It's nearly harvest time, which means many gardeners are dealing with garden pests. These animals and bugs come out of the woodwork to take advantage of your hard work and eat your fruits and vegetables. Leaving behind droppings in many different forms, from rat droppings to sticky honeydew. These pests do nothing to help you or your garden flourish.
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Garden pests are much easier to find when you're working with a vertical garden, but when you see bugs invading your plants, sometimes just killing them won't stop them. It's important to be able to differentiate hurtful garden pests and helpful garden bugs. You should also know just how to handle a pest problem for your garden, in case a rat or some bugs decide to feast on your harvest. What exactly constitutes a garden pest though?
What Are Garden Pests?
Garden pests are usually bugs that come into your garden, and start to eat your plants. They are nuisances in their own ways and can cause a plants death depending on how many there are and how often they eat. They can be incredibly destructive, ruining everything you have strived to grow. They'll eat flowers, leaves, and suffocate your plants killing any potential harvest you planned on having.
There are a wide variety of pests that can attack your garden, from the roots to the flowers each plant could be in danger. Thankfully though not all pests are bad, there are some that help your garden. Knowing the difference can help you encourage healthy growth in your plants, and even keep out the pests that are prepared to harm.
Pests That Don’t Hurt Your Garden
There are a wide variety of pests that don't actually hurt your garden. Some even help keep the pests that do hurt your plants at bay. Some people for example greatly dislike bees due to their nasty sting, but bees are essential pollinators that your garden needs. If you don't have bees than you likely won't have crops. Even more types of bugs can help your garden, even though many of them are thought to be traditional garden pests. Take a look at your vertical garden, to see if any of these good guys are lending a hand.
Wasps and hornets
Another stinging bug and this one doesn't even pollinate! Wasps and hornets though aren't bad pests. They feast upon other insects which are often common garden pests, including aphid larvae which is some of their favorite. They may have a nasty sting, but they aren't actually outright aggressive as many people believe. Much like a bee, if you leave them alone, they're going to leave you alone. All while dealing away with some of the pests plaguing your garden.
These little beauties are sometimes thought to be garden pests because they are bugs. Many people think all bugs eat plants, but the ladybug targets a meal higher in protein. Mites and aphids, in both their adult and larval form, are delicious to a ladybug, along with other pests. Mits and aphids can wreak havoc on an unprotected garden, but the ladybugs gorge themselves on them, protecting and defending your garden.
Soldier beetles are another garden helper that looks like one of our garden pests.These delightful beetles look like beetles that may eat your plants. Instead, they feed on caterpillars, aphids, and so much more. Targeting caterpillars is great, as they've caused myself more that one season of strife and soldier beetles are the only reason I had any crops at all. Soldier beetles are in fact your garden's little helpers, and not garden pests.
This little bug is hard to see, but when they're in your garden, you should be happy. They aren't only interesting but are incredibly helpful. A praying mantis eats all kinds of terrible garden pests, allowing you to rest easy. Even the baby nymphs are predatory hunters, the size of a small ant, and they don't hesitate to attack the garden pests such as aphids and leafhoppers that would otherwise ravage your garden. These little creatures are beautiful and graceful and can bring all kinds of delight to your flourishing garden. Including a lack of terrible pests. But what types of pests hurt your garden?
Pests That Are Harmful to Your Garden
With the good comes the bad, and these garden pests couldn't be worse. Not all pests are bugs, animals, such as rabbits, rats, and deer can be a problem if you live in a rural area. If you're working with a vertical garden, there's a good chance are you're in a more urban setting. In that case, you're likely looking at quite a few bugs that could cause you some serious problems. The rats though tend to stick around no matter where you are. What kind of bugs could ruin your garden though?
With thousands of species throughout the world, these little buggers eat the sap right out of the plant. Having a few around isn't a death sentence, but when the numbers grow you have problems. Your plant will wilt, and its leaves will curl, growth will stop, and your harvest won't happen on time if at all. This garden bug in mass could kill an entire garden easily. After the aphids eat, they secrete honeydew, promoting mold growth and attracting ants. These bugs won't even have eggs; they birth live young ready to eat your harvest.
All throughout North America, this worm looks like a caterpillar, but it's actually an earworm. It bores into fruits and vegetables and is commonly known to attack corn. After hibernating in the soil, it emerges after winter and deposits their eggs on corn silks and other plants. Each female lays about 3,000 eggs, which can all turn into more worms. In a manner of a month, you can go from having lush plants to no plants at all, just because of an onslaught of these little worms.
This little bug normally works at your plants in the night. They love corn silks and hide in small holes in or between foliage and flowers. They're slender and reddish brown, with pincers on the end. They infest fruits and attack seedlings. They can travel quite far as well, hitching rides in fruit shipments. You may have seen some of these little guys inside your house, but they're there by accident, and won't repopulate until they can get back outside, where they can get solid food.
Nobody likes rats, especially not in your garden. They get attracted to the garden because you're literally growing food. Keeping an eye out for rat scat and ensuring that you have secured your space will keep them out. There is always an option with rats, but a female rat can repopulate so quickly you'll need to act fast. You can discourage them by blocking their access, for example, I have a wire mesh on the only opening to my vertical garden. The mesh is much smaller than a rats head, keeping them from getting into my sunroom. If you don't take some kind of action though, you will end up with a bunch of rats, no plants, and nothing to show for your work.
Creepy Crawly Garden Pests and Bugs
Most creepy and crawly bugs you only think you don't want in your garden. From spiders to the praying mantis most bugs in this category are great for your garden. You do have to be aware though of exactly what's there. For example, a caterpillar is a creepy crawly bug, and most caterpillars will eat your plants. Make sure you have great soil, native plants, and diversity in your garden to attract positive pests like the honey bee. Also be sure to provide water for the good bugs that will eat your garden pests; otherwise they'll have to stray from your garden to drink, and may not return. How do you tell when bugs are even in your garden though?
How to Tell If Bugs Are in Your Garden
Your vertical garden is small, so unlike larger plots of land spotting bugs is pretty easy. You should check leaves and stems for anything that appears different from before. For example, aphids have that sticky honeydew they secrete. Rats have their poop, and earwigs are easy to find in flowers and stems if you look for holes.
Each pest is easy enough to find, and a lot of them don't even try to hide. You should see your plants on an almost daily basis, to check them for bugs. Its usually clear when there's a problem, new bugs will physically be on your plants or the plant will be reacting negatively in some way. One surefire sign you have a problem is if there's physically holes in your leaves. How do you deal with pests in the first place though?
How to Avoid Pests
There are ways to attract the good bugs and pests and to deter the ones that will kill your crops. If you can avoid pests in the first place, you won't have to juggle trying to handle the damage a garden pest could do. There are a few different approaches to keeping the bad garden pests out of your space. Initially, there are treatments with different pesticides and chemicals, or you can use organic methods. Both methods are efficient, and can keep the pests away from your garden without too much of a problem, but which one is right for you and your vertical garden.
Control and treat with pesticides
Pesticides are usually a chemical concoction which is tested and designed to kill or deter pests in your garden. It's a broad term that can include weed killers, fungal killers, rodent killers, and growth regulators. It's a good idea to double check and be sure that you're dealing with a pest before you decide to use a pesticide. Check your plants and go from there. Always be sure its a pest causing the problem and not an issue like poor drainage or physical damage of another kind.
After you've chosen a pesticide, there will be instructions on how to use it safely on the container. Do not use it in any other way than intended, pesticides carry chemicals, which can react with other chemicals when exposed to them. You'll need to be sure the pesticide you choose is right for your garden pests and has the most minimal effect against people. Always read the label and follow instructions if this is the route you want to take.
Control and treatment with organic methods
More organic methods include planting some deterrent plants. Plants like catnip, thyme, basil, and coriander are plants that pests don't favor. They repel insects, which are the majority of the pests you'll encounter in your vertical garden. These methods don't involve chemicals, and though there isn't any scientific strength behind issues with using chemicals to keep pests off our food, it still makes plenty of people nervous. Those who choose to use pesticides could risk putting those pesticides in their body.
Another organic method you can use to deter pests is insect killing soaps and oils. These methods are totally organic, and completely safe for the plant, but are deadly to a variety of garden pests. Along with attracting beneficial insects and building barriers for your seedlings you can keep out most problem causing creatures in one way or another.
Taking the Pests out for a Better Garden
From the creepy crawlies to rats in your neighborhood pests come in all shapes and sizes. Thankfully not all bugs are out to harm your vertical garden. With a smaller garden like yours, you'll be able to spot inbound pests faster than someone working on a plot of land, which allows you to tackle the problem faster, and handle the pests properly, without losing your plants.
With organic and non-organic methods you can protect your garden, your way, and still have a plentiful harvest in the end. Just be sure you don't end up driving out all the good bugs that help you keep a lid on things. Did you experience a pest problem on your vertical garden? Tell us what you did in the comments to get rid of your garden pests.