Stephanie Tittle, Woodland Farm’s horticulturist, gave us some down-home advice about pest control and weeding, ultimately how to supercharge your garden. She learned much of it while digging in the dirt alongside her grandfather in Pewee Valley, Kentucky. A retired tobacco farmer and avid gardener, he took care of her while her parents were at work. She gardened alongside him, and loved working with the soil. “I can’t imagine having a job that made me be inside,” she remarked.

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From her grandfather she learned that taste was more important than appearance. “He would just cut out a bad spot, not throw a whole piece of fruit away. People have been taught that what is shiniest and prettiest is the most desirable. You can still eat something if it has a spot on it. People need to be educated that it is safer to eat blemished fruits and vegetables than those sprayed with pesticide.”

When it comes to pest control, Stephanie trains her workers to identify certain eggs. “The beneficial ladybug egg mass looks a lot like a potato beetle egg mass. If you know the difference, you can destroy the potato bug eggs before they hatch. For people who want to grow organically, the more they know about their pests, the better their chances will be. Go to meetings for fruit and vegetable growers any time you can…use the internet…and learn more.”

Stephanie depends on the information on websites of entomology departments at several universities, including the University of Kentucky, Cornell and the University of North Carolina. She recommends checking the sites of universities in your area since pests vary by regions. “Educate, educate, educate yourself. Don’t believe everything you hear,” she said.”

When asked about weeds, she answered, “The first thing people learn when working here is what a weed looks like when it’s just a tiny thing coming out of the ground. With that knowledge, they can identify and pull it out when it’s young. I hear people talk about weeding being so horrible, but they are pulling up huge weeds, throwing piles on the ground. If those mature weeds have gone to seed, that just makes the problem worse. You need to know what you are working with.”

This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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