Growing Green

By Robin Trott, Extension Educator

This cool summer brings challenges to our gardens, with excess water, insufficient sunlight, fungal diseases and numerous pests. Colorado potato beetles, aphids, leaf hoppers and cucumber beetles are particularly active, prompting many homeowners to turn to insecticides for relief.

Identifying Pests

Before using insecticides, accurately identify the pests in your garden. Many beneficial insects in Minnesota, such as honey bees, lacewings, various beetles, syrphid flies, spechid wasps, and ambush bugs, provide essential services like pollination and pest control. Avoid harming these helpful insects. Use the “What Insect is this?” diagnostic tool at

Choosing the Right Insecticide

Select a product effective against the identified pest and suitable for the specific plant. For food crops, ensure the insecticide is safe for use on edibles. Misusing chemicals can result in unharvestable produce. Always read and understand the label instructions before purchasing. If unsure, consult a store specialist or contact the extension office.

Application Guidelines

Follow application instructions precisely – more is not better. Incorrect usage can harm plants or cause illness. Consider using ready-to-use chemicals instead of concentrates to minimize risks.

Organic and Synthetic Options

Both organic and synthetic pesticides are available, including insecticidal soaps, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), NEEM, horticultural oils, pyrethrins and rotenone. Note that organic does not mean non-toxic; read labels to understand hazards and necessary precautions.

Safety Tips

– Wear protective clothing.

– Avoid smoking or eating while handling chemicals.

– Apply only the specified amount.

– Keep chemicals tightly closed and out of reach of children and pets.

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Happy gardening!

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“It’s easy to cry ‘bug’ when the truth is that you’ve got a complex system and sometimes it takes a while to get all the components to co-exist peacefully.” ~Doug Vargas