It is necessary to protect your broccoli plants from pests if it is to produce the desired result during the growing season. There are several occurrences that you have to contend with during the life cycle of your broccoli, from flea beetles to aphid attacks. Another common pest is the cabbage worm. The common methods you can employ for pest control include trap cropping, row covers and organic insecticides. This do-it-yourself article will cover these common pests and how to control them from destroying your broccoli crop. Pest control is a part of vegetable maintenance, and it can be done without resorting to chemicals.
Flea beetles are a small pest that can be difficult to manage. They tend to attack one family of vegetable at a time, which can spell doom for a broccoli crop if they invade. Fluctuating hot and cold periods in the weather or intermittent rain deters them, but if there is a steady warm period, they may be present. Using organic fertilizers helps to deter them in part, but it is not always enough. The pest is mobile and will attack many different types of plants, so crop rotation is not very effective in preventing them.
To prevent an infestation, try using living mulch. Studies have shown that this makes the crop less discernable because it is not set against the backdrop of dark soil. Another effective method is to use trap cropping. This is the process of planting vegetables designed to draw the attention of the pest. Though you will sacrifice the trap crop, you will save the main crop. For broccoli, planting radish varieties such as Chinese daikon and Snow Belle at 6 to 12 inch intervals among plants deters the flea beetle. Planting Giant Mustard is another option. If you are trying to protect a crop that is as attractive to the beetle, the trap may not work. You may also have to reseed if the pest destroys the trap.
With over 1300 types of aphids in North America, as a gardener you will most likely have to deal with the pest. They attack broccoli plants by sucking the juice from the stems and leaves, making them wilted and stunned. Aphids can also spread plant-killing viruses. Getting rid of aphids that have attacked your broccoli may take several attempts. The first thing to try is a blast of water. If you catch them early, hose off your plants thoroughly. If this does not work, put aluminum foil down on the ground around the crop, shiny side up. The reflected light will deter them. You can also lay out banana peels which repel aphids and also will break down and add potassium and phosphorus to the soil. Don’t use chemical fertilizers as it may add too much nitrogen to the soil and attract aphids. Lastly, encourage ladybugs to frequent your broccoli crop, for they feed on the pest.
Cabbage Worm and Cabbage Fly
You are probably familiar with the innocent looking white butterfly that is a common sight in the summer time. For a broccoli crop, however, this insect–the cabbage butterfly–will land on every one of your plants and deposit its eggs. These eggs become cabbage worms which can eat their way through a crop. Another bothersome pest is the cabbage fly which can be just as destructive. There are two methods for controlling these pests. The first is to use floating row covers. These white, transparent mesh covers let in sunlight while preventing both the butterfly and the fly from landing on your broccoli and laying their eggs. Row covers work not just for broccoli but all members of the cabbage family. The other method is to use Bacillus Thuringiensis, an organic insecticide. Mix it proportionately with water and spray it over the plants. The cabbage worms may get a few more bites, but they will soon die off.
Protect your broccoli plants from whatever pests decide to invade using any one of these methods. The first step is to identify what kind of pest it is. After you are sure, take action. Without resorting to chemical deterrents, pests can be dissuaded from making your broccoli crop their home.