Bad Habits: Aphids are tiny nuisances that congregate on edible plants and may go unnoticed. They were found on tomato plants in our garden in a multitude of colors (red, yellow, green). Aphids produce a sticky layer upon the leaf after hatching, which can lead to fungal growth on your vegetables. In addition, aphids consume water found in leaves of plants and can cause the leaves to dry out and fall off.
Prevention: Lady Bugs are known predators to aphids and some garden wholesalers will actually sell you these beneficial insects. Introduce ladybugs to your plants that have a known aphid problem. You may also use a jet stream of water from your hose to dislodge aphids from the stems and leaves where they reside. It is good to encourage strong airflow through plants to minimize the impact of aphids – stagnant air is usually where the largest concentration of aphids will be.
Bad Habits: Cabbage Worms feed on the sap found in cabbage plants’ leaves. They munch on the leaf to prepare for the cocoon stage in their life and their presence is obvious. Although the worms blend in well with the color of their food, big holes in your cabbage leaves indicate there is a cabbage worm problem. Once the Small Cabbage White Butterflies emerge from their cocoon, however, they are beneficial to a garden since they will help with pollination.
Prevention: Predatory Wasps have been spotted in our garden feasting on cabbage worms. Wasps may not be a person’s best friend, but eliminate the use of wasp spray like Raid around your home if cabbage worms are a problem. The most effective method for removal is hand picking them off the cabbage leaves. Making a hot pepper spray out of garlic and habanero peppers will discourage the worms from settling down for a snack on the leaves you spray, but you must re-spray the leaves after a rainfall.
Bad Habits: Let’s get this straight: earwigs don’t actually crawl into your ear and eat your brain – despite what your parents may have told you when you were a kid. Instead, they eat aphid larvae, slugs and snails, which is a good thing if you have these infestations in your garden. However, as shade and moisture loving insects, Earwigs will crawl into dark, tight places and feed on beneficial insects, new leaf shoots, and even some fruits (berries in particular). Earwigs made their way to fallen tomatoes in our garden, and were actually helping the garden with recycling. They may become a problem on roses and other berry bushes. They love eating raspberries and it’s a terrible surprise to find one when you’re about to pop a berry in your mouth.
Prevention: Since earwigs are nocturnal, they love moist and shady places during the day. Knowing this makes trapping them relatively easy. Take a cup or flower pot and fill it with wetted and packed paper towels. Put a twig just long enough to support the cup upside down on the ground so there is a small opening for the earwigs to enter. After a few days, empty the cup with the earwigs away from your garden to get rid of these insects.
Bad Habits: Hollyhock Weevils were found inside the developing seeds of our Hollyhock plant. The weevils only do minor visual damage to your plant – chewing through leaves and even your flowers. This is overshadowed by the fact that the Hollyhock Weevils in their larvae form feed on hollyhock seeds before emerging outside. They can consume an abundance of seeds such that the pods are completely empty and your hollyhock plant will not be able to self-seed. Since hollyhock is a perennial, the plant will come back. However, leaving the weevils on your plant will allow them to return next year and consume more of your leaves until the hollyhock dies back. Because they eat the seeds, you may eventually find your hollyhock plant’s life cycle to be severely disrupted.
Prevention: Hand picking is an effective strategy for controlling Hollyhock Weevils, but sometimes these insects are too small to be noticed. Spray your hollyhock leaves and flowers with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis – an organic bacterial spray) or hot pepper spray. If you notice Hollyhock Weevils already in your seed pod, discard the pods to ensure that these pests won’t come back next spring.
Bad Habits: Japanese Beetles were the biggest menace in the satellite gardens this summer. We found them on many plants, especially eggplant, peppers, coneflowers and pasture roses. These guys are nuisances from the day they hatch. Japanese beetle larvae feed on the roots of plants underground and the adult beetles chew holes into flowers and leaves. They are visible to the naked eye and have shiny, golden shelled wings.
Prevention: Hand picking is the best method of control for Japanese beetles. Not to advocate violence, but you’ll want to squash these suckers with your shoe after you pick them or else they will fly away and plot their next attack. Garden wholesalers also sell Japanese beetle traps that you can stake into any garden that has an infestation. The trap is a bag filled with a sugary liquid (nectar) that the beetles are attracted to. Upon entering the bag that is synched at the top with only a small entrance, the bugs fly around the inside of the bag unable to escape and will drown in the liquid. Sticky fly paper also will help alleviate Japanese beetle damage by catching the flying beetles.
Fungal Leaf Spots
Bad Habits: Fungal leaf spots will occur on plants that have been watered from their leaves down. Fungus will grow on areas with excess moisture and may develop brown, or sometimes even black spots on the leaf. The brown spots resemble the leaf of the plant rusting, and if left untreated, will defoliate your plants. We noticed fungal spots on the leaves of our Garden Phlox. Working from the bottom up, the untreated fungal spots on leaves will dry the leaf totally and will eventually fall off. These spots are transferable between plants, too, so be wary when planting susceptible plants close together.
Prevention: Because fungus grows on parts of the plant with excess moisture, it is important to keep water away from your leaves, or at least allow adequate drying time before night. The best way to keep Fungal Leaf Spots from affecting your plants is to water at the base of the plant instead of sprinkling everything including leaves. Another preventative measure is to spray flowers and leaves of the affected plant with neem oil. If you notice a plant is already infected with Fungal Leaf Spots, you’ll want to cut off the browning leaves before it spreads to other parts of the plant. You may even want to take out the entire plant before fungus spreads to its neighbors. Providing good air circulation between plants by giving adequate space will discourage Fungal Leaf Spots from developing at all.
Bad Habits: Powdery Mildew has a nasty habit of coating fresh leaves with a white powder. The mildew will take over the leaves of plants and eventually kill the plant if left untreated. We have had powdery mildew in our gardens for the past two summers and it does not seem to emerge as a problem until late summer and early fall when we notice it on the leaves of our sunflowers, peonies, and other broad leafed plants (squash, cucumbers, etc.). Powdery mildew loves moisture as a fungus and will typically present itself after heavy rainfall or improper watering.
Prevention: To help alleviate the problem of the powdery mildew, you can spray neem oil on the leaves of susceptible plants as a form of preventative maintenance. It is important to water as close to the ground as possible to prevent the leaves of plants susceptible from getting soaked and growing mildew. If you notice some of the leaves already have powdery mildew, clip these leaves off to prevent the mildew from spreading to the rest of the plant or to neighboring plants.
Slugs and Snails
Bad Habits: Slugs and Snails are both sap sippers that love the moisture found in plants. They have been known to destroy entire plants in less than a single day by attacking the base of the plant and cutting the rest of the plant from its roots and water supply. Saplings and seedlings are particularly vulnerable to slugs and snails, which may destroy the plant before it has a chance to develop. Slugs are also hermaphrodites meaning they do not need a mate to reproduce. They reproduce several times a year, laying dozens of eggs that can form a small army of garden invaders.
Prevention: Slugs and snails alike love moist and dark areas, so check for them underneath leaves or at the base of plants out of direct sunlight. Handpicking is an effective strategy for controlling the infestation of slugs and it is easiest to find these critters after morning dew when they are most active. Another method for exterminating slugs is to leave a jar lid or shallow bowl of beer in your garden. Slugs and snails are attracted to the beer (they are alcoholics) by its smell and will drown in the lid. Sprinkling slugs and snails with salt will also kill them by drying and will not harm your plants when used moderately.
Bad Habits: Rabbits are vegetarians; they eat leafy plants and bark. They can cause serious damage to the crop if protective wire is missing. They like to feed on flowers and vegetable plants in spring/summer and fruit trees and ornamentals in the fall and winter. Carefully observe the leaves and stalks that have been left behind. Quite often rabbits will nibble plants down to the ground. Because of a rabbits’ sharp front teeth, the leaves that are left will appear cleanly cut as though they were trimmed with scissors thus it’s important to compare the rest of the plants. Rabbits will sometimes make their nest among your plants and will destroy them.
Prevention: The most effective permanent protection for gardens subject to rabbit damage is a well-constructed fence. Chicken wire supported by posts every 6 to 8 feet is strong enough to exclude rabbits. Hot pepper products can be used as well as taste repellents, but new growth will not be protected. Repellent substances either render the plant parts distasteful or smell bad to rabbits. Planting rabbit resistant plants such as hollyhock, thyme, herbs, and other plants like marigold and yarrow can also help prevent rabbits from attacking your garden.