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The crushing disappointment of losing a prized plant to pests is something that's familiar to every gardener. It doesn't take many of these experiences to decide that there can never be too many options available for dealing with the various slugs, bugs, and other critters which take an interest in your veggie patch.
The quickest solution may be to spray your plants with pesticides, but while these chemicals can certainly keep undesirables under control, there are also serious side effects for the harmless and beneficial insects that share your garden's eco-system. And what's more, many people are rightly wary of using chemicals on food crops, however well tested and guaranteed for safety they may be.
Taking the organic route to pest control means attacking the problem on several fronts, and one of the most natural and effective methods is to plant trap crops. Here's how they work.
What Exactly Are Trap Crops?
Trap crops, also known as decoy crops or sacrificial crops, are a variation on the companion planting theme. The basic idea is to plant one or more species of plants alongside your main crops, choosing the extra plants carefully to provide an attractive home and food source for the pests you're targeting.
With luck, the pests will be lured away from your main crops, reducing the damage they cause. And as an added bonus, the attackers will be handily gathered together in one place so that you can collect and dispose of them efficiently.
You can either monitor the decoy plants for new arrivals, and pick them off by hand for disposal by bagging, burning, drowning, or simply squishing. Or, for more deeply infested plants, a handheld vacuum cleaner makes short work of sucking up insects by the hundred, but be sure to dispose of the cleaner's contents carefully afterwards.
However, depending on how fast-growing the sacrificial plant is, it's often better to wait for a sizeable infestation, then uproot the entire plant and bag or burn it to deal with the problem in one swoop.