Give Peas a Fighting Chance - Naturally

      Planting peas in your patio produce plots? Be prepared to prevent pests and plant pestilence without poisons with the following tips from of Metro Natural Gardening Expert Carl Grimm.

      It's popular to plant peas on Presidents' Day: it was too cold then, and it's still too cold
      Use a soil thermometer and plant only when soil is above 45, or just wait 'til after mid March.

      Beware of cutworms
      Cutworms are little brown caterpillars - the larvae of a brown moth.
      They overwinter in the soil and mow down new seedlings in the veggie garden.
      Pick and squish (or feed to your chickens) all those you see while preparing your soil.
      Create collars from toilet paper rolls or paper cups to place around individual plants or seeds. Once plants are six inches to a foot tall, you can take the collars off.
      You can also use a least-toxic spray called Bt, a living bacterium that makes caterpillars sick, but is harmless to humans and other creatures. Remember the label is the law and needs to be followed, even if the product is relatively low in toxicity.

      Beware of damping off disease
      Damping off is a soil-borne plant disease that kills sprouts and young seedlings, especially in the veggie garden where the drainage is poor and the soil wet.
      The best defense from damping off is good drainage and a rapidly-growing seedling.
      For drainage, use raised beds with lots of good, mature, aerobic compost or rich topsoil mix.
      To ensure speedy plant growth - and hence some resistance to the disease - don't plant until the soil is above 45, and sow seeds shallowly (not more that 1/2 inch deep since the temperature is usually higher near the surface). Avoid over-fertilizing, especially with nitrogen, as this can make the disease worse.
      Seeds or seedlings planted later, in warmer soil, should easily surpass ones struggling from the effects of planting too early.
      Finally, to avoid re-infecting plants later, rotate your similar crops to a new spot each year (peas and beans for example) so they are not planted in the same place again for at least three years. This is helpful for diseases, cutworms and other pests.

      And of course, beware of slugs
      Use a copper foil barrier and hunt slugs at night with a flashlight and clippers or a jar of soapy water to drop them in.
      You can also use a low-toxicity bait based on iron phosphate.
      Avoid metaldehyde or "meta-" anything-based baits as these are dangerous for pets and kids, and often look like pet food.

      If you have any metaldehyde bait, weed and feed or other toxic pesticides that you are ready to get rid of for the sake of your family's health, Metro is offering a coupon that allows you to dispose of pesticides safely for free.

      Get the pesticide disposal coupon, free seeds and more healthy yard and garden tips by calling Metro at 503-234-3000 or visiting