There are only two
types of insect in any garden: the ones you want and the ones you don't
want. To encourage beneficial insects in your garden, be sure to refrain
from using pesticides of any kind. Pesticides are not picky; they kill all
the insects in your garden - even the good ones. Lure beneficial insects to
your garden with good supplies of their favorite foods. Small flowered
plants, such as members of the mint family, are favorites with insects. Any
small flowered plant will attract insects with its pollen.
There are several ways to control insects in your garden. The first and most
important to ensure that your plants are healthy and able to withstand an
insect invasion and that your planting practices discourage damaging
insects. Applying mulch and removing any trash or dead plant parts will
discourage damaging insects from setting up house in your garden. Large
insects can be handpicked; some smaller ones can be removed from plants with
a strong spray of water. The next step in insect control is biological
control, which is the use of beneficial insects or organisms to control
Most beneficial insects are available for purchase. Aphid midges are used to
control aphids; Assassin bugs feed on flies and caterpillars. Bigeyed bugs
eat aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites and small caterpillars. Suppliers'
recommended "Release Rates" for gardens and greenhouses are
one-half pint (about 4,500 beetles) to cover 3,000 sq. ft. (50 x 60 feet).
Release beetles in the evening after watering down the area. Adult beetles
are shipped in cotton bags mixed with wood shavings. To encourage beneficial
insects, such as lady beetles, to visit your garden and stay, some experts
recommend spraying Wheast, a combination of whey and yeast that can be
sprayed on plants.
Common Insect Pests
Plants that are strong and healthy are better able to resist insects and
disease. If your garden is constantly plagued, try to determine whether your
plants could benefit from a nutrient boost. Review your gardening
practices-are you doing anything to encourage the infestation? If you still
have a problem, before you spray an insecticide, try mixing some of your
own. In your blender combine hot peppers and garlic. even better, try some
of the asain hot chili sauces. Combine this mixture with water and dish soap
and spary the infested plant. Do not spray plants you intend to eat soon.
For the strong of stomach, try the previous mixture, substituting your
garden pest for the chilis and garlic. It's gross, but it works!
- a common garden pest that leaves behind twisted, puckered leaves with a
sticky residue. The first sign of an aphid invasion is often the ants
feeding on the sticky residue. Aphids can often be blasted off with strong
sprays of water or can be controlled with aphid midges, lady beetles,
lacewings or parasitic wasps. Homemade sprays of garlic or tomato leaf will
often eliminate the problem. If all else fails, insecticidal soap or
pyrethrin will quickly eliminate any remaining aphids.
- pale green caterpillar-like worms with brown and white strips that feed on
garden plants at night. They can be controlled with parasitic wasps or BTK
spray applied when larvae first appear.
Snails and Slugs
- holes in foliage and flowers are often a sign of snail or slug invasion.
There are several ways to rid your garden of pesky snails. Cultivate the
ground around plants often to expose and destroy snail eggs. You can use
copper strips around plants to prevent snail and slug entry. Shallow bowls,
buried in the ground and filled with beer, will lure snails and slugs to a
watery grave. Decollate snails, available by mail order, feed on the eggs of
other snails and slugs. As a last resort, spray your plants with Metaldehyde
or silicon dioxide.
- stippled, yellow leaves with a fine web on underside are often a sign of
spider mites. These are easily washed off with soapy water. You can also
spray plants with an insecticidal soap to prevent the mites' return.
these are a common problem in most gardens. They are usually easily
eliminated with a hard spray from the hose or a treatment with an
insecticidal soap. Encarsia wasps, available by mail order, are natural
predators of whiteflies and will usually keep your whitefly population under
Remember that insects, both beneficial and pest, are natural inhabitants in
your garden. Unless a pest insect is causing serious problems, it is often
best to let them eat a little green and move on.