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Wheeler: Answering reader questions about the veggie garden

POSTED: May 25, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Question: What can I do to prevent insect pests in my vegetable garden?

Answer: Plant as early as suitable temperatures permit. Get plants established before pests arrive.Rotate crops to prevent buildup of pests in an area of the garden. Plant vegetables from different plant families or groups in successive years.

For example, do not plant tomatoes year after year in the same spot in the garden. Rotate tomatoes with corn or beans.

Plant vegetable varieties that have built-in tolerance or resistance to certain insect pests. And always buy and plant fresh seed and healthy, insect-free vegetable plants.

Till the soil in winter to expose insects and eggs to cold temperatures and drying winds.

Q: How should I properly water my vegetable garden?

A: Do not stand in the garden and water lightly. This is the worst possible method of watering vegetable plants. When you do water, do so thoroughly to encourage plant roots to seek moisture and nutrients deep in the soil. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.A thorough soaking every five to six days is usually sufficient. Of course, weather conditions, such as temperature and rainfall will also affect frequency of watering.

Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation for best results as overhead watering is usually a very inefficient way to water. Soaker and drip irrigation places the water near the roots and not in the middle of the rows.

Also, soaker and drip systems do not wet the foliage, thus helping to reduce leaf spot and other diseases.

Vegetables need moisture, but overwatering is harmful. Overwatering not only wastes water but waterlogs the soil, preventing roots from getting air. Overly wet soils are also much more likely to be attacked by root rots and fungus.

Watering early in the day reduces water loss by evaporation and allows the foliage to dry quickly. Wet foliage overnight encourages diseases. Avoid watering at midday as evaporative losses are highest at this time.

Q: I have almost no space for a garden. Can I grow vegetables in containers?

A: There are a number of vegetable varieties suitable for growing in containers that have small plants and produce either full-sized or miniature fruits.Containers should be large (at least 5 gallons) to prevent rapid loss of moisture and provide adequate room for root growth. One tomato plant will need a 5-gallon bucket, whereas two peppers or two cucumbers can be grown in a 5-gallon container.

The biggest challenges will be to properly water and fertilize the plants. They will need more care and attention to do well.

For more information on gardening, give us a call at the office. We will be glad to help.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears weekly and on gainesville


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