With the gardening season in full swing, it is important to be able to recognize what bugs are bad or good in your garden. Whether you are growing vegetables and fruits or just have a flower garden, understanding the effects of pests can help you and your plants stay stress free.
One of the most annoying pests you will want to be on the lookout for are aphids. Aphids are very small pear-shaped bugs that are known to suck the sap out of your plants leaves and stems causing utter destruction! They also secrete a sap like substance that can attract other pests as well as lead to fungus problems. When inspecting for these pests, look for white or yellow leaves and sometimes a black fungus underneath the leaves themselves. If you do find that you have an aphid issue, you can either use soapy water and spray down the plant with it, or if you need something stronger, I recommend buying some Neem Oil and following the instructions to alleviate the problem.
A friendly bug that can help with some pests in your garden are Lady Bugs! They feed on not only aphids, but also other pests such as mites, mealybugs, Colorado Potato Beetles, and whiteflies. They are such a beneficial garden bug, so when you see them, know that you’re in good hands.
Another common pest are slugs. Since they usually aren’t alone, if you find a few, there are probably a lot more hiding out. They feed overnight, so you would want to inspect closer to dusk for these guys. If you are only finding a couple here and there, you can pick them off and take them somewhere else, but I would routinely check if this were the case. Slugs will be one of the more obvious pests because they will leave holes in your leaves as well as that little snail trail. Some natural remedies include ground coffee or eggshells spread around the base of the plants to deter the little guys from crawling up the stem to feed. You could also incorporate frogs or garden snakes into the garden to help. If the problem is severe, you can also use something called diatomaceous earth, but it does wash off in the rain, so keep that in mind with all the rain we have been dealing with this year.
An awesome and unique friend to have in the garden is some Praying Mantis! They aren’t just really cool looking, but they also feed on beetles, flies, crickets and grasshoppers, just to name a few. So, if you see any of these, you can count on happy plants that are being well supervised.
If you are growing any broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, you should check for Cabbage Maggots. The adults are flies that will lay their eggs at the base of the plants near the root system. Once the eggs hatch the tiny maggots will feed on your roots and ultimately destroy all plant growth. Now these are especially dangerous because they can over-winter, meaning come back a second year if you are growing these types of vegetables repeatedly. Some options for these guys are to cover the small plants during the egg-laying season. For us here in Colorado, that will usually be between June and July. Once the egg-laying season is over, simply uncover the plants and let them shine! You can also plant radish next to your other veggies to deter them from eating your other greens and just pull them once they start to die, taking the maggots with it. You can also try planting red cabbage instead of green as they are more resistant to these pests.
Pests happen, but if you routinely check your garden, you should be able to mitigate the issues early on and have a bountiful harvest! Enjoy those flowers and fresh foods with a sense of pride my friends!
Sarah Catron is a long-time gardener and also serves at Clancy’s Irish Pub here in Wheat Ridge.