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Good to Grow: Controlling pests without harsh chemicals

With the spring planting and summer garden seasons upon us, it will not be long before some type of disease or critter is having its way with my garden crops.

I spend a lot of time and energy each year trying to stay ahead of these types of problems. No matter how hard I try, something always sneaks in on one of my plantings.

Luckily, in today’s world of gardening we have many options for combating pests and diseases. However, you have to choose which way you will go about controlling your garden issues. By that, I mean, with chemicals, mechanical or engineered controls. I myself deploy all three methods and, like I said, I still have some pest issues each season. So, remember no pest control is 100 percent bulletproof.

With that said, let’s look at these three types of pest and disease control methods.

I put chemicals into two categories: hard and soft. Hard chemicals are ones not labeled with the Organic Materials Review Institute certification on the bottle. Soft chemicals will have the OMRI listing right on front of the bottle. Serenade Garden Disease control or Neem oil would be considered a soft chemical, both of which I use in my garden.

I rarely use hard chemicals around my home and garden. Roundup and Carbaryl (Sevin) are two very common ones used around home gardens. Just make sure to read the label and follow it to the letter when working with and applying these chemicals near dwellings.

Picking the chewing pests off by hand is my favorite mechanical control. The key here is to always look at the underside of your plants’ leaves. This is where most insects hang out during the day. Beetles are the easiest to pluck from plant foliage. If aphids are the problem, you can wash them off your plants with a strong blast from a garden hose. It works quite well when their population numbers are low.

Hosting purple martins or hoeing your garden are perfect examples of mechanical pest control.

Engineered pest control methods are my garden’s bread and butter. What I do here is make cages out of PVC and use special clips to secure insect netting around the pipe.

This netting lets rain and 88 percent of sunlight through. I have grown near perfect Swiss chard and worm-free cabbages by using this method, without any other pest control used.

Having a good fence around your garden can go a long way toward safeguarding your plants from bigger animals. If it’s the deer you are trying to keep out, I have only seen one thing that truly works, and that is a strong, 8- to 10-foot high fence. Other deer controls work, but only for a limited amount of time before they find a work-around.

Trellising crops keeps air moving around your plants, which helps cut down on plant fungal diseases and makes it easier to spot problems before they go critical.

These are just a few of my favorite ways to combat garden pests without having to use harsh hard chemicals to get the job done. If you still find yourself going to the chemical aisle every time you have a garden woe or are at a loss for what to do without a chemical, give one of these other methods a try and see what you can still grow.

Chris Postalwait is the agricultural and environmental research station and greenhouse manager for West Virginia State University Research & Development Corporation. He is also the former owner of Orange Vine LLC., a wholesale commercial pumpkin and vegetable farm in Mason County. Contact Chris at

Funerals Today, Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Armstead, David - Noon, Chapman Funeral Home, Winfield.

Crawford, Charles - 7:30 p.m., Andrews' residence, Belleaire at Devonshire, Scott Depot.

Duff, Catherine Ann - 11 a.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Jarrett, Shirley - 1 p.m., Mt. Juliet United Methodist Church, Belle.

Lawrentz, Deo Mansfried - 11 a.m., Koontz Cemetery, Clendenin.

McGraw, Judy Fay - 2 p.m., Jodie Missionary Baptist Church, Jodie.

Mullins, Alice Ellen (Blessing) - Noon, Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Staats, Anthony Vernon “Tony” - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.