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Garden problem solvers: How to handle pests

Is your backyard plagued  with creepy-crawlers this summer? P. Allen Smith lists the organic, environmentally-friendly ways to exterminate.
/ Source: TODAY

Even healthy gardens have pests that they deal with especially during the hot summer months. If I can encourage you to do one thing this year it is this: practice organic solutions.  This will help you to get a handle on problems in the garden without creating an environmental hazard for you, your children or pets. 

Allen’s Homemade Pest Spray
For Aphids: Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol to 3 parts water

For Insect Spray:  Mix a couple of teaspoons of dish washing liquid to a quart of water

How to Identify Common Plant Pests
Aphids are small insects with a tint of green, black or orange or often “woolly” looking.   Look for them clustering on plants feeding on sap.  Plant leaves become deformed and the plant’s growth stunted.  When you first notice aphids try to knock them off with a strong blast of water and then if the problem continues step up to insecticidal soaps. 

Spidermites are microscopic so it’s hard to see them until they’ve already gone to work on your plant.  They literally suck the chlorophyll right out of the leaves and the result is a very sick looking plant that has dried up, yellow foliage.  You might even notice a slight webbing around the leaves.  One solution is to spray the plant every 7-10 days with a product such as insecticidal soap or to place spidermite traps onto the plant.

Japanese Beetles are a new problem for me but you’ll know them when you see them by their coppery wings and metallic green body.  The grubs eat through grass roots and cause the turf to wilt and die.  Then the mature beetles dine on flowers and vegetables leaving behind just the bare skeletons of what should be lush garden plants.  I’m trying a Japanese Beetle trap but have heard conflicting reports about the success of this product.  Other solutions include hand picking the insects and spraying. 

White Flies seem to swarm my garden annually and you’ll know they’ve arrived if you shake a bush and a plumb of white insects come rushing out.  White flies will zap the energy right out of your plant and cause the leaves to become discolored.  Traps seem to put a dent in the numbers as do regular insecticidal soap sprayings. 

P. Allen Smith is the CEO of Hortus Ltd., a media production company responsible for two nationally syndicated half hour television programs, numerous magazine columns, a popular website, a best-selling series of garden-design-lifestyle books, lecture series, and news reports which air on stations around the country as well as on The Weather Channel.  He is also the principle in P. Allen Smith and Associates, a landscape design firm.