Bugs are a natural part of any garden. In fact, most don’t harm the health of your plants but instead are beneficial. Some, however, are considered pesky. Garden pests are small but can be mighty when left unmonitored. From annoying to detrimental, they can cause some damage if ignored.

Colonies of aphids, spider mites and white flies are tiny vegetarian vampires, who suck sap from tender growth. And like normal vegetarians, snails, slugs and caterpillars munch away at leaves and flowers leaving nothing but a trail of slime. If caught early, pests can be manually removed and healthy plants can make a full recovery, but colonies can be incredibly stubborn causing exhausted gardeners to toss their plants out of frustration. 

Pest-free gardens are an impossible feat, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent and manage infestations without using harmful pesticides. Remember, the best defense is making sure your plants are planted in ideal conditions for its type – a happy plant is a healthy plant. Below are three ways you can work with nature to keep your garden healthy. To learn all the other methods, take our Integrated Pest Management: A Common Sense Approach class on September 10. Click here for more information on classes.

  1. Give Your Plants Proper Care: Plants have their own defense mechanisms for deterring pests but when their needs are neglected they can become sick. Much like humans, when plants are not feeling their best they become easily susceptible to infection and infestation. So make sure your plants are growing in conditions they are happiest and best adapted to: receiving proper water, sun, and fertilizer to ensure their defenses are working.
  2. Inspect Your Plants Often: Look closely at stems, new buds, and the underside of leaves. If you see a pest munching away, determine if the amount of damage is something you can tolerate. If it is a garden patron you don’t mind dining (for example Monarch caterpillars), and it is a little bit, no harm is done, but if your plant is getting defoliated, it might be time to step in. Physical removal – via squishing or a strong stream of water to forcibly remove them – are great techniques. While it doesn’t seem like much, doing this regularly adds up. Common garden pests can reproduce rapidly, so managing them as soon as possible is essential to preventing an infestation.
  3. Don’t Use Broad Spectrum Pesticides: These pesticides are often strong chemicals and are very effective at killing all bugs, including the ones that are beneficial for your garden and the surrounding environment. Avoid systemic pesticides, because as the plant takes up the toxin in all its parts, it will not only be poisonous to pests but also to the beneficial bugs – like pollinators – that may visit the plant for a quick meal of nectar or pollen. Instead, try using products that target specific pests or introduce their predators, like native ladybugs and lacewings. These insects protect plants by preying on the pesky pests that love eating your plants. 

Remember, this is just an entry into pest management. Join the class on September 10 to get more expert advice!