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Pests (Smith & Hawken the Hands-On Gardener)by Elizabeth Miller
The best way to deal with pests is to know them and how they work. Some pests appear smart, but once you know what attracts them, what does not-and what actually repels them-you can outwit them with ease. It only seems difficult because insect pests have had generations of experience evading predators, and you're just getting started. You need to know which insects are enemies (relatively few), and which are friends (most of them).
Insects react to instinct and evolution. Because many of them breed quickly and in large numbers, they can adapt quickly to threats. This is why chemical insecticides are virtually useles: insects can rapidly evolve resistant strains to survive a toxic onslaught. If you take steps to prevent insects from attacking your garden, you'll be way ahead of the game.
There are several ways to do this. Insects are sensitive to color, smell, and taste. Anything you can do to confuse them works to your advantage. It is said that a Colorado potato beetle can recognize the unique green color of a potato or eggplant from a long distance. A whole field of those plants is obviously a prime target. Japanese beetles home in on their favorite foods, from roses and other ornamentals to vegetable crops. But if your plants are camouflaged and protected by other plant species that bugs aren't interested in or that actively repel them, they're more likely to look elsewhere for an easy meal.
Many insects have taste sensors in their feet, so if they land on a plant that repels them (such as a marigold), they'll leave the area in hurry. If you surround your most insect-sensitive plants with species unattractive to pests, they will probably give your garden a miss.
You can sidestep most insect problems before they begin by avoiding large blocks of susceptible plants, interplanting with resistant or repellent species, and of course strengthening your plants by giving them good, healthy soil in which to grow. However, don't panic and rush for the insecticide spray whenever you see a "bad" bug. A few will do little damage and will provide food for their predators. Your aim as an organic gardener is to create a fine and harmonious balance. Most insects are welcome visitors to any garden. Others need to be carefully watched lest they become a problem. It helps to know something about them.
Excerpted from SMITH and HAWKEN PESTS Copyright 2000 by Smith and Hawken
Used by the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc., New York, New York
All Rights Reserved.
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