Of course, having a vegetable garden does not mean that you will not have snails, slugs, sow bugs, grasshoppers, aphids and a whole myriad of bugs that want to devour your plants and fruit. The first line of defense is to have healthy plants. If any of your plants are not doing well, those plants will be first in line for an attack by some type of bug, snail, slug, earwig, ant etc.
WHAT TO DO
Keep a watchful eye. If you see that something is eating the leaves of your plants (grasshoppers, mice, rats, worms, etc) ask someone to help you identify the culprit and then go to a nursery for assistance. You can also check out the website, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/ as they list a great many pests and their control. We encourage you to garden organically and sometimes by hand picking those bugs, snails etc. is all that it takes to get a handle on the situation. The purpose of organic gardening is to develop a nature eco system.
TOMATO RUSSET MITE
They can take an entire tomato plant in three days and indigenous to the south west part of our country.
We have giant brown and tiny green ones. Grasshoppers are very destructive to the leaves of your plants. If you can, catch and destroy them otherwise they will continue to reproduce and more destruction will occur.
APHIDS AND ANTS
We are grouping these two together because they go together. If you have aphids, look for ants, if you have ants look for aphids. The ants place the aphids on your plants and then collect the honeydew from the aphids. A heavy stream of water aimed at the aphids will dislodge them and they will fall to the ground. They cannot get back onto your plants unless the ants put them there so controlling the ants is the next thing you will have to do. Put some soil into an empty container and sprinkle your ant control into the can and lay it in your garden along ant trails. Lift the can before you water then replace.
SNAILS AND SLUGS
Yes, we have these too especially during the rainy seasons. The safest way to control these are to hand pick them.
Also known as “pill bugs”. They eat decaying matter but unfortunately, they also nibble on your young vegetables and tender seedling. Safest way to handle these is to place some leaves or pieces of wood down on your soil. They will hide under them and you can scoop them up each morning.
BUFFALO LEAF HOPPER
You will see the nymph and the adult form on your tomato stems, later in the season. The nymph is black with orange markings and the adult is a triangle shaped, lime insect that will fly when touched. Both the nymph and adult can give you a sting if you touch them. You can destroy them by using your own organic spray of 1 teaspoon of liquid soap to 1 quart of water. Be sure and spray in the cool of the day (early morning or late evening) and wash the spray off thoroughly after one hour. Insecticidal soap also works.
TOMATO FRUIT WORM, CABBAGE WORM, CORN EAR WORM
Tomato fruit worm is not that big green worm that eats the leaves of tomato plants. This little worm crawls up your tomato plant and imbeds itself into one of your not yet ripe tomatoes and feeds there. This happens early in the season and stops after a month or so. If you don’t mind losing SOME of the first of your tomato crop, do nothing.
The corn ear worm is similar to the tomato fruit worm and the cabbage worm. However, a more organic way to deal with the cabbage worm is to place hoops over your cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc plants and cover with craft netting obtained at the fabric store.
TOMATO HORN WORM
This is the big green worm that eats the leaves of your tomato plants.
The prevention for the four worms noted above is a product called B.T. or worm killer. Spray the first of May and again the first of June to prevent these worms from eating your crop. B.T. is a safe product to use, as it is merely a bacillus and when the worm eats leaves sprayed with B.T. it gets a tummy ache and stops eating and starves to death. Again this is only a suggestion to use or not.
White fly can attack almost any type of plant. For help with this, go to your nursery. We have not found a good way to handle a white fly infestation.
This little, almost invisible beetle mostly attacks the leaves of eggplants. They are very difficult to control so instead, try preventing the infestation. When you plant your eggplants, put a layer of black and white newspaper on the soil around the plant. Place a cage or wall of water over the plant and on top of the newspaper. If using a cage, wrap it in clear plastic sheeting making sure that it goes all the way to the soil level. Allow your plants to mature to a 1 ½ foot height before removing the plastic/wall of water. These mature, pest free plants, will now produce well. Otherwise, the flea beetle damage would be so intense that the plants will be stunted. Yes, you may still get some flea beetle damage but your plants are now mature and healthy enough to withstand the attack.