Many cultural practices can be used to reduce the potential for or actual damage of garden plants caused by insects:

Plowing and cultivating a garden exposes soil insects to adverse weather conditions, birds and other predators. In addition, deep plowing will bury some insects and prevent their emergence.

Plant rotation can be effective against insects that develop on a narrow range of food plants and against insects with short migration ranges. Planting crops at different sites will isolate such pests from their food source. If an alternate site is not available, then change the sequence of plants grown in the garden plot. Do not plant members of the same plant family in the same location in consecutive seasons. For example, do not follow melons with cucumbers or squash.

Proper use of fertilizers and water will assure healthy plant growth and increase the capability of plants to tolerate insect damage. However, excessive amounts of compost or manure can encourage millipedes, pillbugs, white grubs and certain other pests.

Changes in planting or harvesting time often will reduce plant damage or keep insect pests separated from susceptible stages of the host plant. Delayed planting until the soil is warm enough for corn and bean seeds to germinate quickly reduced seed maggot damage. Hot caps (milk cartons, paper sacks or similar materials placed over plants) used during the early season not only will preserve heat, but also will protect plants from damaging wind, hail and insects. In some situations a healthy transplant will overcome insect damage more easily than a small plant developing from seed in the field.

Removing crop residues and disposing of weeds and other volunteer plants eliminates food and shelter for many insect pests such as cutworms, webworms, aphids, white grubs, millipedes and spider mites. When garden plants stop producing, spade them into the soil or take them to the compost pile.

Companion planting, or an orderly mixing of plants is a cultural practice aimed at diversifying insect populations. Numerous claims have been made about the ability of certain plants to protect certain other plants from insect damage. However, claims have not been fully substantiated.

Resistant Plant Varieties | Cultural Controls | Mechanical Control Methods

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