The best strategy against garden pests iis prevention. Have you noticed sickly plants attract bugs? Keeping your plants as healthy as possible is No. 1 against insects.

Some folks new to vegetable gardening believe they must scour insects from their plots. They reach for a powerful, broad-spectrum pesticide. That should be the last resort, not the first.

Once you start using a chemical, you’ll probably have to keep using it. You’ve killed all the bugs, the good along with the bad. Without insect predators, your garden is wide open for the next attack.

Over the years, a big problem develops. Insects become resistant to pesticides. You’ll have to use successively more powerful chemicals.

The best strategy is prevention. Have you noticed sickly plants attract bugs? Keeping your plants as healthy as possible is No. 1 against insects.

Our friends: birds

Encouraging predators is another. Birds are a major consumer of insects. A lot of folks try to scare them off. That’s old thought, keeping the crows out of the corn patch.

Most gardens would benefit from a bird feeder nearby or a stand of sunflowers for seed.

Can you buy predators? You can. Ladybugs are 1,500 for $6.49 online. The problem is they are migratory and have wings. There’s no guarantee they will stay in your yard.

Your money is better spent on a crop barrier, called netting. It allows the sun to penetrate but not the bugs. It’s especially effective against cabbage and bean beetles and will keep the crows off newly planted corn. Netting is available at garden-supply stores.

Note that traps, while effective, have a side problem. They can attract more insects than they kill. A Japanese beetle trap with a floral lure will attract beetles from all over the neighborhood.

Keeping your beds clean and free of dead garden wastes helps stop insects. This is where they breed.

There are times when all steps fail and you suffer a major insect attack. Millions of aphids can appear overnight. All manner of beetles seem to tell their friends of a susceptible plot.

Rotenone once was the darling of the organic movement. It’s made from plants in the pea family.

A recent study indicated it might cause Parkinson’s disease, resulting in a ban in England.

It is toxic to fish and should not be used if ponds are present. It is being phased out for agricultural uses but still is available for home gardeners.

Homemade help

The Internet contains many natural recipes for homemade insecticides, including one with garlic and mineral oil said to stop aphids.

Soak 4 ounces of chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil for 24 hours. Add a teaspoon of fish emulsion and a pint of water.

Store in a glass container. Dilute 1 part solution to 20 parts water for use.

For severe outbreaks, you may need a synthetic chemical.

Consult labels carefully. Make sure the chemical you choose is listed to solve your problem. Then use it minimally.

Contact Jim Hillibish at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.