Row by Row Episode 145: Garden Bug Secrets

Anyone who has been farming or gardening for any amount of time can tell you that the 2nd biggest problem in the garden is pests, namely the bug population. There is nothing more disheartening than walking out to your vegetables that you have watched sprout and grow and seeing holes in their stems or huge sections of leaves eaten away. 

It can be easy to become discouraged by the task of keeping garden pests under control, especially for new gardeners. Luckily we know a few experts on the subject and today Greg spoke with Wendell Flowers of Monterey Lawn & Garden about some products and tips to help with your garden infestations.

Chewing Bugs and Sucking Bugs

There are two main types of bugs you will find in your garden; chewing insects such as flea beetles and worms, and sucking insects like stink bugs and boll weevils. According to Wendell the most damaging and difficult type of insect to control is the chewing varieties. This, he says, is because they destroy the leaves of the plants; causing them to lose their ability to photosynthesize.

Even though bugs are a problem we never want to eliminate them, we simply need to control their population and keep their damage as minimal as possible.

Good and Bad Bugs

If you are new to gardening it is important to note that there are beneficial bugs you will see in the garden such as ladybugs, wasps, bees, and butterflies. We need these insects to help control the bad, destructive bugs. 

In order to eliminate the bad bugs we find and not harm the beneficial ones we need, Greg says to be “pre-active” in the garden to mitigate the bad bugs so that later there isn’t an explosion of bad bugs that require stronger steps that can also kill the beneficials. This means to take a preventative approach early on in the garden with the right chemicals and applications.

Wendell showed several options, many of which are organic and could be used up to the day before harvest, that Monterey Lawn & Garden have available in their lines of pesticides and fungicides.

Chewing Insects

Worms such as hornworms are a big problem with tomatoes as they will eat the leaves and then any fruit that is produced. To combat this pest and other worms, Wendell had four Monterey pesticides to recommend; Bug Buster II, Bug Buster-O, Garden Insect Spray, and Monterey B.t.. Bug Buster II is a synthetic pesticide but the other three, Bug Buster-O, Garden Insect Spray, and Monterey B.t., are organic options.

While B.t., or bacillus thuringiensis, is most commonly used to control worms and caterpillars in farming and gardening, Wendell recommended the Garden Insect Spray. The Garden Insect Spray has a broader range of pests it can eliminate including thrips, beetles, borers, and fire ants. Neither of these options will harm your beneficial insects in the garden as they must be ingested to work.

Another major problem insect is the Colorado potato beetle. This little beetle can quickly defoliate your potato plants leaving nothing in their wake and no crops to harvest. Again, Wendell recommended the Garden Insect Spray. There are other options for ridding your potatoes of this beetle such as Sevin, however, Sevin is very rough on the bee population.

While the Garden Insect Spray will work on 200+ pests in the garden, there are some smaller bugs that need a different approach. One of these is the flea beetle. This beetle is incredibly tiny yet does a tremendous amount of damage for its size. To deal with this little pest Wendell recommends using the 70% Neem Oil; another organic product. The neem oil will not only kill these smaller bugs in the garden but also stave off any bacterial and fungal diseases they may carry with them by coating the plant in a protective layer.

Neem Oil and pyrethrin can be used together to create a stronger defense to help protect your plants from infestations. The pyrethrin acts as a quick knock-down agent and the neem oil acts as the last protective barrier. Wendell recommends the Fruit Tree Spray Plus. This organic product has a wide range of uses and is not limited to only your fruit trees.

Sucking Insects

Sucking insects, such as mites, thrips, and aphids, pull the nutrients out of your plants to feed. There is also a secondary concern with these insects as they can spread diseases in the garden when they bite into the plants to feed, going plant to plant and depositing bacteria and fungi along the way.

One of the main pests in the south is the squash bug. These pests can be pervasive and a headache to control. Wendell says you can use the Fruit Tree Spray Plus or the 70% Neem Oil for more natural and organic options but he recommends the Bug Buster II. This product is a synthetic compound and a 4th generation pyrethroid but has a low withdrawal count. For example, if used on tomatoes it has a one day withdrawal and on squash it has a three day withdrawal.

The most common pest insects are aphids. Everyone from a beginner to a pro gardener can spot an aphid. These bugs are also the easiest to control as well. While most of the products covered here already can take care of your aphid problems, Wendell suggests Horticultural Oil. Unlike other products on the market that are petroleum based, this natural product can be used year round and has no heat restrictions as it will not burn the leaf surface of your plants.

A useful tip for fruit trees is using the Horticultural Oil mixed with Liquid Copper for over wintering fungi and scale crawlers.

Thrips can be a difficult pest that will carry diseases with them. To help battle these bugs Wyndell recommends Garden Insect Spray. The spinosad in this product will help control not only thrips but also beetles, borers, worms, and caterpillars. 

White flies are a nuisance insect especially on pumpkins and winter squashes. While they are easy to kill they are highly mobile. The Horticultural Spray, Fruit Tree Spray Plus, or 70% Neem Oil used in the early mornings or late afternoons will take care of the bulk of the white fly population.

Greg has a tip for beginners on what to look for when applying most of these products, especially the organic options, which is known as the “point of runoff”. This means to cover the leaves completely on the top as well as the underside to the point you see the product dripping from the leaves. Once you see this happening you know you have good coverage and can move on to the next plant. That good coverage will ensure your plants are protected from these garden pests.

New Fungicides

Monterey is one of the only companies that package a product for home gardeners that help control fungal infestations. One of these products is the Garden Phos which contains phosphorus acid. Garden Phos is a synthetic fungicid but it has a low withdrawal time even up to the day before harvest. This product is a good early option to head off root rot on trees and shrubs, blights, sudden oak death, and others and is used as a drench in most applications but can be used as a foliator. 

Another product is Fungi-Max. This is also a synthetic product that was formulated to have a broader range of applications with a low withdrawal. As a systemic fungicide, you can use this on your lawn, trees, shrubs, and vegetables as a curative and preventive.

Diatomaceous Earth

A great organic solution for your garden pests is diatomaceous earth which is mined in the western US. This product has a crystalline structure that will puncture the body of the insects when they walk across the powder, causing them to dry out and die. The best method of use is to place it at the base of your plants so that any non-flying pests that are attracted to them will cross over the sharp structures.

This product is safe around children and animals so there is no need to worry about pets, livestock, or poultry getting into it and becoming ill. In fact, this product has been used to help kill intestinal parasites in animals.

Product of the Week

Our Regional Wildflower Mix and Beneficial Insect Wildflower Mix are great options to add some beauty to your home whether in the garden, a flower box on the house, or out in an unused area of your property that just needs a little color. These are sold by region so that you will have the best mix of flowers for where you live to have the most success in results. You can purchase these mixes in ¼lb, ½lb, or 1lb bags with the ratio being 1lb for every 100sqft coverage area.

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