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What’s Eating My Garden? The 5 Most Common Garden Pests

common garden pests
The hearty food and beautiful flowers that grow in your garden can serve as a haven for critters you don’t want to host. From aphids on your roses to cutworms circling tender seedlings, there are products you can apply once you notice an infestation. You can also bring in beneficial bugs. Finally, you can take some steps prior to planting to protect your harvest.

1. Aphids

Aphids are one of the most common garden pests found in North America. These little pests like both flowers and vegetables. They draw the sap out of plants with their mouth, then excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew that becomes a haven for mold.

To protect fruit trees and roses from aphids, consider applying a garlic repellent spray. You can also plant garlic around your rose bushes, as aphids don’t like that aroma. Bring in lacewings and lady bugs to feast on them.

If you ‘ve got aphids on your garden plants or berry bushes, place a floating row cover over them either before you sew the seeds in the garden or before the berry bushes leaf out.

Aphids travel and look for new hosts early in the spring. Once your seedlings are up and your berry bushes are fully leafed out, hopefully the aphids have passed by to more friendly hosts. At this point, you should be able to remove the floating row cover so the bees can get busy on your flowering plants.

2. Caterpillars

Caterpillars can turn into beautiful butterflies, but first, they need to feed heavily. To do this, they often need to wreak havoc on your garden, fruit trees and ornamental plants.

You can reduce caterpillar devastation with floating row covers early in the spring. In the case of cabbage-family plants, including broccoli and cauliflower, take care what you compost. There are many pests that can survive the winter in a warm compost pile. If you’ve had a problem with any form of caterpillar in the past, discard or burn cabbage leaves instead of composting.

Birds, including the springtime robin, love caterpillars. Robins enjoy nesting in evergreens and will happily feed on your troublesome caterpillars. They’ll also eat mulberries and blackberries, so be prepared deal with some loss of these berries if you include them in your harvest.

3. Flea Beetles

Flea beetles love to feed on young leaves and their offspring feed on plant roots. The goal with flea beetles is to deny them access to young plants. Set up garden tents for early spring and cover your newly planted seeds with floating row cover so the beetles can’t get a start.

If you find young plants with round holes in the leaves or notice small black bugs that hop when you get close, you’ve likely got a flea beetle infestation. Garlic spray will drive these creatures away, but you’ll need to reapply when their larvae hatch.

4. Scales

If you find something that looks like a tiny white spider crawling slowly on your plants, you’ve likely got scales. These little pests will literally suck the life out of your plants at every stage of their growth.

When you see the tiny white spider, prune away and discard or burn those leaves. Those are just the larvae; you’ll also need to send the males and females packing with oils, such as a neem oil to repel the flying males and the burrowing females.

If you have a bad scale infestation, take a good look at all the leaves in your garden before composting anything.

5. Tomato Hornworms

Tomatoes are too good to share, so if you want to grow them, be sure to check the plants for damage from the tomato hornworm. These pests feed on the top of the plant, so look for missing or damaged leaves. If you see the damage but no hornworms, spray the plant with water and the hornworms will make themselves visible.

Drop them in a bowl or bucket of insecticidal soap or water. If you have chickens, feed them, minus the soap, directly to your birds. Also, invite in local wild birds so they can feast on these common garden pests.

The birds can fill up on hornworms while you enjoy the fresh tomatoes.

Managing pests in a small garden can be done with a daily visit to your plants. If your garden is large, or the infestation is very bad, you may need to contact a professional to get a handle on your garden pests. Be careful in what you compost for a year or two, to avoid re-infesting your garden each spring.

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