Having a vegetable garden can save you a lot of money. According to some experts, you can produce about $1,250 worth of vegetables for every $50 you spend on seeds and supplies. Unfortunately, vegetable gardens are popular with a number of pests that can destroy all your hard work in a matter of weeks. Here are three you will likely come across and what you can do to get rid of them.
Tomatoes are the easiest and most popular vegetable to grow. So it sort of makes sense there would be a bug that loves to feast on them. The tomato hornworm is a type of caterpillar that has a horn-like tail. They can get pretty large, up to 4 inches in size, and develop characteristic white V marks on their bodies when they grow into adults.
Tomato hornworms can hurt your plants in two ways. First, they will eat the leaves, which can make it difficult for the tomatoes to capture the energy they need from the sun to grow. Second, these pests are known to take several bites out of the tomatoes themselves, rendering them inedible.
These bugs are fairly easy to deal with. Because of their size, you can actually pick them off the plants and place them in soapy water to destroy them. The challenge here is tomato hornworms tend to blend in with the foliage, which can make it difficult to locate them. You can prevent a lot of these caterpillars from even appearing in the spring by tilling the ground after harvesting your crop. This destroys most of the pupae sleeping in the soil.
If you prefer not to handle the bugs or feel drowning them is too cruel, you can attract beneficial insects to do some population control for you. Lacewings, ladybugs, and certain wasps have been known to destroy tomato hornworm eggs.
Cabbage is another vegetable that's many people like to grow, likely because it's a good source of nutrients like vitamin K, fiber, and potassium. Unfortunately, this vegetable can be a magnet for pests, one of which is the cabbage looper.
Cabbage loopers are a type of worm that's widely found throughout North America. They have six legs and move by pulling their bodies into a loop shape to help propel themselves forward, hence the name. They start out white in color as eggs but gradually turn green as they grow and feast on plants.
These pests do the most damage in their larval stage. They are capable of eating three times their weight each day, which can lead to a ravaged garden within a short period of time if you get a lot of them. Although they primarily eat cabbage, they will also attack other cruciferous plants, such as lettuce and spinach.
Some of the pest control methods you used for tomato hornworms can be applied to cabbage loopers as well. They are large enough you can simply pluck them from the plants and toss them into soapy water. Encouraging wasps to hang around your garden can be particularly beneficial since they are the loopers' natural enemy. However, birds are also fond of eating these worms.
Flea beetles are small jumping bugs that love to attack vegetable crops almost as soon as growing season begins. For such small insects—they measure about 1/10 of an inch as adults—they do a lot of damage to plant foliage. Though they make tiny holes in the leaves, a large group of these bugs can destroy entire crops. They're not picky either. These beetles will go after any vegetable in your garden, including corn, eggplant, and potatoes.
There are a number of pesticides you can use to kill these bugs. If you prefer not to use chemicals, another option is to dust talcum powder on the plants, which will repel flea beetles. Planting a trap crop of radishes that sprout before your main crop will attract these bugs and prevent them from damaging the plants you want to protect. You can also repel them by planting catnip and basil around your crops.
For more tips on dealing with vegetable garden pests or help keeping bug populations under control, contact a pest control company like Ace Walco & Sons Termite & Pest Control.