Fall Workshop Resources

Companion Planting and Pest Management

In early November we held Fall Workshops throughout Los Angeles. Thank you to all who came! We had a wonderful time learning about what different schools have in terms of pest and what they have tried in the past.

As promised, here is an overview of what we talked about:


– the practice of planting a fast-growing crop between a slower-growing one in order to make the most of your garden space.


    • Covers/protects soil from cats
    • Protects water from evaporating
    • Increases amount of plantable area/production
    • Making use of vertical spacing (and sometimes disorienting pests)
    • Decrease erosion and weeds (nurse cropping) by decreasing open space
    • Increases biodiversity: less chance pests will destroy entire garden beds


    • Crops must be harvested on time to ensure enough space for “buddy plants.

Square Foot Gardening 

– the practice of dividing the growing area into 12″x 12″ square sections. The aim is to assist the planning and creating of a small but intensively planted vegetable garden. It results in a simple and orderly gardening system. Learn more at PSU Extension and see a class activity at NCSU Extension.

Companion Planting

– the practice of planting of different crops in proximity for any of a number of different reasons, including pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial creatures, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity. An example of companion planting would be the “Three sisters.” You can see a list of plants at Cornell Extension.

Pests & Diseases

Most Common Issues

  • Powdery mildew: fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants. Solution: Mix 1 Tablespoon of milk and one cup of water and spray on affected leaves. Can be used effectively as a preventative.
  • Aphids: A tiny little bug that lives by sucking the sap out of plants. They produce fast and can wipe out all your plants. Solution: You can spray them with water to wash them away; remove them with your hand; or make a homemade insecticide. We recommend starting with 2 Tablespoons of dish soap per 1 gallon of water. Increase to 5 Tablespoons if needed. Test one plant first. Do not use if hotter than 90 degrees.
  • Video: What ate my plant

Pest Management Tips

  • Your first line of defense are predatory insects. Attract them by planting flowers that they like and learn what they look like at different stages.
  • Avoid using anything on leaves if it is hotter than 90 degrees outside. Even soap/water or other household mixtures as this could cause leaves to burn. Spray on non-windy days and spray only on plants with insect problems–most sprays work only on contact.
  • Rotate your crops: plant in different sections. If your broccoli has aphids, plant broccoli in another section next time. This will also help your soil not get depleted of the same nutrients every time.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring bacteria that is harmless to people, birds, bees, aquatic wildlife, etc. It comes in different strains that affect specific types of insects.
  • Neem oil is derived from the neem tree. Non-toxic to mammals, bees, birds, etc. Works on a lot of different pests including, but not limited to: aphids, scab, powdery mildew, scale, thrips, etc.
  • Predatory nematodes are very small, worm-like creatures that live in moist soil. You can purchase different types to go after specific pests. Examples:
    • Heterorhabditis bacteriophora > Japanese beetle, European chafers, and other grubs
    • Steinernema feltiae > fungus gnats, thrips, cutworm, armyworms, etc.

Thank you to the schools that hosted our workshops: 135th ES, Winnetka ES, and Rockdale ES!