by Marge Reiber
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Get a jump on next spring's vegetable garden by doing a little maintenance now. One of those tasks is to get rid of all the plant debris. The reason for this is that many garden pests and diseases overwinter in plant debris left in the garden. By disposing of the debris you can help eliminate these garden pests. This refuse should be disposed of promptly since many organisms can continue to develop in the discarded material.
Tillage of the garden is another task that can help prevent the spread of diseases and get rid of pests. When old plant material is tilled into the soil, the soil cover prevents many fungi and bacteria from spreading. Also the disease organisms decompose more rapidly.
Here are some pests that cleaning and tilling the garden can help eliminate:
* The asparagus beetle overwinters around plantings and when they emerge they chew pits in asparagus spears and distort the plant's growth. Eggs are then laid on the spears. The slug-like larvae that chew ferns, reducing photosynthesis, however, cause most injury. Cleaning up the garden in the fall is one way to control this pest.
* Army cutworms cut and feed on seedlings of a wide variety of plants including tomatoes, beans and corn. As adults they are known as miller moths.
* The cabbage looper damages mustard family plants as well as potatoes, peas, lettuce, spinach, nasturtiums and carnations. It overwinters on plant debris from the previous year so cleaning the garden and tilling will help control the cabbage looper.
* The pale-striped flea beetle chews holes in beans, beets, melons and sunflowers. However, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, lettuce and weeds and also susceptible. Pale-striped flea beetles can kill seedlings or retard their growth. Tillage can kill overwintering stages of this insect.
* The squash bug feeds on foliage of vine crops, particularly winter squash and pumpkins. They inject damaging saliva into the plant that causes areas of the stems and leaves to wilt and die off. The squash bug overwinters in protected sites around previously infested plantings. So if you've seen this insect or the damage done by this insect, be sure to clean up your garden now.
* Tilling the soil can control grasshoppers. Their eggs can be exposed and killed during tillage, which will also affect white grubs and wireworm.
If you're not sure what the insect is or if you can't identify what the problem is with any plant, you can call the Larimer County Cooperative Extension Office at 498-6000 and speak with a Master Gardener.
Leaves on the iris, tulips and lilies should be left on the plant until they turn brown and can be tugged off easily. By leaving them on the plant, they are still producing nutrients for the bulbís display for next year.
Add a little winter interest to your yard by leaving the drying foliage. It makes a nice contrast to the snow, reminds you where each plant is located and also provides winter protection for birds.
Be sure to check your plants that you will be bringing indoors for insects. Donít be surprised by a few uninvited guests flying/crawling around your house.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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