I love gardening. It’s hard work, for sure, but it’s so rewarding, except when it’s not. (LOL) I don’t use any chemicals in my garden. This assures me that the food I harvest is healthy (I try to always use non-GMO seeds.) However, it also means going go toe-to-toe with destructive garden pests throughout the growing season.
Not all insects are destructive garden pests. I planted my first garden in 1991. I’m still a novice compared to expert gardeners, but I try to learn as much as I can every year regarding soil amendment, companion planting and integrated pest management. It can be tricky to identify insects and bugs, and to determine if a particular pest is good or bad for your garden.
Aphids are top destructive garden pests
If they were to give out awards to destructive garden pests, aphids (pictured in the title image of this post) would rank high in the nominations. These tiny invaders suck the sap out of all your plants. They cause extensive foliage damage and leaf drop.
One way to dwindle their numbers is to get rid of the ants in your garden. Ready to have your mind blown about the amazingness of God’s creation? (At the same time, you’ll understand why you don’t want ants in your garden!) Numerous types of ants are aphid farmers! They protect these nasty, destructive garden pests because they want to feed off the sticky honeydew the aphids emit. Ants actually MILK aphids by stroking them with their antennae!
Natural ways to decrease the aphid population in your garden include hitting plants with strong blasts of water. You might also consider learning how to increase the ladybug population in your garden. (Just make sure you can tell the difference between a true ladybug and a look alike, destructive pest known as the Asian beetle!) You can apply floating row covers over plants to protect them from aphids or use diatomaceous earth (food grade) to help resolve the problem, as well.
Caterpillars are cute but unwelcome in the garden
Kids love caterpillars. And, there’s no shortage of stories about caterpillars turning into exquisitely beautiful butterflies. It just so happens, however, that caterpillars are among the top most destructive garden pests out there! They will munch the leaves of your plants down to nubs! Cutworms and cabbage worms look like caterpillars, and they are equally nasty garden pests, too!
You can apply floating row covers, but if it’s out of your budget or you don’t have time to construct them, you can keep the segmented larvae population down by diligently inspecting your plants (daily) and handpicking them off.
Beetles are only good when they’re in a band and spell their name with an ‘A’
Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles are NOT your gardening friends! If your plant leaves start to look lacy, you might have a Mexican bean beetle feasting on them from the undersides. Colorado potato beetles don’t limit their diet to potatoes. They also feed on tomatoes, eggplant and certain types of flowers. If the beetle population starts to take over in your garden, you’ll have a lot of dead crops.
Handpicking, once again, is one of the best means for ridding these destructive garden pests from your crops. Also, keep weeds away because most pests like to burrow and hide under weedy ground cover.
Tiny insects can do a lot of damage
If you’re strolling through your garden and see teensy-weensy black dots that appear to be jumping around the leaves of your plants, you might have a flea beetle problem! They are hard to see, they’re so small! If you do see some, it’s an issue you’ll want to immediately resolve, else you will quickly lose your crops to the damage they can do!
Japanese beetles, on the other hand, are big and metallic in color. If you see one, assume there are many more where that one came from. You can carry a bucket of soapy water around and handpick them off the plants, dropping them into the bucket as you go. (That’s the best option for those who don’t like to hear or feel the crunchiness of squishing them in your gloved hands!)
Watch out for the eggs of destructive garden pests
As you check on your garden plants each day, gently lift the leaves to carefully view the undersides. This is where you might find clusters of tiny eggs from destructive garden pests! I usually snip off and discard an entire leaf if I find some.
As the gardening season progresses, it’s easy to grow tired or lazy. Some days, you just might not feel like walking through and checking each plant. Your plants might be okay if you skip a day here or there. Destructive garden pests can gain ground quickly, however, so you definitely shouldn’t make it a habit. Here’s another helpful article about garden pests. And, here’s one about beneficial garden insects (I.e. The good guys!) Don’t let the bad guys win!
Show us your garden
Let’s hope we all have bountiful harvests this year! The Hot Mess Press team would love to see your gardens! Feel free to upload a few pics in the comment section under this post on our Facebook page! Also, feel free to share any helpful tips you might have for non-chemical ways for gaining the upper hand over destructive garden pests!