Having pests in the garden can destroy a lot of our hard work and efforts. We’ve listed just a few of the common pests you’ll find foraging around in your garden, with some steps you can take to prevent or treat this issue.
Aphids target many plants including tomatoes, lettuce, kale, and cabbage. They suck out plant juices so that plants end up with distorted, deformed growth. They feed in large groups on leaf undergrowth and new leaves. To control aphids, use beneficial bugs (ladybugs love aphids), row cover to protect plants before they begin flowering, handpick them off the plant, or spray leaves with insecticidal soap or neem oil in the cool of the morning. You can also use water to simply spray them off the plant.
These green beetles are either striped or spotted with black. They happily feed on members of the cucurbit family, such as cucumbers, melons, and squash as well as many other plants. Adults feed on leaves, flowers, and fruit. Cucumber beetle damage will be noticeable through holes in the leaves, or the yellowing or wilting of leaves. To protect young plant starts, row cover can be used when first planting, then removed when the plant starts blooming to allow for pollination. As another preventative, kaolin clay can be sprayed on the plant to make it less desirable for egg laying/feeding. Beneficial nematodes can also be applied to the soil early spring to intercept the developing beetles in the soil after hatching.
These small pests make tiny little holes that resemble buckshot on the leaves of plants. They feed on potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and other members of the cole crop and nightshade family. Beneficial nematodes can be great for controlling flea beetle larvae if applied early in the season, as nematodes consume the larvae in the soil. Spraying the leaves with neem oil can help deter pests, or you can spray leaves with insecticidal soap.
These critters only target asparagus- both adults and larvae chew the tips and ferns. They overwinter in plant debris, so making yard cleanup a priority can be helpful for prevention. In early spring, adults feed on the fresh new tips, causing them to bend. The larvae feed on spears and foliage. Handpick them off plants, or apply neem or insecticidal soap. Watch out for little brown eggs on the spears, and scrape them off when found.
If deer frequent your area, it’s difficult to keep them from munching your garden. In addition to repellents that use scent or sound, (or motion activated water scarecrows) good fencing is key to keeping them out of the garden. You can also plant deer-resistant plants in your yard. More info on this can be found here.
Nothing is more ubiquitous than snails and slugs that munch on your growing plants. They can be hard to control, as they hide very effectively under garden debris and anything lying around the yard that provides dark, moist, and cool conditions: debris, boards, or plastic containers, etc. that they can hide under. Setting up traps, using copper barriers, or using Sluggo can help ward off these hungry pests.
Ways to be proactive about controlling pests in the garden
• Keep your yard and garden clean and free of debris and accumulated plant material to reduce breeding grounds for pests, as well as help prevent disease.
• Planting a forage garden to attract beneficial insects is a great way to control pest populations in your yard. Find a good list of plants to attract beneficial insects here.
• Sometimes gentle preventative methods and hand-picking insects off your plants just isn’t an option. When dealing with pests, be mindful when using any pesticide applications. For example, an insecticide like pyrethrum is non-selective and can kill beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees, and should be used cautiously and mindfully.
• Bear in mind that insect traps are not effective as a control, but are a great indicator of pest presence.