What Insects and Weeds Are Most Likely to Cause You Problems?
In this article:
● Common plant pests.
● Soil supplements that help with pets.
● Weeds in your garden.
● The most devastating weeds.
● Why do weeds grow?
● Be aware of weed seeds.
● Growing methods that prevent weeds.
● Plant strategically.
Insects In Your Garden
When you are gardening outdoors, insects are a fact of life. They belong outside, and you’re probably glad they are out there instead of in your house. There are some insects that can be beneficial to plant growth, by pollinating flowers and eating pests. There are other insects that will eat your plants and even introduce diseases to them. Some insects affect gardens all over, while other pests are limited by region. However, there are some measures you can take to reduce their impact on your plants. Introducing predator insects can decrease the populations of many pests, and these can be purchased at most garden stores. Creating barriers around your garden or crops can also help reduce the damage done by certain insects.
The Most Devastating Plant Pests
Aphids are some of the most common garden pests. They’re recognizable as tiny, pear-shaped bodies and many of them are green, though they can also be black, red, brown, or yellow. With more than 4,000 species in existence, there’s a lot of variety to be found. In small numbers, they are not harmful to plants, but they often infest gardens in large numbers. They stunt plants and can cause them to wither. They also leave behind a fluid called honeydew as they eat. It’s sweet, and it attracts ants and causes mold growth. Pruning the affected areas can be helpful for dealing with small infestations. Otherwise, introducing aphid predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, can be helpful. Ladybugs and lacewings are both sold in bulk to help lower aphid populations. They also eat other garden pests.
Grasshoppers are damaging not because of their numbers, but because of how much they need to eat. Experts estimate that every year, they eat about 25 percent of crops grown in the Western United States. Because of this, even a small population can cause sizable damage. They are typically one or two inches long, and range in color from brown to yellow to green. One suggested tip is to keep a mown strip between your garden and any grassy areas. A strip mown clean deters them from crossing the strip to get to your plants. This is especially effective in large areas with a wide strip. Pesticides or a special fungus targeted at these pests can also be effective in decreasing their populations.
Snails and Slugs (Gastropods)
Though these don’t qualify as insects, they are some of the most insidious garden pests in the United States. They do especially well in damp areas, especially in hidden spots found under rocks and other garden features. They will chew holes into plants of all kinds, ranging from vegetables to flowers to leafy greens. Snails and slugs thrive in heavy mulch, so avoid laying down more than three inches at a time. Removing decorative stones and bricks takes away their hiding spots if you are willing to sacrifice their aesthetic value. Otherwise, traps are an excellent way to collect and kill these pests. Basins filled with beer attract these creatures, and once inside, they will drown. Diatomaceous earth and copper tape can create barriers to prevent slugs and snails from getting to their favorite plants to eat.
Common Plant Pests
In addition to aphids, grasshoppers, snails and slugs, here are the most common plant pets:
- Whiteflies (Aleyrodidae): Small, flying insects that suck plant juices, leading to yellowing, wilting, and reduced vigor.
- Spider Mites (Tetranychidae): These tiny arachnids feed on plant fluids, causing stippling, discoloration, and webbing on leaves.
- Caterpillars (Lepidoptera larvae): Various caterpillar species can chew on leaves, flowers, and fruits, causing extensive damage.
- Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae): They pierce plant tissue and feed on sap, causing yellowing and wilting, and in severe cases, transmitting diseases.
- Thrips (Thysanoptera): These small, slender insects scrape plant tissue, causing silvery, scarred, or distorted leaves.
- Cutworms (Noctuidae larvae): They are nocturnal larvae that cut through stems at soil level, causing young plants to wilt and die.
- Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica): These insects skeletonize leaves and can cause extensive damage in large numbers.
- Scale Insects (Coccoidea): These immobile pests attach themselves to plant surfaces and feed on sap, causing weakened growth and leaf yellowing.
Soil Supplements that Help with Pests
- Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that can be crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder and tilled into the soil and/or top-dressed.
- Recycled glass material found at hydro stores which is top dressed on the soil and is an excellent way to control bugs that reproduce in the soil like fungus gnats.
- Harvest Gold Organics is a premium soil conditioner made from recycled gold mine tailings. The mineral content, silica, and the way the particles are structured contribute to preventing bugs from reproducing in the soil and helps the plants grow stronger, which makes them more resistant to bugs.
Weeds in Your Garden
Most gardeners work with a specific idea in mind on how they want to organize the yard. You might want lots of vegetable plants or lots of butterfly-attracting flowers, or maybe you’re gardening with color in mind. Weeds can disrupt all of this. They will grow in places where you want another plant to thrive, and many of them are good at taking over the resources, such as space and nutrients, that are meant to go to the original garden plants. They produce seeds, sometimes up to thousands per plant. Below are some of the most common weeds to watch out for, and how to reduce their presence in your garden.
The Most Devastating Weeds
The most common weeds will vary slightly from region to region, but some are found all across North America. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are one such plant. Because they have a long tap root, they are tough to kill, and their seeds are aerodynamic enough to spread easily. Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), a type of morning glory vine, is an invasive species that can be hard to get rid of since it has roots that extend up to 14 feet down and it spreads widely in warm climates, strangling your plants. Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album) is the most common garden weed, which can grow rapidly and compete with crops. It grows quickly and soaks up moisture before other plants can get to it. It is best addressed with a sharp hoe or another tool.
With plants like these, it’s best to recognize seedlings before they have a chance to fully take root. On the bright side, dandelion and lamb’s quarters are edible and make wonderful medicinal teas for a wide range of ailments.
Common Weed Types
In addition to dandelion, bindweed, and lamb’s quarters, here are the most common weeds:
- Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.): An annual grass weed that quickly spreads and outcompetes desirable plants for resources.
- Broadleaf Dock (Rumex obtusifolius): A perennial broadleaf weed with deep roots that can interfere with crop growth.
- Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): This succulent annual weed can be highly competitive and hard to control.
- Chickweed (Stellaria media): A low-growing annual weed that can smother plants and compete for nutrients.
- Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea): A creeping perennial weed that can cover large areas and suppress plant growth.
- Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea): A perennial weed that spreads rapidly and can crowd out other plants.
- Mullein (Verbascum spp.): A biennial weed that can produce a large rosette of leaves, shading out other plants.
Why Do Weeds Grow?
Weeds are resilient plants, and they grow all over the place. Even in the most desolate cracked concrete, you will often find some weeds poking up. This isn’t a coincidence — when the conditions are too harsh for other plants to grow, weeds crop up. When healthy plants are present, weeds are less likely to grow. Keeping your garden well-fertilized and in top form will reduce weed growth. Prevention is the best method for reducing weed growth. Once these plants successfully grow in your garden, it can be extremely difficult to remove them altogether.
Be Aware of Weed Seeds
It’s safe to assume that your garden is filled with weed seeds once one weed has flowered. Many of them remain viable for several years. However, only the top few inches of soil are close enough to the surface, and sunlight, for them to actually begin to grow. Remember this as you do routine garden work, and avoid needless digging or churning the soil. When you bring them to the surface, they will grow. You can avoid disturbing the soil while rooting out weeds by using a knife to slice through their roots, rather than digging into the ground to get them out.
Growing Methods that Keep Weeds Out
Biodiversity refers to the range of life that grows on all levels from bugs and animals to plants and people. When your garden is biodiverse, it attracts a range of bugs that work with all living species. By attracting bugs, you are attracting defenders that control the pests that are harmful to your garden.
Regenerative agriculture is when farmers rotate different types of crops over time. This helps limit pest infestations and nourishes beneficial microbes in the soil with a more diverse diet. Rotating between nitrogen-fixing crops like soybeans and nitrogen-hungry crops like corn can reduce the need for fertilizers.
Weeds arise wherever they see an opening, so avoid giving them one. When you design your garden, create plant beds that are tightly packed with biodiversity in mind. Spaces between plants leave an opening for weeds, so plant foliage close together. It’s usually harmless to plant them up to 25 percent closer than the recommended spacing, so take advantage and crowd weeds out.
A Soil Conditioner that Helps with Pests and Weeds
Harvest Gold Organics Soil Conditioner enriches your soil and creates a solid foundation for your plants to grow and thrive. The silica makes plants resilient and helps them absorb more water and nutrients while increasing the thickness of the plant’s structures. Other minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphate also promote plant health, aiding vital processes from chlorophyll production to photosynthesis, making your plants resistant to pests while giving your plants a fighting chance against weeds. Invest in your garden with this helpful product.
It’s important to identify and manage pests and weeds promptly to minimize their impact on plant health. Knowing the culprits and taking quick action is one of the keys to minimizing their effect. Integrated pest management (IPM) practices, which include a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods, can be effective in preventing and managing these issues. Additionally, promoting healthy plant growth through proper nutrition and care, such as adding Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner, can also help plants withstand pest and weed pressures.