Replace Soil?

Asked April 11, 2016, 5:57 PM EDT

Dear Garden Expert, I'm so excited to be able to ask my question! I quit gardening after the Summer 2014 season because I was SO discouraged by garden pests (cucumber beetles, squash bugs, Japanese Beetles, aphids, blight, squirrels, voles, and more). I started the garden in the Summer of 2007. It was great the first year, but gradually declined to the point where it was no longer fun. I let the garden go fallow for a season (Summer 2015) but neglected to clean it up and til it until this month. My concern is this: do I need to worry about dormant larvae in the soil? Should I replace the soil with new? I plan to put a tight wire mesh under the soil to thwart the voles, and a fence around the garden, to slow the deer. But can I reuse the soil without poisoning it? Would like to go organic. Already sprouted organic seeds. Please advise. Thank you thank you! I love gardening but would really enjoy some success. -

St. Mary's County Maryland vegetables insect and wildlife vegetable gardening

1 Response

First, don't give up! Many vegetables are easily grown in Maryland, but planning and preparation are essential for a good gardening experience. It is a good idea to grow the vegetables that you like to eat on a small scale. Take notes and monitor your plants weekly or sooner so you can get an idea of when problems occur.

See our Vegetable Profiles regarding planting and Profiles on Common Problems. For example cucumbers can be susceptible to feeding by the cucumber beetle which can transmit bacterial wilt.

For step by step information on food gardening look at our Best Practices for a Vegetable Garden and 5 Steps To A Vegetable Garden. You do not need to replace the soil. Begin with a soil test for pH, liming, and nutrient deficiencies. Be sure to add organic matter such as compost to the garden soil yearly to feed soil organisms and provide slow-release nutrients for plant growth. You can lightly till the soil to kill any overwintering eggs and larvae. See the steps below for fertillization, watering, and mulching.

It is a good idea to erect some type of fencing around your vegetable garden to prevent wildlife damage such as deer, rabbits, groundhogs, etc. See the attached link for fencing options
In general, no metal fencing is required under the bed to prevent burrowing animals. If you have problems with voles and you plant sweet potatoes or potatoes, you can trap the voles with snap traps or erect hardware cloth barriers to prevent damage. See our blog for more information

This growing season monitor your plants and send us photos so we can see what you may be dealing with. Good Luck and Happy Growing!!!
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