Whether you know it or not, there’s a battle going on in your backyard garden.
From the tomato hornworms eyeing your prized jalopeños to the ladybugs battling it out with the aphids, there’s a war bubbling just under the surface. But never fear, by keeping an eye on common garden pests and with some help from benevolent bugs (yes, they exist), you can protect the borders of your yard and save that precious produce.
Also known as the gardener’s best friend, ladybugs more than pull their weight when it comes to keeping watch on your garden—produce or otherwise. These adorable little predators not only eat aphids, but can also help knock out scale insects, mites, and whiteflies. And while you may be lucky enough to attract a few, the best way to ensure that your garden houses an abundance of these red and black beauties is to bring some home from a local garden supply store, like Robby’s Nursery & Calico Garden.
You may be surprised to discover that green lacewings are actually a good bug to find in your yard. With a similar diet as ladybugs, these winged insects also favor mealybugs, thrips, and spider mites among other tasty grubs. These are also often sold alongside ladybugs and other beneficial insects.
Yes they’re creepy, and they’re crawly—but these long legged arachnids work overtime patrolling your yard for unwanted pests. So squash that desire to, well, squash these web-spinners, and let them roam free.
Chances are, you’re already well versed in the many ways that bees are imperative to our ecosystem, so we’ll keep this short—to encourage these garden heavyweights, consider planting lavender and agapanthus—both of these are known for attracting these pollinating powerhouses.
These bad guys can arguably do the most damage to your beautiful garden. Thought snails were the worst of your worries? You’ve clearly never seen the decimation that these “cute little” bugs are capable of. Keep an eye out for these guys while they’re small and pick them off plants early if you see them, because Very Hungry Caterpillar told no lies.
You can make your own DIY “pest control” solution by mixing 1 tbsp. of dish detergent or 1 c. of molasses with 1L of warm water. Add the solution to a spray bottle and target any soft-bodied garden pest, not just Mr. Caterpillar.
A lot of people see grasshoppers as forces of benevolence, but think again—these guys are technically related to locusts. Yup, those things. So, how do you get rid of these voracious eaters? Well, there’s a couple easy and tasty ways to rid yourself of these garden pests (no, we’re not suggesting you fry up some insects—though you can…) We suggest planting garlic and cilantro around your garden as they are natural repellents for grasshoppers and other unwanted guests. You can also dust your plants with “garden variety” all-purpose flour, this will prevent grasshoppers from eating.
These pinchy fellows may look scary, and yes, they can “bite,” but they also do their duty as pest control without the bill. They eat both bugs and plants—so yes, they can do a fair bit of damage to your flowers, but they’re not all bad in that they feast on soft-bodied insects and their eggs. If you want to get rid of these double agents, The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends leaving lengths of bamboo or garden hoses out overnight, where earwigs will seek refuge. In the morning, dump them out into buckets filled with soapy water.
Though not technically a bug, snails and slugs are definitely a garden pest. They eat pretty much everything you can imagine and we’ve all seen the trademark holes in leaves and long trails they leave behind. Birds, of course, are a natural predator, and they can easily be attracted with birdseed and feeders placed throughout your yard.
Toads can eat up to 100 insects a night and can already be found all around Bakersfield. Make your yard more attractive by creating “toad houses” from clay pots, emptied and upside-down (tilted), which should become “toad homes” in no time.
By keeping a weather eye out for pests and attracting beneficial insects and animals, you can help keep your garden safe from damage, whether that be holes in your produce or scale on your treasured camellias. So stand tall and defend your yard from whatever may come, snails, aphids, or grasshoppers be damned; because you now have the secret to a peaceful garden paradise.
Photos by Thinkstockphotos.com/Eva_431 (grass)/siiixth (bomb)/Nensirich (ladybug)/eAlisa (snail)/Jarin13 (spider)