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Common Garden Pests and unique ways to treat them

By Sheri Bethard

Certified Texas Master Gardener, Orange County Master Gardeners

 (Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 3 part series on garden pets)

Today I am going to talk about some of the common garden pests you might have started seeing in your gardens both vegetable and flower. I, personally, prefer to use as much organic methods as possible. Below are some of the common pests we see and some unique ways of treating them without harsh chemicals. This will be a 3-part series.

 Aphids – There are many different ways to remove your plants of aphids from hand-picking them off, blasting with water, using organic Neem oil, beneficial insects like Lady Beetles  (Bugs) or onions. Onions and garlic have their own special odors which aphids dislike. So, planting onions or any other of Allium family will do the trick. Another way to use onions is in a spray mixture. Chop a small onion finely, add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. baby shampoo and 2 cups of water. Mix in a blender, let sit overnight, strain thru coffee filter and spray with handheld sprayer next morning.

Cucumber Beetles – These yellow and black bugs are a nuisance to those growing cucurbits of any kind. They are the primary carrier of cucumber mosaic virus and serve as carriers for a variety of bacterial and other viral diseases. Life cycle is about 8 weeks, so you could see 3 generations in a growing season in our area. Any plants you remove because of any disease, do not put in your compost so they don’t attract more beetles. Ways to control: young plants – cover with row covers, screens, or cones. Try planting your crop later in the season so the beetles will be attracted to other gardens, leaving yours along. Mulch the ground with straw, hay, plastic or fabric to deter the bugs from laying eggs in the soil near the plants, even tho this will not eliminate them entirely. A mix of ½ cup wood ashes with ½ cup hydrated lime in 2 gallons of warm water sprayed on upper and lower leaves will also help control them.

Grasshoppers – Grasshoppers can be controlled by applying a garlic spray. The odor will help deter them and other pests. Blend 2 bulbs of garlic with 10 cups of water and heat to boil, then let sit overnight to cool. Strain the mixture and fill a spray bottle with one part of the garlic solution and 3 parts water. Spray on leaves, top and bottom. Or dust with flour. This will cause the grasshoppers to starve by gumming up their mouth. Use all-purpose flour as other types contain salt. Attract birds to your back yard with feeders and baths. Or you could raise chickens as they love to eat grasshoppers along with ants and roaches.

Hornworms – These are the nemesis of your tomato plants and any others in the nightshade family (peppers, eggplants and potatoes). One day the plants are nice and full of leaves and the next they are bare as they like feeding at night. Several ways to rid your garden of them is tilling the soil before planting in the spring, this should destroy the pupae in the soil keeping the five spotted hawk or sphinx moth from hatching. The next way to control is to hand-pick them off your plants and destroy. Interplant with Marigolds, Calendula, Borage, Nasturtiums, Basil, Dill, Chamomile. These give off strong odors which confuses the sphinx moth, and some attract beneficial wasps to attack the pest by planting their eggs on them. Plant a trap crop such as flowering tobacco which the sphinx moth can’t resist. Rotate your crops. Another beneficial insect is the Lady Beetle (Bug) as they feed on the larvae. Then of course you can spray BT if you feel you have to spray something.

Next week I will talk about the Leaf-footed bug, Leaf Miners, Mealy Bugs, Root Nematodes and Slugs.

For horticulture questions, please contact us thru our website https://txmg.org/orange or our Facebook page Orange County Texas Master Gardeners.