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Growing Your Own Food: Learning About Pests and Disease

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If I have any regrets about my tabletop garden, it’s that we only built one and that there’s not more for me to do since it’s so easy to take care of. I love going out to check on and water my garden each day, and there are definitely days I wish there was more to do!

grape tomatoes
grape tomato plant

The good news is that we didn’t end up with any late frosts, so my plants made it even though I put them in the ground too early. The bad news is that someone (who is yet to be determined) broke my zucchini plant, and I wasn’t able to save it.

The tomato plants were getting pretty unruly, but Sean put up my trellis last week, and I pruned and tied up the large tomato plant on the right after this picture was taken (the one on the left is a dwarf variety, so it doesn’t need pruning).

At this point, I’m trying to decide whether to put in both cucumber and zucchini like I originally planned (and just prune them to keep them smaller) or just stick with one or the other. I’m leaning toward doing both, even though it will result in a smaller yield since everybody tells me that they both produce big harvests, and I think we’d all prefer the variety.

tomato flowers
our first flowers

Since everything is growing so well (with the exception of the dead cucumber and zucchini plants, LOL!), I’m starting to turn my attention to learning more about pests and diseases. Thankfully, Mike from Urban Organic Gardener has agreed to answer my questions as I embark on this gardening journey! As I told him, I’d rather email him for advice since Googling results in a dozen different conflicting answers.

I’m sharing his answers here so you all can benefit from his experience and knowledge as well:

Disease & Pests

If I see spots or damage on some of the leaves on my plants, should I remove those leaves? My tomato plant had a couple that looked like bugs had eaten them, but a few of my strawberry leaves had some pretty significant brown spotting. I did remove those, and I haven’t noticed any more showing up, but I’m wondering if removing them is always the right answer.

This brings me to my second question…when I see bugs on the plants, should I worry? Or are there just certain bugs I should be worried about?

If it looks like bug bites, you should check all the leaves of the plants. Bugs tend to hang out on the underside of leaves and blend in.

You might want to call or check out your local county agricultural extension agent’s office. If you can get a hold of someone there, they might be best able to answer that question for your area.

As for the bugs on plants, some are good, and some are bad. Ladybugs are definitely good. Cabbage worms and aphids are definitely bad.

I think a good precautionary thing you might consider is applying some mulch around your plants. It should help with retaining moisture and helping to protect somewhat.

So mulch is on my shopping list with cucumbers and zucchini! Thanks, Mike!

Are you gardening this year? How are your plants doing so far? Do you have any additional advice on pests or diseases for me?