Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Leaf miners, moths, slugs, etc.
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Danoost
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Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Danoost »

Eliot Coleman, author and market gardener speaks about the importance of maintaining a plant-positive--rather than a pest-negative--approach to dealing with pests.

He writes in "The Winter Harvest Handbook*":

"Insects and disease are not the problem. They are, rather, the symptoms. Their presence is a visible exterior indication that all is not well with the plants...removing pests from a plant does not cure the problem or eliminate the cause. All that it accomplishes is to throw a cloak over the problem [page 180]."

later, he says:

"A plant bothered by pest or disease need no longer be seen in the negative. The plant can now be looked upon as your coworker. It is communicating with you. It is saying that conditions are not conducive to its optimum growth and that if the plants are to be healthier next year, the soil must be improved [page 180]."


Broccoli planted in anaerobic (low oxygen) soils, for example, will quickly be covered with aphids. Getting a bug spray, even if it's organic, does little to deal with the underlying issue. We might also be quick to blame something completely unrelated: plant variety, hot weather, timing, shade, etc. But until the soil compaction issue isn't dealt with, the problem will persist.

Harvesting my sunchokes late last year revealed thousands of transparent clumps of slug eggs amongst the roots. A few tubers were slug eaten but I remained unalarmed. The sunchokes are along a fence line close to a pasture. Beets are grown along their other side. Why haven't slugs completely decimated my crops? Because the sunchokes also attract a host of predatorial insects that are scurrying about around the roots. The soil around the roots is soft with numerous passage ways. I find beetles and centipedes at a depth of six inches. It's a feeding frenzy down there. In general, a slug problem indicates an environment that is out of balance. Plants that are attacked by pests are calling out for help.

Gardeners must be observant. We're scientists and detectives at the same time. The best way to deal with pests is to improve soil. Putting gardening principles 1-3 to work in your gardens is the surest way to growing healthy plants with strong natural immunity.

Principle 1: cover the ground with decaying organic matter
Principle 2: cover the ground with living plants
Principle 3: make great compost

*The Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman, 2009
Cliffsidegardens
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Cliffsidegardens »

I'm looking at winter gardening sources right now, is this book a top recommendation for you, or would you recommend another? I was looking at The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
ElysseG
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by ElysseG »

Cliffsidegardens wrote: Tue 04-Jan-2022, 14:58 I'm looking at winter gardening sources right now, is this book a top recommendation for you, or would you recommend another? I was looking at The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
I bought the book last year and love a lot of what’s in it!
Danoost
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Danoost »

For books on this topic (PESTS) and gardening in general I recommend you take a look at what market gardeners are doing. They're focused heavily on building efficiency, maximizing yields, reducing waste, plant health, etc and can offer really helpful things for smaller gardeners.

here are some authors that immediately come to mind:

Curtis Stone
Eliot Coleman
Ben Hartman
Jean-Martin Fortier
Kristin
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Kristin »

This was super helpful, I tried growing sprouting broccoli in 5 gallon buckets last year and had a huge aphid problem. Thanks! I’ll have a look at that book and authors.
Caitlin
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Caitlin »

Thanks for the author recommendations, I will be looking into those. Another thing we learned in class last semester is that there are many insects farmers have been eradicating for years only to realize that they are beneficial. Number one rule in our pest class was, know what insect you are looking at! We found out that there are a lot of really cool bugs that are actually helping us out.
Alicia
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Re: Taking a plant-positive approach to pests

Post by Alicia »

Hmm interesting. Aphids nearly destroyed all my brassicas 2 years ago so last year I covered them and had better but not perfect success. There are 5 organic market gardeners that live within a few kms of us and I've talked to all of them, they either use organic spray or cover them in netting. I would love to improve the soil in such a way to eliminate either method!
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