Veggie Patch Problems

Pests in the Garden

I remember both my mother and grandmother working in the gardens to keep the pest population under control. Some of what they did seemed both gross and silly at the time, but it was actually a good, safe and mostly organic solution to the problems.

Some plants, usually termed companion plants, can be very useful. A good example is the carrot family, especially parsley and cilantro. These are attractive to beneficial insects that will eat the bugs that are bugging you.

You can make a solution of members of the allium and hot pepper plants that will detract many insects. Be careful, as they can burn some plants…and your skin. A solution of mild dish soap can be sprayed on leaves to kill aphids.

Flour is good for a couple of reasons. First, it suffocates smaller insects and second, it is a deterrent to the higher order of garden pests…raccoons, deer and so on. The latter have learned that white powder means poison, even though the flour won’t hurt them.

On the gross side, my mother’s solution to some insects involved an old blender. She would (and still does) pick potato bugs off the plants, grind them up then spread them through the patch. Believe me, they got the idea in a hurry.

Poisons in Your Patch

There are two types of poisons to be aware of, and only one of them is caused by the plant itself. Many garden plants and trees have parts that should not be eaten. For example, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers all belong to the nightshade family. It’s very important not to eat any but the accepted food parts of these plants.

Members of the apple family can also pose problems. Apples, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums have cyanide in the seeds, leaves and bark. In small amounts, such as used for cough medicine, it is ok. However, it is best to let a professional make the syrup for you.

If you wonder how vegetables can cause outbreaks of e. coli and salmonella, I can give you one possible answer. As for e. coli, some farm workers don’t have access to a port-a-potty. They have to go right in the field. If they can, they go at the edge, but it can still be tracked right into the patch.

Another incident that explains why washing your produce is wise comes from an incident in Wisconsin . A fence was down and some animals got loose in a field of vegetables. Tests showed that salmonella was present and the lettuce had to be recalled. However, some may have been consumed before the recall occurred. Washing vegetables, even if they are organic, is a priority.

If you want to grow your own plants, it is a good idea to plan your garden carefully. By planting things in the right locations, drawing beneficial insects and making sure that children and pets can’t get to the plants that could cause harm, you can provide your family with healthy, wholesome food.