Plan your garden to reduce risk of pests
Rotate the crops in your vegetable garden to control pest problems. This is the easiest way to practice organic, integrated pest management gardening.
Many insects and diseases attack vegetables within the same plant family. By planting vegetables from a different family in a problem area, you minimize the chances for a repeat infection. The basic families include cabbage (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes and turnips); cucumber (gourds, melons, squashes and cucumbers); nightshade (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers); goosefoot (spinach and beets); onion (leeks, garlic and onions); legume (peas and beans), and the carrot, celery and parsnip group.
• The containers you are going to use for seasonal plantings should have at least one bottom hole for drainage. A layer of gravel in the bottom of the container is not necessary.
Fill the container with a lightweight, fast-draining soilless mix and avoid using heavy garden soil even if you amend it with compost. Leave enough space between the top of the growing medium and the lip of the pot to make watering easy.
Very large containers can be partially filled with wood chips, plastic bags filled with packing peanuts or empty plastic pots turned upside down to conserve soilless mix. Separate the wood chips from the growing mix with landscape fabric. • Seedlings that have been grown in containers should be in moist soil before being replanted in your garden. When you remove the plant and its root ball from the container, spread out or cut all the roots that have encircled the root ball. These roots have grown in a circle inside the container and could eventually girdle or choke the plant if not redirected to grow out and away from the plant.
This will help the new plant get established in the ground more quickly. Monitor watering needs carefully after planting as the lightweight container soil can dry out quickly and stress the plants.
Generally, plants in containers need more frequent, light watering to get them established with roots growing out into the garden soil.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.