Pest Management

How to Manage the Most Common Pests for Peppers Organically in Your Backyard Vegetable Garden

Peppers pests header
We grow a lot of peppers in the summer because they are really easy to grow and thrive in our hot conditions. They are relatively pest-free and can actually help keep pests off other plants, making them a valuable companion plant. Pests can give you a few issues, but you can solve them fairly easy by following the steps below!
aphids-header

Aphids are tiny insects that can usually be found in groups on the undersides of leaves and stems. A few aphids can’t do much, but they reproduce quickly, are born pregnant, and can take over a plant in no time at all!

Treatment Options:

  • Spray aphids off leaves with a blast of water from the sprayer and repeat as necessary for a few days
  • Ladybugs are valuable ally and can be purchased to help with aphid control. Make sure you release them at night on plants that are infested with aphids, and it wouldn’t hurt to provide a source of water as well. They will quickly mate and lay their eggs, resulting in alligator-shaped larvae hatching and devouring aphids. A single ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in their lifetime!
  • Green lacewing larvae are voracious predators of many soft bodied insect pests, including several species of aphids, spider mitesthripswhitefliesleafhoppers, and others.
    • Buy Green Lacewings on Amazon!
cornearworm-header
Corn earworms (also known as tomato fruitworms) are small caterpillars that vary in color from different shades of brown, yellow, pink, green, and black. The light yellow adult moth lays white, circular eggs on leaves or corn silk in the spring time. The earworm consumes the silk and then moves on to the ear. On other plants, earworms consume stems, leaves, and fruit.

Treatment Options:

  • Green lacewings and trichogramma wasps can help to fight against the corn borer eggs.
  • Beneficial nematodes have been shown to be effective if you have a bad infestation.
  • Use the organic pesticide, BTK (bacillus thuringiensis Kurstaki). BTK is a naturally occuring microorganism that sickens and kills caterpillars without harming butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. There are varied opinions regarding the safety of BTK, but it’s classified as an organic treatment and is certainly safer than using a more toxic pesticide.
cutworms-header
Cutworms are the caterpillar of a brown or gray night-flying moth. The caterpillars are black, gray, or brown and are about an inch and a half long. These jerks can go through your entire garden of new seedlings extremely quickly! It’s important to watch out for them in your garden and do your best to protect again them. They look like little brown worms, and they like to spin around into circles around the plant, cutting it off at the base.

Treatment Options:

  • Cover the plants with insect netting (floating row covers) from when they are babies. This will help to prevent them from becoming an issue!
  • Cardboard “collars” can be made from toilet rolls or paper towel rolls and placed around each seedling to keep these cutworms out. You can also place toothpicks around seedlings so the worm cannot wrap around the stem.
  • Diatomaceous earth can also be laid down around your seedlings to help get rid of them.
  • Sprinkling coffee grounds or crumbled egg shells can help repel them from your seedlings as well.
fleabeetles-header

Flea beetles are the extremely tiny insects that jump when disturbed. Even though these beetles are super small, they can quickly move through the leaves of plants, destroying the foliage in its path and spreading diseases.

Treatment Options:

  • Insect netting (floating row covers) provide the best form of protection against flea beetles.
  • Applying beneficial nematodes and neem oil can also be effective. Make sure not to apply the neem oil when the temperature is above 90, or else you could suffocate your plant!
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over areas you want to protect. Be careful though: DE can harm beneficial insects as well if they come in contact with it.
  • Using a yellow sticky trap can trap these adults before they have a chance to lay their eggs.
leaffootedbug-header
Leaf-footed bugs are approximately 1 inch long, some with a white zigzag pattern on their wings. They have long legs similar to a cricket with an oval shaped body. They are recognizable by their hind legs which look leaf-like. They have piercing mouthparts which probe into plants to suck their juices. This can cause discoloration and damage to the plants.

Treatment Options:

  • Hand-picking and squishing or placing them in a soapy water bucket is a great way to get rid of these pests.
  • Companion planting can help deter leaf-footed bugs. Sunflowers are especially good at attracting these pests away from other plants.
  • Another good prevention is to remove excess weeds and grass around the garden areas as this can help to attract them.
  • Placing insect netting (floating row covers) over your garden is the best way to prevent leaf-footed bugs from attacking your plants.
  • Diatomaceous earth can also be laid down around your garden to help get rid of them.
  • Put your beneficial critters to work! Attract or relocate certain critters to try and help battle your leaf-footed bugs. Leaf-footed bug predators include tachinid flies, birds, spiders, assassin bugs, snakes, lizards, and frogs.
  • Applying neem oil can also be effective for the nymph stage of leaf-footed bugs. Make sure not to apply the neem oil when the temperature is above 90, or else you could suffocate your plant!
nematodes-header
Nematodes, also known as roundworms, can be a microscopic problem living in your soil. They are transparent and unsegmented worms. This blog post will discuss how to manage nematodes in your backyard garden.

Treatment Options:

  • The best treatment for nematodes is prevention! Practicing crop rotation from year to year is essential.
  • Simply tilling the soil over multiple times throughout the fall and winter months can help to prevent these infestations.
  • Adding in new organic matter (compost) when you replant helps to keep nematodes at bay.
  • Burn & turn is a term used commonly to get rid of these types of pests in the soil. When your soil is empty of vegetative growth, turn your soil and use a flame thrower to burn the top layer of the soil. If you do not have a flame thrower you can use a dark color plastic sheet to cover over the summer months to heat the temperature of the soil up to a high enough temperature to kill the nematodes.
potatobeetles-header
The Colorado potato beetle is one of the major pests that can affect your crops. Adults are round beetles with orange/yellow and black stripes on their wings. Their head is orange with black spots. If left unchecked, they can destroy your plants in no time!

Treatment Options:

  • Hand-picking and placing the beetle in a soapy water bucket is a great way to get rid of them.
  • Companion planting can help deter potato beetles.
  • Diatomaceous earth can also be laid down around your garden to help get rid of them.
  • Beneficial insects such as green lacewings and ladybugs can be helpful to fight these beetle’s larvae. You can either try to attract them or buy them to release!
  • Applying beneficial nematodes and neem oil can also be effective. Make sure not to apply the neem oil when the temperature is above 90, or else you could suffocate your plant!
tomatohornworm-header
Tomato hornworms are huge caterpillars that are green with a spiky tail and orange spots on the abdomen. These giants are monsterous and can destroy a tomato plant in the course of a day, so it is important to catch them fast! These extremely large caterpillars can be shockingly difficult to spot sometimes, so make sure you are checking your tomato plants thoroughly. To help with the hunt, we pay our kids a quarter for every hornworm that they find! These are also a great snack for chickens if you have them.

Treatment Options:

  • Hand-picking them and placing in a bucket of soapy water is the best option to control these pests. They can sometimes be challenging because they like to hold on tight to the plant.
  • A great way to help control hornworms is with trichogramma wasps. They can be purchased and released in your garden to help! Ladybugs can also be a help to eat the eggs.
  • Tomato hornworms can also be treated using the organic pesticide, BTK (bacillus thuringiensis Kurstaki). BTK is a naturally occuring microorganism that sickens and kills caterpillars. There are varied opinions regarding the safety of BTK, but it’s classified as an organic treatment and is certainly safer than using a more toxic pesticide.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over areas you want to protect. Be careful though: DE can harm beneficial insects as well if they come in contact with it.
voles-header
These small rodents can be challenging and can destroy a garden! Voles (Field Mice) are usually first spotted by their ~3-inch holes they make in raised beds. Once you see these, it’s time to get into action before they get out of hand. Voles multiply quickly and will wreak havoc on not only your garden, but also your garden supplies like tarps, sheeting, and other materials. They can be pesky, so trial and error is important to see what works best for your visitors.

Treatment Options:

  • We’ve found a great treatment for mice and voles is to have a house full of dogs and cats. They do a great job in helping to keep them under control. In case you do not have a cat or dog that enjoys to hunt down mice, there are a few options for taking care of this problem yourself.
  • Out of everything, we’ve found the tried and true mouse trap to be the most effective solution. We really like the plastic and metal traps found on Amazon. Simply put a little peanut butter or dog food on the trap and set it out near active spots. There are also electric ones that make it things much easier!
  • There are ultrasonic pest repellers that you can place in the ground that send vibrations out to scare the mice away and out of your garden.
  • Stationing a fake owl around the garden can also be helpful to scare away field mice. Be sure to move the owl around, or they might figure out your trick!

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