Time Your Plantings to Avoid Pests

Out-smart common garden pests by strategically timing your planting.


You can prevent many pest problems by timing your plantings carefully. Here are 10 pernicious pests that can be foiled just by changing the planting time of their veggie targets.

aphids suck the life out of your plantsAphids

Aphids suck the life out of many garden plants with their piercing mouth parts and often transmit viruses. Plants that have curled, distorted leaves or that are covered with sticky honeydew are likely aphid infested.

If these tiny, pear-shaped pests have plagued cool-season crops like lettuce and broccoli in the past, start them indoors early so you can set out good-sized transplants 4 to 5 weeks before your last frost date. In other words, start lettuce and other quick-growers indoors 8 weeks before your last frost. Start broccoli, cauliflower, and other slower-growers indoors 12 weeks before your last frost date. Early planting will help to minimize the aphid-caused virus problems. And don't let cool-season crops linger as the weather warms up—pull them up and replace them before they bolt and become an aphid breeding ground.

Here's a fall-planting tip for gardeners in the South: Wait 2 to 4 weeks after most of the cotton is harvested before you plant your fall crops of lettuce and spinach. Aphids love to feed on cotton and they will search for their next meal right after the crop is harvested. By setting out fall transplants after the cotton is harvested, your crops will be less likely to be troubled by hungry aphids.

Cabbage Looper

To prevent these light green caterpillars from chewing up your cabbage and other brassicas, choose quick-to-mature varieties that you can harvest by late spring or early summer—before the first wave of loopers hits. Start the seeds indoors, 12 weeks before the last frost date, then transplant them to the garden when they are 7 to 8 weeks old.

To avoid fall crop damage, start transplants indoors about 18 weeks before your first fall frost so you can put 7-to 8-week-old plants in the garden about 10 weeks before your first fall frost.

Prevent Damage from Aphids, Cucumber Beetles and More with this Shiny Cure! Learn more.