Cultivating the garden of your dreams is often side-railed the first morning you step out to admire your garden and notice small, slimy, scaly, crawly things all over your plants. Although this can send any backyard gardener into a tizzy, it is important not to overreact.
Keep in mind that not every insect is a pest. Quite the contrary, actually. Most insects are quite beneficial to a garden. Some insects work to pollinate your garden, while others serve to eliminate possible destructive pests from taking over. Thus, the first order of business is not to panic and kill every bug you see! Do your homework and determine which bugs are beneficial (ladybugs and preying mantises, for example) and which ones are out to dine on your garden.
Some insects to be concerned about:
Tomato hornworm – This insect dines on the fruit and leaves of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. It is easily identified as a large, fat, white and green worm that looks like a caterpillar. The large horn on the end of the worm is usually a dead giveaway for a tomato hornworm.
You can either physically remove the worms from your garden using gardening gloves (and killing them in a soapy water solution) or use a stomach poison insecticide or neem oil.
Thrips – Thrips are known to quickly overtake a variety of garden plants, including cabbage, beans, melon, carrots, peas, turnips, squash, tomatoes and celery. They are often best identified because they leave large, uneven white markings on the leaves. Use a garden hose to rinse them off the plants and then use a contact poison to eradicate them.
Snails and slugs – Snails and slugs certainly do their share of damage to gardens and are particularly fond of tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips and lettuce. They are best identified by the leaves they munch and the slimy trail they leave in their wake. A great way to eliminate these pests is to simply place a shallow pan of beer into the garden. They are attracted to the beer and then drown.
Grubs – The fat, white worms in your soil are likely grubs. Milky spore is the easiest way to control grubs. If the grubs turn to beetles, you can use a stomach poison insecticide to eradicate them.
Borers – If the leaves on your plants are drooping, check for a hole in the stem. This is likely a borer, which infiltrates the stems of your plants, including pumpkins, melons, cucumbers and squash. Unfortunately, the only way to eliminate borers is to cut out the plant.
Aphids – Aphids are a common garden site. Aphids generally appear as groups of small, tiny bugs in many, different colors. Use neem oil or an insecticidal soap to eliminate them.
Always check with a qualified horticulturist if you have questions regarding insect control. He or she will be able to easily identify your pest and recommend a number of ways to eliminate them. A horticulturist may also recommend a number of organic pest control solutions as well.