Understanding Common Garden Pests. Part 1. Aphids, Snails/Slugs, and Scale.

A healthy garden is a very comfortable place for an insect to call home. There are many different pests that may visit our plants, and most of them are easily dealt with. One of the most important parts of managing a pest is identifying the pest itself. Different bugs call for different treatments. Any sprays I recommend are organic and safe to use, even on your veggie gardens. A good rule with sprays is to only use when you see the pests. Best time to use sprays is in the evening when the sun is going down. Spray weekly until the problem is solved.

Pest Name: Aphid

Identify: Aphids are small insects, about half the size of a grain of rice. They could be white, green, black or yellow. Usually found in large colonies on a plant. When you see a trail of ants on your plants, you can usually trace it back to a group of aphids.

Where are they found: Aphids are attracted to the softer growth on a plant, this means leaves and especially new growth shoots.

Treatment: Luckily aphids are easily treated. You can use beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings to keep populations down. You can also spray an insecticidal soap or Neem Oil.

What do they do: Aphids suck nutrients out of our plants and excrete a sugar that will collect on the leaves. When this sugar sits on the leaves it develops a black sooty mold. If unchecked the sooty mold will cover up your leaves and slow down their vigor.

Pest name: Snails/Slugs

Identify: They range in size from the size of a fingernail to the size of a thumb. They leave slimy trails on and near leaves.

Where are they found: Snails and slugs are generally active at night, early in the morning, or on rainy days. During the day they will hide in shady or consistently moist areas in your gardens. Under rocks, pots and pavers, or under the lip of your pots.

Treatment: Snails can be controlled by a few different methods. You can release decollate snails, and they will eat the snails that eat your plants. You can use Sluggo, which is safe to use around your veggie gardens and even around pets. With Sluggo, apply it either around your plants so they cannot pass, or around where you think they are hiding. You can also use copper tape as a border that they will not pass. Also tossing them in the street for the birds is an effective way to keep the numbers down. It’s worth mentioning that people who change their gardens to CA friendly or Native have way less snail problems. Snails like consistent moisture and really don’t like to travel over dry terrain. Ask your friend with a truly drought tolerant garden how many snails they have to deal with.

What do they do: Snails and slugs can do a lot of damage to a plant’s leaves. They have rasping mouth parts, so the damage they cause on thicker leaves can be similar to the effects of sand paper, thinner leaves it would just be a hole in the leaf.

snail with trail

Pest Name: Scale

Identify: Scale is a small round insect that looks like a scab on a leaf. You always know it is scale because it can be picked off of a leaf with your fingernail, like a scab.

Where they are found: Scale is most comfortable in a shadier spot on your plant. This can mean the underside of leaves, or the stems behind foliage.

Treatment: The best way to treat scale is to spray an oil spray on them, such as Take Down or Neem Oil. Make sure to spray the undersides of the leaves and the stems.

What do they do: Like aphids, scale are also sucking insects. They pull nutrients out of the leaves and excrete a sugar that drops down to the leaf below. The sugar develops black sooty mold.

When treating for a pest in your garden, it is always good to consider using beneficial insects first instead of spraying. When you do spray, make sure to spray in the evening, when the sun starts to go down and the temperatures are cooling off. A lot of the beneficial insects such as bees will have gone home by then. Spray your plant weekly with the recommended organic spray, until the problem goes away. Sluggo should be applied every two weeks. All of the sprays that we carry at Roger’s Gardens are organic and safe to use even on your vegetables. If ever you are unsure what type of pest is on your plant or what to spray it with, feel free to call us at Roger’s Gardens or even bring in a sample for us to examine.