Now that you have planned for your future harvest and planted your crops, proper care during the growing season becomes the most important success factor. Proper care involves meeting your crop’s water needs, weed control, and pest management.
Water management can be as easy as recording rainfall amounts and supplementing with additional irrigation if needed. Most crops will need about 1” of water per week. This amount can vary slightly based on soil type and the crop being grown. Sandy soils will require more frequent irrigation than heavier soils. Keeping the soil moist but not saturated is important.
Controlling weeds can be accomplished by using various mulches or cultivation practices. Plastic mulch works great for crops such as tomatoes and peppers that like the additional warming associated with its use. Organic mulches such as straw, leaves, and hay can be used and then incorporated after the season to further enrich the soil. Cultivation can be as simple as a hoe wielded with vigor, right up to a multi-row, tractor-mounted implement. Whatever method you choose, weed control can make or break your harvest. Every drop of water and plant nutrient the weeds consume is not available to your crops.
Many insect and disease infestations can be reduced by utilizing basic integrated pest management principles. Such as setting action thresholds, identifying the pest, prevention, and control. Action thresholds, the levels at which pests become an economic threat, are critical to guide future pest control decisions. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. Identifying and understanding the specific pest is necessary to determine the best control methods. Protecting plants from insect damage can be achieved by using fabric row covers or a surface applied protectant. This method works well for controlling flea beetles and striped cucumber beetles. Botanical and biological insecticides work well but most are very specific to the pest needing control. Again, knowing your pest is the first step in controlling it. Here is an informative website to help identify your insect pests http://vegipm.tamu.edu/imageindex.html. Utilizing resistant varieties will also help prevent many disease issues. We recommend that you contact your local Cooperative Extension agency for information specific to your area: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html or http://www.extension.org/.
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