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Battle pests for harvest in the garden

Japanese beetles can damage roses, as well as vegetable plants.submitted photos

The attack was vicious and silent, beginning in the dead of night following a four-inch July rain and severe winds. Deer attacked the zucchinis, squash and cucumbers, which had been planted outside the garden perimeter fence, decimating the lush leaves and leaving bare stalks.

Slugs invaded the young vegetables from the surface, both inside and outside the fence, burrowing into the tender fruits and destroying them in the process. Weeds, always present, grew vigorously following the heavy rains, attempting to choke the sunlight from the vegetable plants. With dawn and the hot temperature of mid-day, swarms of Japanese beetles infested the leaves of the green bean plants and attempted to consume them. The battle of the vegetable garden was on.

The vegetable gardener's main responsibility is to assure conditions that offer plants the ability to thrive in a safe and protected environment. An unanticipated onslaught of insects and animals can decimate a lush, productive garden. The gardener must be ready to protect the garden from marauders using physical and chemical barriers and rehabilitate damaged plants so they can continue their productivity.

To thwart deer from helping themselves to your vegetables, install fencing in areas that are exposed to and potentially enticing for deer. While many mature deer can comfortably jump a 5-foot fence, a 4-foot fence will work for small areas since deer cannot comfortably jump into the enclosed area without landing on the fencing.

Protecting larger areas, anything greater than 10 feet by 10 feet, may require higher fencing of 6 feet or more to assure exclusion. Installing metal fencing with a few inches into the soil, or turning plastic fencing out three or four inches at the bottom and edging the enclosure with stone or precast concrete material placed over the rolled out edge, excludes deer and many other hungry animals such as rabbits and groundhogs.

Slugs are challenging to combat and repel. Research into the options for combating slugs reveals many options, including environmentally friendly organic slug baits.Similarly, there are many approaches for controlling and eliminating Japanese beetles, including chemical treatments if needed. Weeds are ever present, and physical removal on a regular schedule is necessary.After battling the insects and physically protecting the garden, attention turns to rehabilitating the plants.Damage control to the vegetable garden requires pruning of the stalks stripped of leaves and removal and disposal of the damaged fruits. If chemicals are used for insect control, follow the label directions for the timing of application and harvesting of produce.Under the gardener's tender care, vegetable plants can sprout new growth, and harvesting can resume, usually within ten days to two weeks. Be vigilant for potential garden entry and subsequent damage by monitoring plant growth, environment and signs of insect or animal damage.Penn State Extension offers extensive resources on garden pest management. To learn about slugs, visit https://extension.psu.edu/slugs-as-pests-of-field-crops. Japanese beetle management is available at https://extension.psu.edu/japanese-beetle-control-on-ornamental-plants.Options for controlling deer damage are available at https://extension.psu.edu/gardening-with-deer.If you have questions about vegetable gardening, call the Butler County Master Gardener Garden Hotline at 724-287 4761, Ext. 7, or email the Master Gardeners at butlermg@psu.edu.Michael Pavelek II is a Penn State Extension Butler County Master Gardener.

Zucchini, squash and cucumbers are damaged by deer. To thwart deer from eating vegetables in your garden, install fencing in a small area where deer can’t comfortably jump.