The 4 Fall Pests That’ll Ruin Your Autumn Garden Harvest — and How to Prevent Them
After months of carefully tending to your garden, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as harvesting fall crops. You’ve been dreaming of all the recipes that call for your homegrown pumpkin, squash, cabbage and kale. But, imagine finally going to pluck them from the ground and finding that bugs have gotten to them first — the horror! Unfortunately, this scenario will be a very real one for many gardeners this fall. There are a handful of pests that thrive during autumn and especially love fall crops. Instead of letting these fall pests ruin your garden harvest, read on to discover what they are, ways to spot them and how to stop them before they have a chance to take over.
Squash Bugs & Stink Bugs
Squash bugs and stink bugs are more like cousins than siblings, but there is one thing they both have in common: they love to suck the life out of plants. Literally. These bugs inject a toxin into the plant and suck the nutrients out of it with their sharp mouthparts. You’ll first spot signs of their residency in your garden from yellow and brown spots on the leaves of your fall crop of squash, pumpkins and other gourds. Instead of stomping on these bugs out of frustration (they release a foul odor when squashed), take another approach. To deter these bugs from making a home of your garden, try planting mint or garlic — they hate the smell.
It’s time to make your famous holiday collard greens or try a new recipe for roasted brussel sprouts, so you head to your garden ready to harvest — but gasp — cabbage worms have burrowed their way into all your greens! These tiny green worms are the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly and feed off leafy greens and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Keep an eye out for entry holes chewed into these veggies and look on the undersides of leaves to spot them. If your cabbage are worm-free, take preventative measures like covering crops with garden fabric ahead of time and regularly inspecting plants.
Cucumber beetles are a special kind of villain to crops. Yes, they ruin your garden by feeding on cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, but they also spread bacteria — a side effect more harmful than a few eaten plants. They spread these diseases from plant to plant, harming your fall harvest as well as your future harvests. Since they overwinter in weeds and woody areas, try clearing up debris where you can and plant repellent flowers like the tansy. If they’ve spread a bacterial infection (signaled by bacterial wilt), however, there won’t be much you can do until next year.
If your fall plans include warm carrot bread or roasted parsnips fresh from your garden, you might want to be on the lookout for the dreaded carrot fly. While the flies themselves don’t do much damage, their larvae wiggle into soil and up into the roots, feeding on carrots, parsnips, parsley and celery. Your first sign of infested crops will be browned leaves, but to prepare your garden before that happens, experts recommend covering seed beds, creating a fence of fine mesh around plants (since carrot flies are low-flying) and harvesting earlier in the fall.
How to Stop Them
No matter which fall crops you’re hoping to harvest, proactive measures to stop these pests before they take over are the best bet. Companion planting, harvesting crops at the right time and covering plants with fine mesh or garden fabric are all ways to get ahead of some of the most harmful fall pests. If it’s too late for those measures and you’ve already got an infestation on your hands, you’ll need something more effective to get rid of them.
Give Us a Call
If you’ve spotted any of these plant-ruining bugs — or any other annoying pests — near your home or garden, we’re here to help! Give Hughes a call today.