Don’t Grow a Salad Bar for Bugs!
While we are certainly still enjoying 90-degree temperatures in the middle of October (thank you, Texas!) our gardens are ripe with cold crops like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflowers, and more. Between the still-warm weather, and the fact that we have not had a true cold snap in over two years, Central Texas is currently facing some interesting pest problems. Many of our best gardens are starting to look like a literal salad bar for bugs! Here we will identify some of the culprits, while arming you with the tools necessary to keep them at bay.
Cabbage Looper Holes
Gazing over your waxy-blue plantlings, you may notice that some of their leaves are looking a little holey, while others are sporting cellophane-like patches. Who could be doing this? Cabbage Loopers! These pests go by the more common name of ‘inchworms’ and they are certainly feeding off of your garden to grow inches (and turn into moths). They plants of choice include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, peas, lettuces, and radishes. The good news is that this is an easily remedied insect problem.
Many worm-offenders are very sensitive to Bacillus Thuringiensis, or BT. This is a completely organic pest control bacteria that paralyzes the digestive system of the cabbage loopers by producing crystal proteins that target the intestinal lining of the worm. Once a liquid form of BT is diluted (4 Tsp per gallon of water) and sprayed onto your garden greens, the inchworms will stop feasting within hours. A BT bonus, this insecticide also will prevent tomato hornworms, tent caterpillars, leaf rollers, and some strains of BT (Israelensis) can also prevent mosquitoes, as well as black flies. Do not forget that Bacillus Thurengiensis needs to be reapplied weekly, as the sun reduces its effectiveness.
Thrips! Aphids! White Flies! Oh My!
These tiny offenders have been especially tough on plants this year. While they are not as damaging as the cabbage loopers, these sap-sucking foes will leave your plant leaves looking yellowed, spotted, and unhealthy, despite excellent growing conditions. White flies are easy to spot when plants are shaken, often appearing in swarms. Aphids often hide under the leaves during the day. Thrips are virtually unseen, but the damage they cause cannot be ignored.
Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap –or any insecticidal soap- combined with neem oil is an inexpensive and easy way to knock all of these suckers out! Using a spray method, dilute the peppermint soap and neem oil in a ratio of 1 TBSP oil, 2 TBSP of soap into 1 gallon of water and spray the plants three times each week until the pest problem has subsided. Many nurseries carry already mixed spray solutions that effectively rid of these bugs and more. In addition to this, yellow flypaper sheets, also available at your local nursery, will take care of minor white fly problems!
Leaf Miner Trails
While the designs on leafy greens may look beautiful, these bugs are an ugly problem. Leaf miners are tiny maggots that persistently chew trails between plant tissues. Once they are inside of a leaf, it is incredibly frustrating to rid of them.
Unfortunately, most sprays cannot push or pull these persistent pests from the leaves of plants once they have made a home. Once an infected leaf is identified, cut it away from the plant and keep it far, far away from your garden. This will prevent further infestation. Neem oil, as well as many Fertilome spray options offered in local nurseries will help prevent future miners. You can arm your garden further by introducing beneficial insects such as Diglyphus isaea wasps, which love to make a meal of leaf miners. They are also available at your local nursery.
We hope that this information helps ensure that YOU and your family members are the only ones feeding off your garden. If you have any questions, or if you need a little extra help with garden maintenance this fall, be sure to email us! We always love hearing from you.