There is a saying that gardeners are optimists. Certainly that must be true because there are so many possible setbacks to a successful garden and beautiful yard. You need to have a positive approach to the process in order to keep your efforts moving forward.
Common pests are one of the most frustrating problems to overcome and there are several common pests in North Texas gardens. These sensible tips should help you identify and rid your yard of these prolific irritants.
Helpful Tips to Prevent Common Pests
- Make sure that you water efficiently. You don’t need to water frequently but you should always water thoroughly, about 1” per week if there is no rainfall.
- Water or irrigate in the morning.
- Take advantage of native plants which have adapted to the North Texas environment and will better ward off pests.
- Mow correctly; your blade should be set to take off only the top 1/3 of the grass blades.
- Use organic or natural based fertilizers but avoid over fertilizing.
- Practice techniques and products that encourage natural pest predators which include worms, ladybugs and birds.
- Check frequently for pests so that you catch any infestations early.
What Are Some Common Pests?
These are tiny yellow bugs usually less than 1/8” that have a soft body and antennae. They concentrate their attack new growth on the underside of leaves and suck sap from plants leaving a sticky residue called Honey Dew. Aphids are often found on bedding plants, crape myrtle, oleanders, pecans, roses, hibiscus, and vegetables.
To reduce the infestation you can introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings into your garden. For smaller infestations you can spray the plants with high pressure water and drench with insecticidal soaps or oils.
This hungry bunch includes the tent and genista caterpillars, the tomato hornworm, and the spring canker worm. Caterpillars are in the larval stage that will become butterflies, so if you are planning a butterfly garden you can count on some damage. This groups can be found year around but are most widespread in spring and autumn.
You should not treat native trees because caterpillar infestations are natural and typically do not threaten a healthy tree. Monitor for young caterpillars and try releasing parasitic wasps early on. Extricate small tent worms by using a broom or water spray to give wasps easy access. You can also remove by hand the eggs of caterpillars from branches.
The colonies of these pests include a queen(s), winged females and males, workers and a brood. Mature colonies can generate mounds up to eighteen inches tall. Fire ants, which prefer open sunny areas, are most rampant in spring and fall. They will not injure turf grasses but mounds are unsightly plus the critters are aggressive and inflict painful stings.
To destroy the colonies, pour about three gallons of boiling water onto each mound. You can also introduce nematodes which should be applied at dusk to moist soil. Bait products work better than contact products and are safer to use.
These little buggers are about 1/5” long with slender black bodies and light wings that have black bases. Recently born nymphs are a pink color, wingless and have a light band across their backs. Their primary target is St. Augustine grass but they will also enjoy zoysia or Bermuda grass. Their damage is indicated by irregular patches of dying grass that is surrounded by a rim of yellowing grass.
To prevent cinch bugs cultivate your landscape to be a haven for good predators like birds and large eyed bugs and by avoiding frequent use of lawn chemicals. To check for these pests, push a tin can open at both ends about one inch into the grass close to a dead patch. Fill the can with water. Cinch bugs will float to the surface. Treat only the infected areas with insecticidal soaps.
These ugly creatures are about a half inch long, creamy white and curl into a C shape. They are the larva of a June beetle. They feed on the roots of turf grasses and are most common during summer and autumn. When you find more than five grubs per square foot the least toxic treatment is to introduce beneficial nematodes to the area. Best treatment time is mid-June to late July.
Snails and slugs
These pests have slimy, soft bodies with no legs. They can be extremely tiny when young and grow to a large four inches. Typically they are a nondescript grey or white-ish color. Snails have a hard shell but slugs do not. They have voracious appetites and can quickly devour small plants or leave large holes in foliage.
Though tedious, the most effective elimination is to handpick snails with tweezers first thing in the morning. Drop them into soapy water or a plate with salt. You can attract them with a rind of melon or a saucer of beer. During the day they hide under rocks, flower pots and debris.
North Texas gardeners with all their optimism work hard to cultivate a beautiful landscape. Hopefully these earth friendly ways to get rid of common pests will make you more successful so that you can better enjoy the efforts of your hard work.