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Garden Help Desk: Do-it-yourself pest control is possible, but not all bugs are bad

By USU Extension - Special to the Daily Herald | May 25, 2024
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Insecticides don't discriminate between "good" guys and "bad" guys in the landscape. Always use the softest effective options and apply carefully to protect pollinators and beneficial predators in the landscape.
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Spiders are beneficial predators but also are one of the most common reasons homeowners want to use pesticides around the home. Keeping the area around the foundation clean and free of leaf litter and other plant debris will reduce the number of spiders that find their way indoors.
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Seed life can be extended with proper storage. It's important to keep the original packet so you can refer to the planting directions the following season.
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Any clean, dry, moisture-proof container can give your leftover seeds good protection. A little corner space on a refrigerator shelf provides the cool, dark, dry protection seeds need.

I’ve grown tired of paying an extermination company to spray the exterior of my home on a recurring basis. It becomes quite costly. Is it possible for me to do this on my own or does it have to be an extermination company? If I can do it with good results on my own, can you give me some guidance on the best way to do the job?

I assume you have been having your exterior sprayed because you don’t want to see insects and spiders inside your home. Keep in mind that there are very, very few insects or spiders that pose any kind of health risk. Almost all the insects and spiders you find are either harmless or beneficial.

You can certainly take over this pest control task on your own, but routine spraying is generally not necessary. Most people don’t do any routine spraying. As a matter of fact, routine spraying can create ongoing pest issues because it also kills the beneficial insects, predators and parasites that keep things balanced and under control. I generally don’t recommend exterior perimeter spraying unless there is a specific insect problem that outweighs the concerns about pesticide exposure.

If you would like to do your own spraying, it’s pretty simple. You will need to purchase an exterior pest control product. If the product isn’t ready-to-use, you’ll also need to purchase a sprayer. Read the product label carefully at least four to five times so you are completely familiar with the recommendations and limitations. Reading the label is something you should do each time you spray, even though you are using the same product you always use.

You will also need to wear latex/nitrile gloves, long sleeves, long pants and socks/shoes. The label may also tell you that you need to wear a hat. The label will tell you how many hours you need to keep people and pets away from the area after you spray. Once you are done spraying, the safest practice is to remove and launder your “spraying clothes” separately from the family laundry.

If you decide to try going a year without spraying, there may be an “adjustment period” and there are some things that you can do to reduce problems.

The most effective thing you can do to reduce insects and spiders in the home is to make sure you eliminate as many entry sites as possible. Make sure window and door frames fit tightly into the walls and caulk any small voids or cracks you find. The doors and windows themselves should fit tightly into the frames. Also, use weather stripping and make sure your door sweeps and thresholds are in good condition.

Check the places where your gas service and other utilities enter the home. Caulk any small crevasses or voids. Make sure there is screening over foundation vents and check the screening every year. Think like an insect and look for places where they might gain entry.

You also want to do what you can to reduce insect-attractive habitat around your home. If you have window wells and stair wells, make sure they are kept clean of litter and debris. Keep the area within 2 to 3 feet of your home clean and free of leaf litter, twigs and other debris that might provide shelter for insects. Reducing this shelter will also reduce the number of spiders near the home.

Another thing that will be helpful at first is to develop a tolerance for a few insects. Remember that almost always, they don’t pose a health concern. If there are specific insects you are concerned about, you can get information about them and control ideas for them at our website, extension.usu.edu, or by email at gardenhelp@usu.edu.

I didn’t use up all the seeds I bought this year. What is the best way to store them so that they’re good for planting next year?

Many garden seeds can be saved and used for several years if they are stored properly. Moisture and high temperatures will shorten the life of your seeds. Keep your seeds in their original packets and put the packets into airtight containers such as resealable plastic bags, snap-tight food containers or old canning jars in a cool, dry and dark place. Basement storage rooms and refrigerators are ideal locations. Avoid storing them on top of water heaters, in garages or in outdoor sheds.

Some seeds, like lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zinnia and cosmos, will germinate well for several years. For others, such as seeds from the onion family, lavender, pansy, viola and sweet corn, germination declines quickly after the first year. As your stored seeds get older and germination drops off, you can try planting more thickly to make up for the poor germination, but it’s usually more reliable to purchase fresh seeds.


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