Which Pests Attack Spinach & How to Manage Organically!

Spinach pests
Spinach is a staple of our garden in the spring and fall. We eat it nearly every day when it is in season. It is considered to be one of the healthiest foods you can eat, being high in vitamins K, A, B, and C, iron, calcium, and protein. Spinach will bolt (go to seed) whenever it gets too hot and the season can be prolonged by planting it in an area that’s shaded in the afternoon.
Luckily, spinach doesn’t attract many pests and those that it does get are fairly easy to manage!

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!

  • 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!

The cabbage looper is the caterpillar of a grayish moth with a silver spot in the middle of each wing. You can distinguish them from the cabbage worm by looking for 4 white stripes running down the body. The eggs are dome-shaped, light green, and are laid on the underside of the leaves.

  • Hand-pick (or pay your kids a quarter each to handpick for you like we do!)
  • 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 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.

  • 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.
  • Sprinkling coffee grounds or crumbled egg shells can help repel them from your seedlings as well.

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.

  • 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.

Grasshoppers can consume an obscene amount of 1/2 their body weight in a day! This can account for a lot of damage fast if you have an infestation. Grasshoppers are brown in color with wings, large legs, and antennae.

  • Clear out any debris in your garden that grasshoppers can use for cover or laying eggs.
  • Use your companion plants to your advantage! The garlic odor can help deter them. You can use a homemade garlic spray or plant garlic around where you have a problem.