar products may be available and may
be tempting to use. The product you use must be labeled for your
crop. The label will provide guidance on when to
make your applications. Typically hot temperatures should be avoided. Light winds between 3 and 10 mph blowing away
from sensitive plants are best so that spray droplets blow towards the target and not onto
neighboring plants instead, resulting in injury. When mixing, loading, and using pesticides,
be sure to wear the proper protective clothing. The label will specify what is required. Certainly, you reduce your risk when using
pesticides when you cover your skin. At a minimum, you should wear long pants,
a long sleeved shirt, a hat, and shoes with socks. Gloves should be chemical resistant. Label provided rates must be followed and
never exceeded! Too much or too little will not be effective. Plus it is illegal and can result in produce
that is not safe to consume. Homemade pesticide recipes abound but they
are not recommended. EPA registered products come with label directions
for rate and safety information. Homemade recipes don’t come with this information. While home remedies may sometimes work, many
have not been tested for effectiveness or safety. They commonly cost more than labeled, registered
pesticides which have been tested for human health and environmental safety. To avoid potential problems, stick with approved
pesticide products. Consider that some products and locations
could require pesticide certification and training. Unless the label says otherwise, all general-use
products can be used on private property that you own without a license. State and Federal laws require that you need
a license if you are using a Restricted use product at any time or location, even on property
you own. The label will clearly state at the top if
the product is a Restricted Use Pesticide or RUP, which is for sale and use only by
certified applicators. However, you might also need a license to
use products on property that you rent, lease, or otherwise do not own, such as working at
a school, community garden, prairie restoration, or nature center. By being licensed, you are demonstrating to
the public that you know how to apply pesticides safely and effectively. Illinois has several categories of pesticide
use, including commercial, public, and more. Where no money is exchanged for application,
a Commercial “not-for-hire” license is needed; this probably is the case for most
community gardens. Gardeners MUST be licensed to apply pesticides
in any PUBLIC area, which includes projects in schools, community gardens, parks, and
more. This includes ALL pesticides, even organic
products, and even those you use at home without a license. So if you apply Roundup to control weeds in
the fence row around a community garden at a housing project, you need a license. Pesticide training materials are available
from the University of Illinois Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP). Check out their website at
to purchase training materials and view training and testing schedules. There you will also find a link to the Illinois
Department of Agriculture website for more information on pesticide licensing in Illinois. For a fact sheet on “Making Pesticide Applications
in School/Community Gardens, go to:

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