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Farmer Tip: Summer Pests

This month’s farmer tip comes from Farmer Rosalie Lavertu!

Most pests, from weeds to bugs, love the warmth and the lush greenery summer provides, which is bad news for plants. Despite the heat, spending a little time in your garden everyday is the best way to prevent pest infestations of all kinds.

Farmer Rosalie with nutsedge, a common weed in Las Vegas.

As the weather warms up, plants start to grow extra fast—especially weeds. The best way to remove weeds is manually before they seed. Because weeds make hundreds of seeds, preventing them from seeding will save lots of effort in the long run. Pulling weeds from Las Vegas’s tough caliche usually requires a tool of some sort to successfully remove the root. There are many different specialty tools available, but a shovel and a large screwdriver work great. You can keep aggressive weeds like Bermuda grass under control by applying a solution of 30% strength vinegar and orange oil weekly.  

The hot months of summer also welcome many destructive bugs, including tomato hornworms, squash bugs, June bugs and their grubs. Again, manual control is the best way to keep insects under control. Tomato hornworms are masters of disguise, but can be easily found using a blacklight at night. Squash bugs are easily controlled by daily removal of eggs or nymphs. June bug adults can be knocked down with fly swatters. When you come across their grubs while digging, feed them to the birds.

A tomato hornworm looks for its next meal.

Additionally, many natural or organic chemical controls are available and generally tailored to each insect. Hornworms and other caterpillars can be managed with Bt, a bacteria that essentially gives the caterpillars a tummy-ache. June bug grubs can be handled using milky spore, a soil dwelling bacteria which disrupts their ability to morph into adults. Squash bug nymphs can be sprayed with soapy water, but the adults are resistant.   

Growing plants that attract beneficial insects also keeps pests under control. Braconid wasps love parsley and dill flowers, and lay their eggs on tomato hornworms, which then hatch and feed on the hormworm. Tachinid flies, which lay their eggs on squash bugs, are attracted by carrot flowers, buckwheat and clover. 

By adding insect-attracting plants to your garden, using natural bacterial or chemical controls, and spending some time in the garden, you can keep pests at bay and enjoy a bountiful summer harvest!

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