Conquering common garden pests: Effective strategies for a thriving garden

Perhaps every gardener has encountered the issue of pests at some point. If you haven't come across this problem, you're either extremely fortunate or just starting out. That's why we have compiled a list of the 4 most common garden pests and corresponding pest control measures, so you can be well-prepared.
Note: In this article, we will discuss the most common pests. However, if you suspect that your plant is affected, it is always a good idea to utilize the Plant Doctor feature to perform a thorough check-up.

#1 Ants

Very common pests. The harm from ants is as follows:
  • Ants are the primary cultivators of aphids in gardens. They cultivate aphids solely for the purpose of collecting their sweet honeydew. Ants and aphids infest fruit trees and shrubs, eventually causing their demise.
  • Ant colonies disrupt flowerbeds, rock gardens, and lawns. They construct anthills with intricate underground tunnels that are impervious to cold weather and insecticides.
  • Redback ground ants readily devour strawberries and other berry crops, consume high-sugar vegetables and root vegetables, and feed on the contents of buds and flowers.

The battle against ants is becoming increasingly significant each year, and the market is flooded with a wide array of remedies to combat these unwelcome intruders. The majority of ant control products available contain two key substances: diazinon and chlorpyrifos.
  • Diazinon works by inhibiting the production of an enzyme that is vital for the ants' nervous system. This disruption causes convulsions, leading to paralysis and ultimately their demise.
  • Chlorpyrifos, on the other hand, enters the insects through their respiratory system and acts by paralyzing their nervous system. It remains in the soil for approximately 110-120 days, providing extended effectiveness against pests for about 1-2 months.
When using chemical remedies, it is important to carefully follow the instructions and precautions provided by the manufacturer.

If you prefer natural remedies, it is worth noting that ants are sensitive to various odors. Therefore, you can regularly place anise leaves, smoked herring heads, sawdust mixed with grated garlic near their nesting areas. Other options include using vegetable oil, tobacco ashes, chopped tomato and parsley leaves, turpentine, and charcoal. These natural substances can help deter ants.

#2 Aphids

There are currently over 4,000 known species of aphids. These insects pose a threat to plants as they carry harmful viruses and have voracious appetites, causing plant deformities. Aphids reproduce rapidly and can infest seedbeds within a matter of days. Crops such as cucumbers, cabbage, beans, and pumpkins are especially susceptible to aphid infestation.

There are several methods available to combat aphids. However, not all of them are safe for both humans and plants. Therefore, it is advisable to prioritize environmentally friendly methods before resorting to other options.

Aphids can be effectively controlled using safe methods. Here are a few examples:
  • Water: Use regular water to remove aphids from plants with dense and tough leaves. Wash them off with water from a pressure hose. Once washed away, they won't be able to get back on the plants on their own. Repeat this process regularly until the pest infestation is completely eliminated.
  • Soap solution: Prepare a solution by adding 4 to 5 tablespoons of dish detergent or laundry detergent to 2.2 gallons (10 liters) of water. It is advisable to use unscented soap, as strong fragrances can attract pests. Use a sprayer to apply the soapy liquid to the affected plants.
  • Citrus zest infusion: Grind a 16 ounce (0.5 liter) jar of dried citrus fruit peels and soak them in 32 ounces (1 liter) of water for 24 hours. Boil the mixture for 10 minutes, strain it, and then pour it into a 2.2 gallon (10 L) bucket of water. To enhance the effect, you can add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap to the solution.
These methods provide effective control of aphids while ensuring the safety of both plants and the environment.

These remedies are just a few options among many, but they have been chosen for their affordability and effectiveness. In many cases, pests can be eliminated with these home remedies after a few treatments. However, if the plants are severely infested and in critical condition, it may be necessary to resort to industrial insecticides for more intensive pest control.

#3 Thrips

Thrips are polyphagous insects, which means they can feed on a wide range of plants. Therefore, it is crucial to protect your vegetable garden, flower beds, or small home greenhouse from this pest.

Thrips have the ability to switch from one crop to another, and their small size makes them difficult to detect. The first colony of thrips that appears on houseplants or vegetable crops can go unnoticed for a long time. These pests lead a secretive lifestyle, initially staying on a single plant. You should be alert if you notice pollen falling from flowers without any wind or insect pollinators, as well as the presence of small whitish or silvery spots on the leaves.

To get rid of thrips, you can try the following methods:
  • Insecticide application: Use systemic insecticides to control thrips on indoor plants. Apply the insecticide to the plants and the surrounding soil. It is important to conduct a series of treatments and repeat the application after a week. 
  • Tobacco cones: In greenhouses and enclosed spaces, you can fumigate thrips-infested plants with tobacco cones. The smoke containing nicotine helps kill thrips larvae and adult insects without harming the plants and can even promote plant growth. However, note that this method is not effective against thrips eggs. Repeat the fumigation after a week to target newly hatched thrips.
Note: When selecting an insecticide, pay attention to the active ingredient and consider alternating different active ingredients to prevent thrips from developing resistance.
These are two of the most effective methods of controlling thrips. But, as a reminder, a second treatment is mandatory in order to get rid of these nasty pests for sure.

#4 Spider mite

Are your plants showing signs of weakness and withering, and you're struggling to identify the cause? It's possible that you have a spider mite infestation. Detecting spider mites can be challenging as they are tiny, measuring only about 1 mm in length. This makes it difficult for everyone to spot them.

Signs of spider mite infestation:
Due to their small size, spider mites often go unnoticed until plants start to deteriorate. Therefore, it's important to regularly inspect your plants closely to ensure that these pests have not invaded your property.
Pay close attention to the presence of spider webs, which are a byproduct of spider mite activity. These webs are typically found on the undersides of leaves and are nearly transparent. Other indications of an infestation include the presence of white spots on the leaves and the unexplained wilting or drying of leaves. If you have keen eyesight, you may even spot the mites themselves.

Wondering how to eliminate spider mites? Unfortunately, it requires significant effort and patience as these mites quickly develop resistance to treatments, necessitating multiple remedies throughout the season. While natural remedies may be environmentally friendly, they are ineffective against spider mites. Therefore, it is advisable to promptly resort to chemical treatments.

Here are some key points to keep in mind:
  • Treat the affected plants every 5-7 days, repeating the process at least 4-5 times.
  • Use different insecticides with distinct active ingredients for each treatment.
  • Never mix different preparations together.
  • While you now know how to combat spider mites, it's crucial not to overlook prevention measures and avoid allowing these pests to infest your plants.

In conclusion, with the right knowledge and strategies, you can effectively protect your plants from common pests. Whether using natural remedies or chemical treatments, prevention and prompt action are key to maintaining a thriving garden.