How to Protect Plants from Bugs and Other Pests

Bugs are a big threat to your garden. These plant-chewing beings will eat through your garden, leaving irreversible damages to your foliage. Failure to act on the first sign of an infestation will lead to bigger problems in the future. If you feel like you’re losing the war against garden pests, fret not. In this post, we will discuss how to protect plants from bugs and other pests that pose a threat to your garden.

Most destructive garden pests

how to protect plants from bugs

Before you know how to protect plants from bugs, you should know what insects are infesting your garden. The following are some of the pests that you should watch out on your plants:

1.     Aphids

Aphids are one of the most invasive and highly damaging pests. They suck the sap and nutrients of the plant they infest. In just a matter of weeks, the leaves of the plants will appear curly. Some will have brown spots, which is a sign of decomposition and death. This pest can infest the leaves, stems, and flowers of a plant.

Aphids are tiny insects that grow less than a quarter of an inch. Also, this pest can appear in various colors depending on its species. It could be a whitish, greenish, yellowish, or even pinkish spots in your plants. 

One thing that makes aphids proliferate is their mutual relationship with ants. Since aphids release honeydew, ants will protect them from direct predators. You will notice ants and aphids co-existing in an infested plant.

2.     Caterpillars

Another notorious pest in a garden is caterpillars. These plant-eaters can cause irreversible damages to the plant. Caterpillars love edible and flowering plants as well as other shade trees.

Aside from chewing leaves, some caterpillars can also tunnel in fruits, which can ruin your harvest. Caterpillars are very damaging to tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and other greens.

If you don’t remove caterpillars, it can reproduce fast in your garden. Take note that not all of it will become butterflies –sacrificing your plants may not be worth it after all.

3.     Colorado Potato Beetle

These yellow-orange beetles with black stripes may look attractive, but they are one of the pests you should get rid of. This beetle is common on eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, and petunias. It’s prevalent in North America, though you can also find it in other areas.

Potato plants infested with this insect can lose up to 30% of its leaves and stems. If you act fast and mitigate the spread of the pest, it will not affect your harvest.

You have to watch out, especially if your potato plants are still in the flowering phase. You wouldn’t want the young tubers to get infested.

4.     Cabbage Maggot

True to its name, Cabbage Maggots target cabbage plants, but they tend to gravitate toward Chinese cabbage species. This pest can be found all over North America and will target the cabbage plants from the roots.

With this root-tunneling behavior, Cabbage Maggots can kill the plant. It also allows pathogens to enter the cabbage, which will lead to its death.

Take note that this pest can only hatch during cold weather, which is why they also attack plants that thrive in cool temperatures.

5.     Flea Beetle

These dark and greenish beetles are called as such because they tend to jump when disturbed. They love foraging on vegetable crops. This pest will cause holes on the leaves and chew a large portion. Aside from adult Flea Beetles, its larvae will also feed on the roots of the plants they infest.

Aside from the damage Flea Beetles can inflict on your garden, it can also bring a slew of transmittable diseases.

If diagnosed early, Flea Beatles are easy to remove from your garden using botanical pesticides.

6.     Japanese Beetle

Japanese Beetles have bronze wings and blue-green bodies. This insect loves flowers, fruit-bearing plants, and vegetables. Due to their foraging habits, Japanese Beetles pose a direct threat to crop harvests. Usually, the Japanese Beetles will eat the soft tissues of the leaves, leaving the skeletal remains to decompose.

A massive infestation of Japanese Beetles can defoliate a plant. Also, the larvae can spread into the roots, which will directly kill your plants.

7.     Scales

Scales are flying insects that target the fruits, stems, and leaves of a plant. They have thread-like mouthparts that can cause serious damage to garden plants.

Plants infected with scales will turn yellow. Eventually, the leaves will fall, and the foliage will die. Like aphids, scales produce honeydew that ants love. This is the same reason why scales are protected by ants and will continue to prosper in your garden unless you perform pest control.

If you are to eliminate scales through the use of pesticides, you should look for a fast-acting formula. However, avoid synthetic options as it may cause more harm than help.

How to protect plants from bugs and other pests

Now that you know more about your enemies, it’s time to discover your options in dealing with the pest. The following are some of the methods you can try:

1.     Clean up

Aside from the scent of your plants and the source of food, pests find your garden attractive due to the dead and unkempt foliage. Clean up all the debris and dispose of it properly. This will help prevent plant diseases from spreading and pests from harboring on the pile of dirt.

Also, cleaning up disturbs your garden, which will discourage other pests from brewing.

2.     Encourage beneficial insects

A natural way to discourage or even eliminate insect pests is to encourage beneficial insects to stay in your garden. However, make sure that the pesticides you’re using will not harm these good insects.

One of the most beneficial garden insects are ladybugs. This good bug feeds on aphids, whiteflies, and Colorado potato beetles. They are usually attracted to dandelions, dills, and other flowering plants.

Other beneficial insects also include ground beetles. It eats caterpillars, slugs, and cutworms. You can also encourage the population of Braconid wasps, minute pirate bugs, green lacewings, and damsel bugs.

3.     Trim out unhealthy plants

The moment you discover a plant infested with pests, prune it right away. Try to remove all the infected parts as much as possible. If the pest ravages the entire plant, it might be ideal to remove it entirely.

Even if the infested plants survive, it will not form strong roots, and the leaves will have poor quality. Worse, it may only spread the pest and disease to other plants in your garden.

Also, never compost the sickly plants you plucked out. The last thing you want to happen is brewing bugs on your compost.

4.     Use net covers

If bugs are starting to pester nearby gardens, it will help to cover your plants with a net dome. This is very useful for edible plants, much so for fruit-bearing ones. Aside from insects, the net cover will also prevent birds from feeding on your harvest.

You can also use a row cover if you don’t want other plants to contract the disease of another plant. It’s also useful in preventing bugs from jumping from one plant to another.

5.     Apply anti-bug sprays

If the bugs keep on coming back on your garden, you can use an anti-bug pesticide. Always choose an organic formula that’s suitable to use edible plants. We also prefer formulas that are safe to use on same-day harvest as well as a daily regimen for your garden.

Are you looking for a spray to keep bugs away? Check our top 5 picks in this post!

Pesticide sprays can be made of various active ingredients. If you’re worried about the side effect of commercial sprays, you can make one at home.

You can dilute two tablespoons of cold-pressed neem oil in three to four cups of water. Shake this well and spray with your plants.

NOTE: Before applying any garden spray, always try it on a small portion of a plant first. Observe for 24 to 48 hours before general application,

6.     Use soapy water for leaf pests

If you don’t want to buy any commercial spray and you don’t have neem oil, you can use soapy water instead. Just dilute two tablespoons of dish soap in one gallon of water. Shake it well until the water is a little foamy.

Spray this on the leaves of your plants to kill aphids, scales, and other leaf-eating pests. This also works on caterpillars, but you may need multiple applications.

Take note that not all soaps are safe for this purpose. We recommend sticking to dish soap and avoid heavy detergents.

7.     Grow smelly herbs

Some bugs hate the strong smell of other plants. If you want a natural way to drive away from the bugs, you should plant some smell-producing plants in your garden.

The likes of lemongrass, fennel, basil, citronella, and mint are some of the excellent choices for this. The good thing about some of these plants is you can use it for cooking. It also drives away mosquitoes.

However, you should check if the smelly plants will not hinder the growth of other plants. You can separate the smelly plants in pots if you’re afraid it will steal the soil nutrients from other plants.

8.     Keep a sharp ground

Lastly, you should keep the soil under your plants sharp. This is ideal in preventing slugs and approaching pests from pestering your plants. It will spare you from manually plucking the pest out of the soil.

How can you make the ground sharp? Will you use shards of glass? No. We recommend using diatomaceous earth (DE). This is a powder-like pesticide with sharp, crystal-like texture when put under a microscope. 

Upon contact, DE will cause wounds on the pest. This will lead to their eventual death.

Take note that DE is only effective if it’s dry. Once it gets wet, its sharp edges will no longer be effective in killing pests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will soapy water kill my plants?

A: If you dilute the soap into a large amount of water, it shouldn’t harm your flower beds. However, you should take proper caution when spraying soapy water on edible plants. You should always follow the right dilution proportion. Aside from that, not all soaps are safe to use on plants.

Q: How come soapy water kills bugs in my garden?

A: Insects like bugs have small vents all over its body where it breathes. So when you spray them with soapy water, these vents get blocked. It will result in suffocation and eventual death. Even a small amount of soap diluted in water will do the magic.

Q: Can I spray tea tree oil on my plants to kill bugs?

A: Tea tree oil is a natural solution to get rid of bugs and other insect pests in your garden. However, you should dilute it properly as pure tea tree oil is very abrasive. The proportion is two tablespoons of tea tree oil in two cups of water. Also, the application of this formula should be every seven days.

Q: Are bugs all bad for plants?

A: As much as some bugs are damaging for plants, some are beneficial. The likes of ladybugs, damsel bugs, and ground beetles are beneficial for your garden. These insects eat pests that damage your foliage.

Q: Are bugs good for garden soil?

A: Some, but not all bugs, are healthy for your garden soil. Some bugs and insects help break down organic matter that nourishes the soil. You have to be careful with the bugs you invite in your garden, as some can be counterproductive.

Final words

Knowing how to protect plants from bugs will help keep your garden safe from the harm pests bring. You should start by identifying the type of pest present in your garden so you can utilize the right solution. Above, we listed some solutions that you can do at home. You can also purchase commercial options for instant defense against the destructive bugs.

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