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Pest Control?

May 17, 2010

Arugula under row cover

Sometimes, organic methods of pest control can be frustrating. The best thing to do is to have a healthy, diverse ecosystem in which the plants grow. Weak plants attract pests, while healthy plants may intimidate some creatures. Beneficial insects help control detrimental ones, so keeping a variety of them around is a good thing. But despite having the ideal growing conditions, there are still going to be problems with pests.

This bok choi has slug damage

One spring pest I have been working on is the flea beetle. It is a tiny black beetle, about the size of a pinhead. They love to eat young spring greens, putting tiny holes in the leaves. One of the most effective and least destructive ways to prevent flea beetle damage, is to cover the plants with a floating row cover (a lightweight agricultural fabric) before the flea beetles find them. The only problem is, the row cover creates a nice environment for slugs. Thinking the bed where I planted the greens wouldn’t have too big of a slug problem, I went ahead and covered them up. Yeah right, where did all the slugs decide to go? When I took the row cover off, there was no flea beetle damage, but there was evidence of slugs.

Slug damage on the Bau Sin mustard, too

This morning, since it was wet and warm, I hunted slugs. It started accidentally, when I saw, from a pretty good distance, slugs crawling on the hoop houses. I always have an eye out for slugs and I can’t ever let one go. I keep a jar of soapy water to drop them in on the patio. I started with the few on the hoop houses, then I checked on all the lettuce, then in the clover around the lettuce beds, and then I went over to the greens bed. Were there ever some slugs. Altogether this morning, I found around 275 slugs. (Yep, I kept count, but they were mostly the really tiny baby ones, just hatched this spring.) You would think that would put a little dent in the population…but, I’m not sure I really want to know how many slugs are out there.

Sometimes, the slugs just don't go for some is some pretty perfect spinach

Needless to say, a little pest damage might show up in your greens. I pick the best I have for you all, but once in a while it will be there. Honestly, this is a hard judgement call…how much damage is okay? I try to think of what I would be looking for, for myself. Someone once said to me, that when living or traveling abroad, she looked for imperfect fruit and vegetables in the markets. That way, she knew the produce was grown without chemicals (or at least less likely).  A good point, I think. I don’t enjoy taking  a slug out of the sink when I wash lettuce for a salad, but neither do I want to add chemicals to my diet (or the environment).

Deliveries start this Thursday. I want you to be happy with your produce, so let me know if there are any problems. Refunds or replacements are available.

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