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Garden Pests

Common Garden Bugs and How to Get Rid of Them

Garden pests and plant diseases can wreak havoc on flowers and plants creating an incredible amount of damage. While there is a time and place for the appearance of small, crawly creatures in our lives – bees that help pollinate flowers, spiders that help eat mosquitoes – more often than not, their presence does more harm than good. This is especially true when their main food source is the very plants we are growing for our own diets.

Garden pests vary depending on the location/climate and the plants being grown. Some garden bugs aren’t picky and will attack indiscriminately; other pests are species specific and only damage certain plants. Some of the most widespread and common garden pests are described below.

Top Ten Garden Pests

  1. Aphids

Aphids are one of the most common garden pests, affecting most fruits and vegetables, ornamental plants and shade trees throughout North America. The minuscule pear-shaped insects attach themselves to the plant, sucking sap through two tubes projecting rearward from their abdomen. This causes distorted foliage and leaf drop if left untreated. Excretions left behind on plants support sooty mold growth while the feeding itself can spread viral diseases. Hot pepper or garlic sprays can be used as preventative methods. Treatment options include washing infested plants with a heavy spray of water, encouraging predatory/parasitic insects such as aphid midges, lacewings and lady beetles. In cases of severe infestation it is necessary to apply insecticidal soap, neem, or horticultural oil to affected plants.

  1. Cabbage Worms

These velvety green worms do a great amount of damage to cabbage and other brassica-family species when allowed to gain a foothold in plants. Imported to Canada from Europe in the 1800’s the cabbage worm is extremely destructive, especially late in the season when populations are allowed to proliferate. As larvae, cabbage worms will feed on surface leaves creating translucent tissue-like scars. Adult worms chew large holes in the outermost leaves of plants and will continue feeding towards the center of the plant, ultimately boring holes in the cabbage heads. Control of cabbage worm follows many of the same protocol of other garden type worms. This means treatment for armyworm, cutworm, etc. will also treat cabbage worms. Encouraging predatory enemies is a great line of defense: spiders, yellow jackets, beetles, green lacewings, wasps and birds.  Chickens will also peck the adult worms from plants, but care needs to be taken since chickens will eat other garden plants too if they are accessible. Spinosad is a natural insecticide made from the fermentation of soil borne organisms and is effective in cabbage worm control.

  1. Corn Earworm

One of the most destructive pests to attack garden corn plants is the corn earworm. It will also bore into other fruiting vegetables and feed on lettuce if in need of a food source. One single worm can do extensive damage to a garden, thus making it important to treat plants as soon as corn earworms are seen. Damage is typically confined to the tip of the ear; worms devour kernels and then foul the ear with excrement. An integrative pest management (IPM) system is the most effective method of controlling corn earworm. Before the garden soil is allowed to over winter, remove as many pupae as possible or broadcast beneficial nematodes into the soil bed to reduce the population before spring planting.  In the spring set out pheromone traps to catch moths before they can lay eggs. During the growing season keep a vigilant eye out for infestation. You should regularly inspect corn silk for eggs and/or larvae. If found apply mineral oil where the silk enters the ear to suffocate larvae or apply a natural insecticide such as Spinosad.

  1. Cutworm

Cutworms are fat, dark colored, segmented larvae that grow to be about an inch in length. They are not picky about what they eat and can be found infecting most early vegetable seedlings and transplants across North America. Cutworms create devastation by chewing through plants at the ground level (hence, “cutting” the stem) and have the ability to consume small plants in their entirety early in the season. They feed at night when the temperatures are cooler, burrowing into the soil during the day. Pesticide use against cutworms is mostly ineffective leaving preventative measures as the primary line of defense. After fall harvest, allow the soil to sit uncovered to give birds and other predatory animals a chance to pick off exposed larvae and pupae. Wait as long as possible in the spring to plant and place protective collars around the base of plants to keep cutworms from accessing stems. For extra control spread a line of diatomaceous earth around plants to deter larvae.

  1. Potato Beetle

One of the most difficult pests to control in a garden is the potato beetle. It is well known for developing resistance to insecticides. Often called “potato bugs”, the potato beetle feeds on plant leaves. An entire plant can be defoliated quickly if an infestation is left untreated. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants can act as alternative hosts too. Controlling potato bugs follows many of the same methods as other insect pests: planting resistant varieties, encouraging beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs, sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the base of plants, and spraying with Spinosad if an effective bio-pesticide is needed.

  1. Slugs

Dark, damp spaces with ample green and decomposing plant material are prime locations for garden slugs. As the garden canopy closes and the soil becomes shaded it’s important to keep an eye out for these destructive pests. They are mainly active at night and feed on both living plants and decaying plant matter. Slugs eat large holes in foliage, attacking most all garden vegetables and fruits. Young, tender, low-lying plants are at a higher risk for extensive damage. The most productive method of control is hand picking slugs from the soil and plants about two hours after sunset. Diatomaceous earth or boric acid granules can be spread around the base of plants as a preventative to keep slugs from crossing the barrier. If the infestation is severe, trapping may be a more convenient solution; an easy trapping method is sinking shallow pans of stale beer into the ground – the yeast acts as an attractant, and the slugs fall into the liquid and drown.

  1. Spider Mites

These tiny sucking garden pests are found on the undersides of leaves, wreaking havoc on indoor and outdoor garden plants alike. They feed on plant fluids by piercing leaf tissue and leaving behind pale dots on the leaves. As fluids are sucked from the tissue, leaves turn yellow and may desiccate, dropping off the plant. One of the biggest challenges with spider mites is their prolific nature; often times a heavy infestation will occur, unnoticed, before plants begin to show physical symptoms of damage. Chemical pesticides are ineffective at controlling spider mites. Their application eradicates beneficial insects that feed on the mites making it important to skip synthetic options and control them with natural and organic methods. The best methods of control include introducing/encouraging predatory insects such as ladybugs, lacewings and other predatory mites or spot treat heavily affected areas with neem, insecticidal soap, or botanic insecticides. Severe infestation requires pruning of the affected areas or even pulling and discarding the entire plant to prevent spreading to neighboring plants.

  1. Thrips

Thrips are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings that feed on the sap of garden plants. Damaged plant leaves may turn pale, become splotchy, progressing to a silvery color, and then die. More dangerous than damaged tissue though is the plant viruses often spread when the thrips feed. Controlling thrips is the best management strategy versus trying to get rid of them altogether. Spraying insecticides on plants will kill not only the harmful thrips but also beneficial insects. Sticky traps – in yellow or blue – and pruning infected plant tissues are good options for mechanical control; diatomaceous earth can be applied to the underside of leaves if necessary.

  1. Tomato Hornworm

One of the most common tomato garden pests, tomato hornworms are found in gardens all throughout the United States. These pesky green caterpillars can devastate an entire tomato crop in record time. Their light green color provides fantastic camouflage, making them difficult to spot on foliage. Tomato hornworms can grow up to 5” long and feed voraciously, eating through plant leaves and fruit rapidly.  Removing pests by hand is the most effective method for control. The tomato hornworm caterpillars are not dangerous and do not sting/bite. Ladybugs and green lacewings make great natural predators by feeding on the young caterpillar larvae. Applying insecticides is usually not necessary; however, spinosad and insecticidal soaps are good options if needed as a last resort.

  1. Animals

Insects aren’t the only living enemies of garden plants. Animals such as raccoons, rabbits, deer and birds are notorious for sneaking in and scavenging fruits and veggies just before harvest. Putting up fencing around the perimeter of the garden is a good deterrent for keeping animals out. Keep in mind that fencing may need to be placed down into the soil to prevent animals from burrowing under the barrier. Some of the best animal repellents are essential oils, urine of known predators, and other offensive odors. It is also possible to scare away animals by startling them with motion activated sprinklers, flash tape, or brightly colored balloons.

Many of the common garden pests share pest management methods. For the best control of pests it is key to encourage beneficial insect species in the garden: ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, beetles, and wasps. To keep the infestation from spreading to other plants, removing the pests by hand is a great initial strategy. If the attack is too widespread, remove infected plant parts, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of plants, and/or apply Spinosad, a bio-pesticide that protects many of the beneficial insects.

garden pests aphids
garden pests potato beetle
Garden Pests2018-10-29T00:33:13-04:00

Zinnia Flowers

Zinnia flowers are a summer flower favorite of mine, and possibly a lot of other peoples too. What’s not to love with the warm colors, the bright green foliage, and of course the versatility these plants have to offer.

They are annual plants that are as easy to grow as they are to care for. One of the best reasons to plant these flowers in your flower bed is for the variety of colors they grow in. You have your choice from red, yellow, pink, purple, yellow, white and more.

Zinnia Flower

Zinnia Flower

You can go with one color of Zinnias, if you have a color scheme going in your garden, or have a plethora of colors that will really liven up your summer garden.

Besides coming in a variety of colors, they also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can grow as tall as 3 feet high, while the dwarf varieties can reach about 1 foot. The size of your plants could determine where you want to place them in the garden.

This plant grow very quickly once planted. So you really should plan out when you want this plant to germinate, because almost as soon as you plant it, it will be ready to grow.

When I’m planting my Zinnias, I usually dig a hole, or a few holes, in my garden and sprinkle in an ample amount of seeds. I water them regularly until the flowers begin to sprout.

Once they begin to grow, they do not need to be watered as regularly. They are pretty tolerant of heat. If you are in a drought for a long while, then you may want to water them.

Besides being great plants for edging, bordering a garden, and filling up an entire flower bed, Zinnias also make lovely fresh cut flowers.

When your flowers are fully grown, simply cut a few that you would like to take indoors. Mix up colors and have fun pairing them with some other great summer flowers like Baby’s Breath and Cosmos.

Water the cut flowers daily to enhance their life to the fullest. With proper care they will last at least a week or so. And with them growing right outside your door, you have a vase of fresh cut Zinnias all season long!

Zinnia Flowers2017-08-30T14:28:28-04:00

Yarrow Plant

Yarrow plant (Achillea) is a perennial flower that begins to bloom in the middle of summer. If taken care of properly, they will continue to grow until the end of summer. Don’t worry! They are easy to care for.

While planting Yarrow, be sure to space the plants about a foot apart. If you have well-drained soil then that is the best spot for them. Although they will grow in any type of soil, they seem to like well-drained soil best.

Yarrow Plant

Yarrow Plant

They are very tolerant in areas of drought or heat and like to be placed in a spot of full sun.

Once the Achillea begins to grow, you will see many tiny clusters of flowers. The flowers grow tightly clustered together and grow in many different warm summer shades.

You will begin to see colors of pink, red, white, yellow, orange and much more. When the plant is fully grown, the clusters of flowers look very flat at the top.

When this plant is full grown, it resembles a shrub. With all those flowers clustered together, you may think you are looking at a fancy shrub and not a garden perennial.

The size of these plants can range from very low ground coverings, to tall bountiful flowers that look lovely in the garden.

If you see plants beginning to die off before the end of summer, cut out the dead or brown pieces so new flowers can take its place.

The foliage that this plant grows is as lovely as the flowers. The leaves look like bright green feathers. Very fine and very delicate.

In climates with a warmer type of winter, the leaves will continue to stay a very pretty shade of green.

Every few years divide and replant the flowers you are digging up. Make sure you have a spot picked out before any replanting. You will want to transfer the plant as quickly as you can.

Yarrow Plant2018-03-14T01:31:24-04:00

Wormwood Plant

Wormwood plant (Artemisia) is a perennial shrub that grows in the summer months. While it has been known to grow from spring all the way to fall, it is primarily seen all throughout the summer season.

This shrub is mainly grown for its foliage. The foliage from this shrub is really lovely. The leaves have a frosty silver look. In certain times of day, the leaves really seem to sparkle and shine.

Wormwood Plant

Wormwood Plant

This plant can grow from 1 to 3 feet high. They can either grow to be a ground covering shrub or a taller shrub.

When certain parts of the plant look dead or faded, cut them off and the plant will grow new beautiful leaves again.

Artemisia is a very good shrub to grow in the summer. It is a very low maintenance plant. It can really flourish with little care.

In order to grow this plant, choose a spot that is in an area of full sun. If the spot has well drained soil then that is a plus. If the soil is not well drained, then add some mulch or sand into the hole you are planting the shrub in.

This will help your plant not to get root rot.

After you begin growing your plant, water it a few times a week and trim back dead plants when needed.

If you decide to divide and replant your plant, start in the springtime. Dig up plants you want to move, and quickly replant them in the new area. They will spread out and grow back each year.

Wormwood Plant2017-08-25T12:11:40-04:00

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) is a winter shrub that has a very nice fragrance due to its yellow/reddish flowers. You usually do not see this shrub growing until towards the end of winter.

This plant can get as tall as 20 feet! Though some can also only reach about 6 feet high. Though whichever height your Witch Hazel tree grows to, they are a pretty tall shrub!!

Witch Hazel Tree

Witch Hazel Tree

The flowers on this plant are a yellowy/reddish color that resembles dry noodles.

They look crisp and delicate. They are very skinny and look as though they could snap in half if touched.

Plant this shrub in well drained, rich soil and watch it grow to its optimal height.

They can be planted in sun or in shade. Either one will work for this tree like shrub.

If you wish to have the wonderful scent of the flowers in your home, then simply cut off a few branches, once fully grown, and bring them inside.

Enjoy this fragrant shrub from the end of winter to the beginnings of spring.

Witch Hazel2017-08-25T12:34:21-04:00