The growing season is winding down. Some of us are hoping for an Indian summer so our tomatoes will ripen. Some of us are ready for the first frost. Most of us are tired of dealing with pests.
If you had a pest problem this year, it is a pretty good bet you’ll have the same pest problem next year…so what, are you just supposed to give up? There are some things you can do to reduce pest populations next year.
Our spring rains gave us a bumper crop of weeds. Many of these weeds have already gone to seed. If they are flowering, cut off the flowers to prevent seed production. If they have set seed, carefully remove the seed heads and dispose of them. Do not just cut off the seed heads and leave them on the ground. If you do, you have just seeded next year’s weed crop. If they have dispersed seed, try to rake or scoop up what you can. Do some research online so you can identify what these plants look like as seedlings. That way you will recognize them next year and pull them as soon as they appear.
If you had a particularly bad infestation this year, and hand pulling next year’s weed crop seems a daunting task, think about using a preemergence herbicide. Preemergence herbicides kill germinating seeds before they emerge from the soil. They will not destroy the whole seed bank, so it may require several years to remove the infestation caused by the weeds that got away from you this year. Preemergence herbicides are applied to the soil and watered in with at least ½ inch of water. If you can plan the application to coincide with a major precipitation event, it may be watered in for you. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate you will have to irrigate to activate the herbicide. Preemergence herbicides can last a few months to 10 months, so read the label and be thoughtful about your future plants for the areas where you are applying these herbicides. They can be applied in fall for control of winter annuals and in spring for control of summer annuals.
Insect pests gave many local gardeners trouble this past season. To prevent similar problems next year practice good sanitation now. Clean up and dispose of all insect-infested plant debris. Do not try to compost these materials. Placing infested plants in a cool compost pile gives the insect pests a great place to overwinter. If possible, amend and turn your soil now to disrupt insects that overwinter in the soil. Identify the pests that troubled you this year and research their biology. For instance, are there plants that they will overwinter on? If so, remove those types of plants that are near your vegetable beds or ornamental plantings.
To learn more about preemptive pest control, check out Cooperative Extension’s Grow Your Own, Nevada! program. For information, visit growyourownnevada.com. For information and a gallery of weed and insect pests, visit www.mangeNVpests.info.
Melody Hefner is the Urban IPM and Pesticide Safety Education Program Assistant for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have a gardening question? Ask a Master Gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org.