Use Netting for Frost and Insect Control

One of the things that many home gardeners use netting for is frost protection (but not insect control) but there is increasing use of fine netting in Europe that we can learn from here in our home gardens.

Organic fruit growers have been using fine mesh netting (white in color) for hail protection as well as codling moth protection. For the record, the mesh size on this product is .12″ by .29″ (very fine so insects can’t get through but air and light can)

Research in France shows this size mesh also reduces aphid damage (rosy apple aphid) and there are increasing moves to use it commercially as their pesticide regulations are much more restrictive than N.A. commercial orchards.

It is a great way to control a range of insects and it is applied in spring “after” flowering is finished (to allow bees to pollinate the fruit). Apparently, in France, the microclimate temperature increases under the cloth are minor and don’t bother fruit. I can’t say the same here in N.A. so you’d have to run some trial on small amounts of fruit.

I also suspect it could be used in the production of a wide range of vegetables that weren’t insect pollinated (like tomatoes that are also wind-pollinated) or that we don’t want or need pollinated (cole crops etc) Crops with bee pollination and insect damage that coincide (squash family) wouldn’t work too well with this system.

Bottom line

This is a perfect way to increase pest management in the home garden without having to resort to any kind of pesticide. One or two short trees (dwarf or semi-dwarf) could easily be covered.

The issue is going to be finding the netting and when/if I find that resource, I’ll pass it along here. If any of you do find tree-sized netting for consumers, post it here.

In the meantime, here’s a link to Frost Fabric which will do almost the same thing and provides a measure of frost control for northerly gardens. (Probably a better bet in the long run anyway.) While it’s not the same thing as the material the Europeans seem to be using, it is readily available and will act to prevent insect damage on vegetables.

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Bounce Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets and Fungus Gnats.

Image courtesy Open Clip Art Pixabay

This is no longer news as it was originally posted in 2011, but it’s still a good technique for controlling this pest.

Here’s the deal.

Raymond A. Cloyd (Kansas State University, Dept. of Entomology) and colleagues hung these dryer sheets around infected plants and found they did have repellent properties. Fungus gnats avoided the area. (I’m told there’s also anecdotal evidence these sheets repel mosquitoes as well) 🙂

The chemicals in the sheets were analyzed and found to contain Linalool — known to be toxic to mites and Citronella — lemon scent we already know has short-term repelling characteristics. There were other chemicals associated with insect repelling as well but you get the idea. These things tend to work.

They are not going to be considered strictly organic by any stretch of the imagination.

And just to make life a bit more interesting, other products in the class may contain other chemicals that don’t work as well so you’re going to have to do your own trials if you decide to go down this road.

My bottom line

Fungus gnats survive on soil algae for the most part and this is caused mostly by overwatering. So fix your watering first. Don’t rely on one more set of chemical cures to counteract poor garden management practices.

Having said that, if I were still starting hundreds of thousands of seeds every spring in the nursery, I’d have to think about hanging them around the propagation house like clouds. 🙂

We never really had a serious outbreak but here and there (mostly due to variations in the ventilation patterns or soil differences) I’d see them pop up.

A bit of insecticidal soap as a spray and drench also worked nicely for me.

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