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Controlling Common Garden Pests

July 27th, 2009 · 3 Comments

There is nothing worse than going into the garden and finding that something other than you is eating your vegetable plants.  There are a host of pests that will cause havoc with your vegetable garden and there are as many ways of combating them.

Squash Bugs

Squash Bug

Squash Bug

I have picked squash one day and gone out the next to find the whole plant wilted.  Once you see the damage from squash bugs, there is very little you can do to save the plant.  There are several ways to combat squash bugs but the best is to buy squash bug resistant plants.  You can also inspect your plants often and physically remove and crush any bugs or eggs that you find.   For a chemical management program, sevin dust sprinkled around the stem and under the leaves will kill the bugs.  At the end of the season, bury or burn any remaining vines to kill out the adult bugs that will overwinter.  Companion plantings of catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm and mint may help to repel squash bugs.

Corn Ear Worm

Corn Ear Worm

Corn Ear Worm

How many times have you bought corn on the cob only to find that an annoying little worm has eaten a good bit of the tip.  When you pull back the husk, the brown trails are highly visible and probably the worm itself.  Yuck!    Good gardening practices of frequent tilling of the soil will expose the pupae and kill them.  There are also several insecticides that you can inject into the silk of each ear.  I haven’t tried this but I have read that you can squeeze an eyedropper full of mineral oil onto the tip of each young ear to suffocate the larvae.  I guess all of these methods would depend greatly on how much corn you have planted.  If you plant a few rows, it is likely that no matter what you do, you are going to have a few corn ear worms so just break off the damaged part and throw away.


Ah, Grasshopper

Ah, Grasshopper

Yes, those common little grasshoppers eat half their weight per day.  While they are not a huge problem here in the South East, they claim that they consume 25% of the available forage in the Western US.  Again, good garden management helps reduce their numbers so till between the rows often to churn up and expose the eggs.  For long-term grasshopper control, apply the biological pesticide Semaspore Bait (Nosema locustae) to hatching beds – field margins and other undisturbed grassy areas – when grasshoppers are young.

Tomato Hornworms

Tomato hornworm with Wasp larvae

Tomato hornworm with Wasp larvae

Easily the yuckiest garden pest, Tomato hornworms are usually controlled by handpicking them and putting them into a bucket of soapy water.  These large green or striped caterpillars use camouflage as their defense and it takes careful inspection to find them.   Look for black droppings on the ground and leaves, if found, spray the foliage with water and you can see the hornworms thrashing about.  Pluck and dunk in soapy water.  If you find one that looks rather like a porcupine, move it to a less desirable plant and let it eat.  The spines are acutally a beneficial wasp’s eggs that will help to control the rest of the population of hornworms.

Cabbageworms and Cabbage Loopers


Cabbage Looper

Cabbage Looper

These two small green caterpillars can do huge amounts of damage to your cabbage type plants such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc.  The looper gets it’s nick name because it inches along as it eats.  Both can be controlled by handpicking as well as by using companion plantings to attract beneficial insects.  Good companion plants for cabbage are Attract native parasites and predators into your garden by planting flowers for them to feed on. Beneficial insects prefer small flowers like those found on parsley, dill, fennel, coriander, and alyssum.  I have also heard that dusting the plants with self rising flower will kill off the caterpillars.  Apparently they eat the flower and it reacts with their digestive juices causing them to explode.  R swears by this method but I am in a wait and see mode.

These are just a few of the more common garden pests.  Most can be controlled by good gardening practices – frequent tilling, fall tilling and keeping the rotting garden material cleaned up.  Hand picking works for most and you can use companion planting for many of the pests.  When all else fails, careful use of Sevin dust will keep them to a minimum.

Do you have any tips for controlling or eliminating garden pests?

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Tags: Gardening

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 marci // Jul 28, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I just try to peacefully co-exist…. Plant one for me and one for them. Then make sure I soak the veggies in salted water for a couple hours and then clean carefully before consuming them.

  • 2 Cindy // Jul 28, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Marci, I would be happy to co-exist but they don’t seem to want to share. Both the squash bugs and the bunnies have left nothing in their wake. We planted two rows of green beans. One row they ate as they sprouted, the other row was up and producing and they left nothing but stems. It looks like someone went through with a lawnmower.

  • 3 The Jersey Homesteader // Aug 1, 2009 at 8:48 am

    My daughter and I make sure we go into the garden everyday. We try to check all the plants as one worm can devour your plants very fast.
    The soapy water trick works with a lot of other pesky bugs. The grasshoppers I am not sure what to do about them. Any advice on that, if anyone knows how to get rid of them.
    You have a great site here its great to inspire other people to start living the simple life.

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