BHG019-Proactive Tips for Pest Control

Burpee Home Gardens Podcast with Joe Lamp'l

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Being proactive can go a long way to having a healthy garden. In this podcast, hear what Joe Lamp’l has to say about proactively reducing the chances of keeping pests at bay in an environmentally responsible way.

BHG019-Proactive Pest Control

If you’ve listened to previous episodes of this series, you’ll likely recognize a favorite word of mine when it comes to having a healthy garden: proactive! Last week we talked about how being proactive, can go a long way to having a disease free garden. Today, I want to follow up on that by talking about how those same “proactive” measures can keep garden pests at bay too!

So the first thing to know and understand is that all pests have a lifecycle. And there are either three or four stages of development from start to finish. Their physical change is dramatic from start to finish. But what you really need to know is, the most vulnerable time of any pest’s life (and the easiest time to control) is in those earliest stages.

As insects mature, they often develop natural defenses, such as hard outer shells or covers that repel certain controls by us, such as insecticidal soap. But if we catch their presence early enough, by being proactive, we can effective use those controls with great success. More importantly, we can break that life cycle and reduce or even prevent future generations from overtaking our gardens. But you have to act fast. Pests mature quickly, and if a few short days, you can miss your window of opportunity.

Proactive Pest Control in action. Found under a leaf, just hatched squash bugs while others still in eggs.

Another very important key to proactive pest control is to actively seek out future signs of trouble, before it gets out of hand. Pest insects have survived for millions of years by flying under the radar so to speak while managing to live their full lives undisturbed. And one of their favorite tricks of survival is hiding. So as you inspect your garden, don’t assume that just because you can’t see any pests, that they’re absent from your garden. It’s really important to look under the leaves of your plants. Most egg clusters of pests will be found there, along with all stages of their life. Pests know they’re highly targeted by many predators, including beneficial insects, birds, and of course people, so you’re not likely to see many basking in the sun of a warm summer day.

So once you spot the foes of your garden, what’s the best method of control? Well, yet another reason for being proactive is that you can use manual controls. In other words, you can pick them off with your hands! Now I know this sounds creeppy to a lot of you, and I get that. But if you don’t see yourself picking off bugs, try what I do all the time; early in the morning, grab a cup with a little soapy water and do your bug patrol. When it’s still early and cool, pests are still very sluggish. When you spot one, hold your cup underneath, and tap the leaf. They’ll drop right in. This method works really well for Japanese Beetles, but it’s good for a lot of pests. Just don’t make the mistake of confusing the cup of bugs for your coffee!

OK, so let’s recap quickly: understand that all insect pests have a life cycle, and most environmentally friendly methods of control work best at those earliest stages. Next, patrol often, and look everywhere, especially under the leaves. And when you find them, try using manual controls for a really safe and effective way of dealing with your pests.

So there you have it. Another reason being proactive is important to a healthy garden. And if you like what you’ve heard, there are 26 of these Burpee Home Gardens podcasts, all created to help in your gardening success. From planting to harvest, we’re there every step of the way with a new podcast every week. You can subscribe to the series for free in iTunes, or listen online at, where you can also find great ideas and inspiration any time.

Now go get dirty!

Joe Lamp’l




Joe Lamp'l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award winning PBS television series Growing A Greener World. Off camera, Joe dedicates his time to promoting sustainability through his popular books, Compost Confidential blog, podcast series, and nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Follow Joe on Twitter

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