The Shoestring Gardener

Easy Organic Gardening eBook

Get Instant Access

Correct identification is key. Capture a few and show them to someone who knows (a garden-center staffer, a landscaper, or another, more experienced vegetable gardener) or look the bugs up. If you can't find the pest, a sample of typical damage should help your expert identify the culprit.

As you can see in the upcoming culprits' table, I'm not hastening to recommend spraying chemicals in a vegetable garden. Try other tactics first.

If you catch the problem early, it's not unrealistic to manage by picking off offending bugs and drowning them in soapy water (not a coffee-can of gasoline — this method makes a disgusting and toxic brew that's hard to dispose of) or putting the bugs in a zipper-type plastic bag. Or shower the plants with water. Often a good spray with the hose can drown and knock off offending pests.

Spray with pesticides only as a last resort, because you can harm unintended targets (plant and animal) or taint your garden soil. To be on the cautious side, you also want to thoroughly wash your harvest before eating or cooking. Always get the right product for the targeted pest and follow the directions on the label to the letter. Note that most sprays are most effective when used in the early stages of a pest's development. Examples of sprays that you can use include insecticidal soap, neem oil, horticultural oils, and garlic or pepper spray.

Table 13-2 lists the common culprits.

Table 13-2

Vegetarian Bugs, Grubs, Slugs, and Other Critters



Favorite Targets

First Control


These tiny plant-sucking insects are usually green but may be red, brown, gray, or black. They stunt and distort plant growth and spread disease.

Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts

Knock them off with a stiff blast from the hose.


Identification is important because some beetles are perfectly harmless. The main vegetable-garden villains are cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and little flea beetles.

Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, and potatoes (above ground growth)

Hand-pickthem off or use row covers or other physical barriers to keep them away from their favorite plants.

"Worms" (moth larvae)

Cabbage loopers and corn earworms are the worst vegetable-garden pests.

The part you like —the fruit of cabbage-family crops, corn ears, and ripening tomatoes

Protect your plants with row covers. Also, because the worms can overwinter in garden soil, turn overthe soil in late fall to expose them to freezing temperatures — and rotate your crops.


Not all caterpillers are harmful, so be careful when identifying. Some are large, some are small, some are colorful, and some are spiny or hairy.

The leaves of any vegetable plant

Hand-pickthem off.


These little larval fellows relish young seedlings, which they neatly chop off atthe soil line.

Beans, corn, pepper, tomato, and cabbage

Because they don't like to climb, a collar around the vulnerable plant should keep them out (make it from a can or stiff cardboard).



Favorite Targets

First Control


These very small flying pests pierce and suckthe life out of plant parts, especially foliage (though they love bean blossoms).

Beans, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash

A collar of aluminum foil around the base of a plant can deter them.

Leaf miners

These tiny insect larvae travel within leaf tissue, leaving meandering trails. These paths weaken a plant and consequently reduces its harvest.

Cucumbers, peppers, squash, melons, and tomatoes

Pick off and dispose of affected leaves.

Root maggots

These critters are most active in spring as little egg-laying flies.

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower,

Brussels sprouts, kale, radish, and onion

Sprinkle coffee grounds or fireplace (wood) ashes around vulnerable plants. Fine-mesh screen cages may also deter them.

Snails and slugs

Crowded, damp conditions prove irresistible to these slimy nibblers. They're most active at night.

Any vegetable plant!

Erect copper barriers around vulnerable plants (these give them an unpleasant "electric shock"); trap them with pie tins of beer; spread diatomaceous earth on the ground (it feels like flour but is full of sharp particles that irritate their skin). Cocoa hull mulch deters them, and some bark or wood mulches have pieces that are large enough forthese slimy critters to sleep under during the day. Put out a single board in the garden and the snails and slugs will use it for shelter during the day. Lift it up and them scrape off.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
100 Gardening Tips

100 Gardening Tips

100 Gardening Tips EVERY Gardening Enthusiast Should Know!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment