Gardening is a rewarding activity that can provide fresh produce, beautiful flowers, and a tranquil outdoor space. However, creating and maintaining a healthy garden is not without its challenges. This blog post discusses one of the most common garden problems – pests and solutions on how to deal with them. After this post you’ll feel more equipped to handle them in the garden and protect crops.
This post is all about one of the most common gardening problems.
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Common Pests and Infestations in the Garden
Gardeners often encounter a number of pests that damage plants, ranging from tiny insects to larger animals like rodents and birds. A strategic, preventative approach to pest control helps maintain a healthy garden.
Insect Pests Control
Insect infestations can severely harm your garden. Below I’ve put together the most common insect pests you’ll encounter, along with how to keep them under control.
Aphids can quickly get out of control in the garden. Not only that, but once they take over and infest a plant, they’re very difficult to get rid of. So it’s important to keep them in check.
- Blast them with water. If there aren’t too many aphids on the plant, you can simply blast them with water.
- Attract beneficial insects like lacewings, ladybugs, and syrphid fly larvae. These are aphids’ natural enemies.
- DIY your own insecticidal soap
- Use neem oil
[RELATED POST: How to Get Rid of Aphids on Tomatoes]
[RELATED POST: How is Neem Oil Safe for Vegetables?]
Leaf miners are little insects that burrow into the leaves of plants. These little critters then create tunnels within the leaf (or mine), creating dead tissue. They love to feed on spinach, swiss chard, tomato, cucumbers, celery, beans, peas, eggplants, pepper, watermelon, beets, onion, and lettuce.
- Keep the garden clean. By removing any debris, it reduces the amount of food available to them. Additionally, by disturbing the soil, it kills the pupae.
- Use a physical barrier like a mesh net around the plants.
- Attract beneficial insects like lacewings and parasitic wasps.
- Use neem oil.
Spider mites look like little moving dots and are really tiny. They live in colonies on the underside of leaves. These mites cause damage to plants by sucking the sap out of it.
- Once you spot spider mites on the underside of a leaf, spray them down with water. By providing an adequate amount of water to plants during dry conditions, it reduces the risk of spider mites.
- Mix dish soap with water. The combination of the two suffocates them.
- Use neem oil.
Cabbage worms are such a nuisance when it comes to vegetables like cabbage and brussel sprouts. Actually they affect a whole range of vegetables within the cruciferous family. These little nuisances later turn into the cabbage moth. Chances are if you have any of these types of crops, you can quickly have an infestation.
- A simple way is to just use row covers over any crops that are susceptible to cabbage worms.
- Hand pick them off of your plants.
- Attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps.
- Companion plant – this means planting crops together that are friends and compliment one another. Mint, rosemary, and thyme are examples of herbs that are great deterrents.
- Homemade remedies, like my garlic oil spray. Check out my post below to grab the recipe.
[RELATED POST: What is a White Cabbage Moth and Homemade Cabbage Moth Spray]
This beetle is originally from Japan where it doesn’t happen to be a pest. However, it was introduced to the United States through New Jersey. In the United States, it’s unfortunately a pest. You may be familiar with Japanese beetles since they also like turfgrass. They have a metallic green head and thorax with copper colored wings. Grubs are their larvae. These beetles can cause serious damage to plants and affect over 300 species of flowers and crops here in the US. Their larvae feed on the roots of grass and other plants.
- Hand pick them off of your plants.
- Use neem oil.
- Row covers are helpful to so many different pests, including Japanese beetles.
- Homemade solution of vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, liquid dishwasher detergent, and water.
- How to make:
Combine 1 teaspoon of detergent and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Shake the mixture well so they’re incorporated. Next add 1 quart of water and then 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. Shake the mixture well. Pour your homemade concoction into a spray and spray away!
- This mixture should only be applied in the mornings and used sparingly!
Cutworms are the larvae of a moth. The larvae are often confused with the grubs of Japanese beetles. These moths are night flying moths and are known as miller moths. The adult moths lay their eggs between spring and fall. The eggs hatch at different times during the year. Eggs hatch in both the spring and the fall. Any eggs that are laid in the fall then overwinter in the soil or woodpiles. Any eggs that overwinter hatch in the spring of the following year.
- Handpick the cutworms off of plants
- Make plant collars to protect crops.
- Use diatomaceous earth.
- Introduce beneficial insects into the garden and attract birds.
Hornworms are very large green caterpillars that have a tail in the shape of a horn. These caterpillars do heavy damage to plants and love to eat tomato plants. However, they can also be found on eggplants, potatoes, and pepper plants. Hornworm damage is easy to identify as they eat whole limbs of plants that turn out stumpy looking.
- Handpick them off.
- Attract beneficial insects, like parasitic wasps.
- This past summer I got to witness a hornworm in the garden. A parasitic wasp had laid its eggs on or in the hornworm and they hatched. The hornworm then has these little white spine-looking objects coming out of it. These are the larvae that are now feasting on the hornworm.
Colorado potato beetle
These beetles and their larvae wreck havoc on potato crops. And no, they’re not just found in Colorado! They don’t just eat potatoes but also other nightshades like eggplant, tomatoes, and pepper plants.
- Remove the eggs if you spot them. This is how I was able to successfully keep them from destroying my potato crop. It’s a lot of work since you have to check underneath the leaves of your plants. The eggs are small, orange little circles that are laid in clusters on the underside of the leaf. Whenever I found them, I took a piece of tape and collected the eggs off of the leaf using the tape.
- Sometimes you can find the adults mating on the plants or just walking around on the plants. Eliminate the adults.
- Attract birds and beneficial insects.
- Use neem oil.
Squash bugs are one of the more difficult pests in the garden to get under control. Of course, their favorite food is anything to do with squash, hence their name! These insects inject a toxin into plants and suck the sap out. The plant begins to wilt since it becomes nutrient deficient. After enough damage is done, the plant dies.
It’s very important to spot squash bugs early to get them under control. Without early intervention, they can ruin an entire crop. Here are some methods to use:
- Hand pick the adults off of the plant.
- Remove the eggs from the leaves. Squash bugs lay brown eggs in clusters.
- Keep the garden clean by removing any debris.
Other methods are preventative measures. After each season, remove old squash vines. Cover squash crops during the spring time and uncover them when it’s time for them to be pollinated. Consider delaying planting until the early months of summer. Plant companion plants to deter these pests. Squash crops that are resistant to these pests can also help.\
Slugs and their shelled cousins, snails, are very attracted to lots of crops in the garden. They love lettuce, all different kinds of cabbage, strawberries, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, basil, dill, and marigolds. There are a few ways to keep them under control with organic methods.
Method: There are a couple of methods that can be used to get rid of slugs.
- The first option is just to hand pick them.
- The second method is to use live traps. By traps it’s not what you’re thinking. You want to create physical barriers to them like mulch or rocks. This makes it difficult to get to the plant they want to get to.
- A third option is to use things like coffee grounds or a beer trap.
- Finally, there are organic control options. Use either diatomaceous earth or copper wire.
[RELATED POST: A Quick Guide: What do Snails Eat and Population Control]
After discussing all of these pests, I hope you feel more comfortable and prepared to handle them this growing season. The best solution is to routinely and consistently inspect crops. It may seem like a lot of work to constantly check them, but it’ll pay off in the long run once you start harvesting your beautiful crops.
This post was all about one of the most common gardening problems.