Bug Repellent for Vegetable Plants

Overview

Finding holes in the lettuce and cucumbers is discouraging for vegetable gardeners, but resorting to chemicals usually backfires. Pesticides are toxic and kill beneficial insects, along with pests. Additionally, they may not eliminate the problem. An integrated pest management system that incorporates several natural strategies for pest control is a better bet.

Prevention

Good soil amended with plenty of organic material, such as compost and manure, builds healthy plants that rebound from damage done by insect invasions. Careful plant selection also helps minimize the damage done by pests. Some plants are so prone to bug problems, they might not be worth the trouble. Others may become infested at certain times during the growing season. Planting them a bit earlier or later may eliminate the problem.

Types

Insect repellents for the vegetable garden include mechanical, cultural and biological controls, according to the Alabama A & M and Auburn universities. Mechanical controls rely on hand-picking insects and installing barrier devices, such as row covers, collars and traps. Cultural controls, such as companion planting and rotating crops, thwart pests through the use of carefully planning where and when to plant crops. Biological defenses include the use of biocides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, and encouraging beneficial predatory insects and animals, such as frogs, snakes, birds, ladybugs and lacewings to the garden by providing food and shelter.

Effects

An integrated pest management system keeps pests in check using natural means that don't harm the soil, water or living things. Gardens may sustain some damage from insects, but usually not enough to warrant the use of pesticides.

Considerations

Properly identifying insects is an important part of managing pests in the vegetable garden for several reasons. Products such as Bt are made to kill specific insects and are ineffective on any other kind, advises Barbara Damrosch, landscape designer and author of "The Garden Primer." Additionally, without proper identification, gardeners may unknowingly kill beneficial insects.

Warning

Pesticides have been linked to increased rates of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, and home gardeners are among the groups most at risk of overexposure. Even organic pesticides, such as rotenone and pyrethrum, can harm groundwater, wildlife and humans. Additionally, pesticides kill beneficial insects, including bees, lacewings and ladybugs. Bees are needed in the garden to effectively pollinate many crops. Without lacewings and ladybugs, insect populations can proliferate, creating a larger problem.

Keywords: vegetable garden pests, vegetable garden insects, controlling vegetable insects

About this Author

Julie Christensen has been writing for five years. Her work has appeared in "The Friend" and "Western New York Parent" magazines. Her guide for teachers, "Helping Young Children Cope with Grief" will be published this spring. Christensen studied early childhood education at Ricks College and recently returned to school to complete a degree in communications/English.