Pests, diseases and fungi are more than mere annoyances, theyâre grave threats to growersâ livelihoods and therefore, are the enemy. Along with the many factors that go into growing a high quality, productive crop, one must constantly keep tabs on potential infestations and the onset of disease. Otherwise…well…we donât want to go down that road.
With that in mind, weâve decided to continue detailing various plant threats, along with ways to combat and hopefully eradicate the problem before it wipes out or severely debilitates your plants.
The common powdery mildew and gray mold topics have already been covered, and we wrote about fungus gnats, spider mites, aphids and thrips already. But, as any experienced grower knows, there are sometimes too many plant pests to keep up with. And they can differ depending on whether your garden is indoors or with Mother Nature.
Mostly a problem for outdoor gardens, snails, slugs and caterpillars are slow-moving, yet sneaky creatures that, if left to their own devices, will devour leaves, vegetation and root systems. So, itâs best to stop them in their tracks, which can be achieved through cultural practices, predators and sprays.
Snails and Slugs: These slimy, slow, soft-bodied blobs do most of their feeding at night and leave behind evidence in the form of silvery trails, or snail trails. Always on a hunt for food, snails and slugs nibble holes in leaves and eat nearly any vegetation â including roots â and are especially fond of new growth. Because theyâre not the brightest of creatures, deterring them from your garden doesnât take too much effort.
One of the simplest methods is blocking their paths create an impenetrable perimeter around the garden or individual plants. Because snails and slugs thrive in warm, damp environments, itâs best practice to create a dry perimeter that impedes their progress using beach sand â the saltier, the better â lime, or diatomaceous earth. You can also pick them off at night or trap them by placing a board on one-inch feet, which serves as a shelter for the creatures. Check beneath the board every couple days and clear the area of any pests that took refuge.
If you decide to take the bait approach, be sure to properly set up a slug hotel to keep any harmful ingredients (such as metaldahyde) from reaching the soil and the bait dry while being out of reach from children and other small critters. And, if taking the natural bait route (i.e. a snail/slug party), leave dishes of beer (old metal pie pans or saucers work) near the snail trails overnight and wake up to fully saturated, dead pests.
Other eradication approaches include the predatory decollate snails and alternative sprays.
Caterpillars: While some eventually grow into beautiful butterflies, their in-between stage can be a nuisance when they attack plants. They also leave behind feces, which is not a very appetizing addition for your prized plants. Most often green though they come in other colors, caterpillars have sets of feet along the length of their bodies and love munching upon leaves and foliage, potentially killing plants. Itâs best to remove them by hand or by using predatory bugs like Trichogamma wasps (aka stingless wasps) and Podisus maculiventris (aka soldier bug. Using homemade sprays containing bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, pyrethrum and rotenone, along with garlic and hot pepper are also fine alternatives.
Another preventative measure for the hungry caterpillar is being aware of any large trees or foliage above your plants. They serve as havens for these and other creatures, which can easily drop onto your garden and become problematic.