Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Plant pests Vegetables

Confuse Insects by Avoiding Monocultures

MonocultureTo reduce the risk of insect infestations, it’s best to mix vegetables in the garden rather than grouping them together.

Colorado potato beetle

For example, growing potatoes in a row is almost an open invitation to the Colorado potato beetle to come to dinner, as when any vegetable is planted in dense quantities, the smell it gives off (undetectable to humans, but very obvious to its primary insect pests) is concentrated, attracting its enemies. But if you plant your potatoes here and there among other vegetables or in the flower garden, its beetle enemies will have a hard time finding them.

It’s the same thing for carrot fly, tomato hornworm, even vine weevil. Mixing things up at planting time results in fewer insect attacks.

That’s why is it best to avoid “monocultures” (cultivation of a single vegetable over a large area). With a diversified, mixed vegetable garden, your plants will suffer from far fewer insect pests.

Since I gave the Colorado potato beetle as my main example and it is indeed one of the more difficult insects to control, here are a few other suggestions on how to prevent and treat them.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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