Dealing with herb pests

Believe it or not, many herbs are pest-free, which is one of the many reasons gardeners find these plants so easy and fun to grow. Some herbs even repel pests from themselves as well as adjacent plants. However, you may meet a handful of pests. If you do, act quickly to rescue your harvest, either by treating the plant or by tearing it out and getting rid of it before the problem can spread. Check out Table 14-1 for a rap sheet of the major troublemakers.

Table 14-1 Pests and the Herbs They Dine On

Pest

Appearance

Effect on Plant

Food Preference

Aphids

Tiny sucking insects that congregate in groups; they may be white, greenish, or black

A severely infested plant turns yellow and dies.

Caraway, lovage, nasturtium, and oregano

Carrot weevil

A tiny, hard-shelled brownish bug

Carrot weevils attacks the root as well as the top of the plant.

Parsley

Japanese beetle

Green and copper colored bugs that are about /211 long

These bugs are voracious foliage eaters.

Basil and echinacea

Leaf miner

A bug that starts as a tiny yellowish larvae and turns into small, black fly with yellow stripes

Affected leaves have meandering tunnels and blotches.

Lovage, oregano, and sorrel

Scale

Bugs that look like small waxy or cottony bumps

Scales feed by sucking sap, and they leave behind telltale honeydew (which, in turn, attracts ants and sooty mold).

Bay, myrtle, and rosemary

Slugs and snails

You know these slimy characters! But you may not always see them — they're most active at night

Slugs and snails devour foliage.

Basil, calendula, and sorrel

Spider mite

A wee relative of the spider

Spider mites suck plant juices, leaving telltale pinprick spots and puckering.

Angelica, germander, lemon verbena, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme

The pests that go after herbs may seem as varied as the herbs themselves, but here are a few defensive strategies you can take to protect your herbs:

1 Make sure your herbs are in good health, well-watered, and in particular have sufficient elbow room.

i Remove affected leaves; pull out severely infested plants and throw them away before the problem spreads.

i Dislodge small infestations with a spray from the hose; larger insect pets may be hand-picked and destroyed.

i If you have to spray, try insecticidal soap, which is nontoxic. Make sure the pest you're targeting is listed on the label, and then carefully follow the directions regarding how and when to apply.

1 You can combat certain pests with beneficial insects (such as ladybugs or lacewings). Look for more information — as well as help in attracting or acquiring the right helper — from a good garden center or from your Cooperative Extension agent, or do an online search.

1 Get a little help from some friends. Some herbs may help each other out by keeping pests at bay.

If you succeed in beating back a pest and later want to use the herb for fresh eating or to cook it, be sure to wash it thoroughly first!

Herbs 101

Herbs 101

Learn what you can do with herbs! How to Plant, Grow, and Cook with Natural Herbs. Have you always wanted an herb garden but didn't know how to get started? Do you want to know more about growing your own herbs in the privacy of your home and using them in a variety of cooking?

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