Category Archives: Pest control

Gardening Without Pests

Deer and raccoons, rabbits and gophers, moles and chipmunks! They capture your heart when in a book or zoo, but when they invade your garden. Oh! That’s a different story. Yet how can a rabbit resist munching on your crisp lettuce? Or a possum or raccoon stay away from your sweet corn patch? And your berries will always be attractive to a squirrel.

Fending off the various animals that want to enjoy both your flower and vegetable gardens can be both time consuming and frustrating. Learning how to chase them off without poisoning both them and your vegetables remains a crucial part of being a good gardener. As scientists begin to realize the damaging effects of pesticides and other poisons on the human body, the use of toxic methods needs to be carefully considered, and then rejected.

Birds are a bird-watchers delight and somewhere between a mild and major nuisance to the gardeners. They actually do less harm than the four-legged animals. Birds have a number of natural enemies, so you can scare the birds by fooling them into thinking their enemies are around.

A humming line made of very thin nylon will vibrate and hum in even the slightest breeze. Itís inaudible to us, but heard by the birds. This works well with strawberries. Unusual noises can be created with aluminum pie plates loosely tied to stakes or leaving a radio on at night. Installing some blinking lights, hawk-like balloons or kites that mimic larger birds can also be effective. And of course, the two old stand-by’s  scarecrows, or a dog or cat always help out with the bird problem. Because birds and other animals need a source of drinking water, eliminate any standing water near the garden.

Night time is prowl time for the four-legged pests. Each animal has a distinctive footprint and each has its favorite delicacy to munch on. Many of them, such as deer and raccoons, can be eliminated by putting an electric fence or other barrier around the garden. Pocket gophers can be stopped by putting a fence made of hardware cloth two feet below and two feet above the surface of the garden.

A chicken-wire fence works the best for rabbits, but the holes need to be 1in or smaller. Those young rabbits aren’t very big. To keep the mice from eating your fruit tree’s bark, sink wire mesh or  hardware cloth several inches into the ground around the fruit trees.

How can you tell which animal is doing the munching during the night? Footprints are one way. Another is to place about 10 marshmallows out in one spot where the animal has been feeding. Cats won’t eat the marshmallows. Raccoons and skunks will eat all of them in one sitting.

Possums will only eat one or two, and then come back later for another one. Some animals will only be eliminated by being caught in a trap. After they are caught be sure to take them at least one mile away and release them in a natural habitat. And, be careful not to get bitten. Rabies is a reality among wild animals.

Gardening saturates one with a feeling of accomplishment and peace. The joy of picking your fresh vegetables right before dinner can hardly be matched by any other activity. Well, perhaps the fragrance of your freshly picked flowers can compete!

Do We Need Insects For Our Garden?

Do We Need Insects For Our Garden_
Do We Need Insects For Our Garden_

10 Beneficial Insects For Gardening

1. Aphid Midge: These insects look like a delicate, small wasp. The larvae eats more than sixty varieties of aphids from the garden. You can attract them by growing plants with a lot of pollen and nectar.

2. Big-Eyed Bug: This is a fast-moving bug with large eyes and very small black spots on itís head and thorax. They are usually found in field crops and orchards. The big-eyed bug eats leafhoppers, spider mites, plant bugs, aphids, and small caterpillars. This bug is a real asset to gardening.

3. Ladybug: The ladybug ranges in size from 1/16 to 3/8 inch and have round red, orange or yellow bodies with black markings. They prefer gardens that have a large amount of pollen and nectar-producing flowers. The ladybug is fond of aphids, mealybugs, small insects and scales. The Mexican bean beetle is related to the ladybug but is not beneficial.

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Dealing with Garden Pests

Dealing with Garden Pests
Dealing with Garden Pests

While tending to my own garden, I have found that one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a gardener is to walk outside to check on your plants. It’s just a routine walk to make sure that your garden is thriving, but you end up finding holes in all of your plants
that looked fine only hours before. The explanations for some of these plant-destroying holes are garden pests. Some of the main garden pests are slugs, worms, caterpillars, birds, snails, and the occasional gopher. Although you can never wipe out these pests entirely, after all your hardwork in the garden you have to do something.

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Grubs – A Small Pest That Can Devastate Your Lawn

Grubs - A Small Pest That Can Devastate Your Lawn
Grubs – A Small Pest That Can Devastate Your Lawn

You can get the better of grubs, though they’re among the most damaging lawn pests in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend millions of dollars a year replacing the lawns that grubs destroy. They’re small, white insects with a brown head curled into a “C” shape.

White grubs live a few inches under your lawn and feed on the roots of your grass. Grubs are the larvae-or “juvenile” stage-of various kinds of scarab beetles, including Japanese beetles, chafers, and June and May beetles.

“When grubs are close to the surface, starlings and crows, as well as moles, shrews and skunks, can be seen digging them up because they’re a food source,” says Bayer Advanced; lawn expert Lance Walheim, who wrote the book “Lawn Care for Dummies.”

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Safely Manage Insects on Indoor Plants

Aphids on Plant_photocredit_Melinda_Myers_LLC
Aphids on Plant_photocredit_Melinda_Myers_LLC

Winter can be hard on indoor plants. “Low light, shorter days and dry air create a stressful environment for our houseplants while at the same time helping insects thrive,” explained gardening expert Melinda Myers. Myers said not to despair if insects have moved in and plants are struggling with yellow or speckled leaves. She shared these eco-friendly strategies to diagnose the problem and manage insects, so houseplants stay healthy and look their best.

Start by making sure houseplants are receiving the proper amount of light and water. A healthy plant is better able to resist and recover from insect infestations. Check the plant tag, internet or plant book for the recommended growing conditions. Make any needed adjustments to the plants’ care.

Take a close look at the upper and lower leaf surfaces and stems of the plants for clues to the cause of the problem. Here are some of the more common indoor plant pests and organic options, safe for children and pets, for managing them.

Fungus gnats are those small fruit fly-like insects that flit around the house. They feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil. They usually don’t harm the plants, but certainly are annoying.

Just sprinkle an organic insecticide, like Summit Mosquito Bits, that contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis on the soil surface. This naturally occurring bacterium only kills the larvae of fungus gnats, black flies and mosquitoes.

Aphids are common pests of indoor and outdoor plants. These small teardrop shaped insects suck plant juices, causing the leaves to yellow, brown, wilt or become distorted. They secrete a clear sticky substance known as honeydew.

Mites cause similar damage, but are too small to see without a hand lens. If mites are suspected, shake a leaf over a white piece of paper and watch for specks, the mites, moving across the paper. Don’t wait until webbing is visible to control these pests. At that point there are thousands of mites making it difficult to control.

Both these types of pests can be managed in the same way. Start by placing plants in the sink or tub and knock the insects off the plant with a strong blast of water. Follow with several applications of insecticidal soap to kill the adults. Repeat as needed. Or suffocate all stages of the insects with a lightweight horticulture oil like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil.

Bumps on the stems and leaves of plants that can easily be scraped off with a thumbnail are scales. Their shells protect the adults and eggs from predators, weather and most insecticides. A similar pest, mealybug, has white waxy strands on its body for protection. Mealybugs can be found on stems, leaves and area where leaves and stems meet.

Both types of insects suck the plant juices, causing leaves to yellow and plants to decline. And just like aphids and mites, they secrete honeydew. Both are difficult to control and require persistence.

For mealybugs, remove the hard scale covering with an old toothbrush. Use a cotton swap dipped in alcohol to dissolve its waxy covering and kill the insect. Then spray with insecticidal soap to kill the immature insects. This takes time and persistence to control these pests.

Or apply a lightweight horticulture oil, like that used for mites and aphids, to suffocate both the adult and immature stages of these pests. Continue to watch for outbreaks and treat as needed.

No matter what products, natural or synthetic, make sure they are labeled for the plant and pest that are being treated. And always read and follow label directions carefully.

Investing time in managing pests as soon as they appear means healthy and more attractive plants to brighten the indoors now and for years to come.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is http://www.melindamyers.com.