Pestered by pests? Here’s what you do! – Part I

You can make out by the name that this one is going to have to be a series Smile

You would be surprised by the number of pests and insects you might encounter even in a terrace garden. In my case I have towering trees all around my terrace, so that might be an added reason, but pests are in any case one of the biggest challenges when growing in containers.

The variety of beautiful insects (not all friendly to my plants) you can find in a terrace garden in the middle of the concrete jungle really amaze me! One of the most common questions on any gardening forum is to know how to deal with a particular pest, so I thought I would start addressing the most common ones.

Mealy bugs: These are the white cottony looking creatures in varied sizes that you might find on many plants and are the most common pests I have heard complaints about.

Though most would rush to spray something or the other immediately, I always maintain that the big reason for pest attacks and especially for mealy bugs is that the plant lacks in nutrition in some way and the bugs can sense this weakness.

Having mealy bugs means that the plant lacks nutrition in some way. Pic: Vijay Satish

So, step 1 for handling a mealy bug attack is to set up a schedule for nutrition for the plants. You can use easily available items such as vermicompost and panchagavya, and also go one step further and brew your own compost tea for even more effective nutrition.

If the infestation is very bad, you can wipe off the bugs with a piece of cloth or cotton dipped in 50% solution of spirit and water. A gardener friend also recommends whiskey in place of spirit as the most organic solution as it is edible as well Smile

Aphids: Aphids are a type of sucking pests that live on the sap of the leaves and deprive them of nutrition. If left without controlling, these can lead to loss of the plant itself. If you find the aphids before they have multiplied and become too numerous, you can use just a water spray to displace them from your plants. Once knocked off, they do climb back but after about three repetitions you will find the number decreased significantly.

Aphids can be displaced from the leaves with water spray too. Pic: Vijay Satish

Neem spray is most recommended for control of aphids, but I have personally found that it works best if combined with something like onion or garlic. This basically means juicing the onion or garlic and letting it stand for some time before combining and spraying immediately on the affected plants.

Considering that growing on the terrace is much smaller in scale compared to farming on land, we need to take the luxury of checking the plants everyday including under the leaves so that we can identify pests early and take action in the least invasive way immediately. Those of us who take up gardening as a hobby, and find that it soon becomes a passion and takes over your life, learn along the way that prevention and early intervention is definitely the better way.

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  1. srikant kapuganti says:

    Good article Aparna !

    Since this article seems to be for beginners, I am not sure if they would be aware of things like panchgavya and compost tea. Perhaps you could blog on the same and provide a link to those articles over here.

    What are those beads kind of things in the 2nd pic ?

  2. Aparna George says:

    That’s a good point Srikant, I will make sure to address those and the availability in the next article (don’t need to look for ideas now ;)). The beads are aphids! Vijay explained that they sometimes have this coppery colour as well especially in warm weather.

  3. Ramesh Damodaran says:

    Nice Article Aparna! You gave a totally different direction to the Pest issues by connecting it with lack of Nutrition. I had the same query as of Srikant, but I guess you already explained that part. One more thing probably you could have briefly mentioned about the predator (friendly) bugs like ladybugs to aphids. Other than that neatly written article

  4. Aparna George says:

    Thanks for dropping in and commenting Ramesh. Yes the friendly bugs definitely need mentioning, and the other pests like the leaf miner, spider mites, white flies and scale bugs as well. I will be doing that in another 2-3 parts :).

  5. RVJ says:

    are the mealy bugs and the white flies same or similar in appearance

  6. Aparna George says:

    RVJ, mealy bugs and white flies are different in appearance. The white flies look like a small version of the housefly, but completely white in colour. If you touch or shake the leaf that they are sitting on, they will immediately fly up and around the plant. Mealy bugs on the other hand are “cottony” in appearance and feel like they are almost stuck to the plant.

  7. Sandhya Mudigere Sanjay says:

    useful info, Aparna

  8. Aparna George says:

    Thank you Sandhya πŸ™‚

  9. Rajagopalan Krishnaswami says:

    Really the article is interesting, informative and useful. Thanks to Aparna George and also to Vijay Satish for an excellent depiction of the pests for identification.

  10. Vasantha Murthy says:

    Thanks for the interesting and useful information. Can you give more information about the Eco friendly pesticides – where do we get them how to use etc. We have a problem with squirrels, they eat away all the flower buds. We love to have them around on the terrace, but they practically destroy the flower buds. Any way of making the buds unpalatable to the squirrels please?

  11. Aparna George says:

    Dear Vasantha Murthy, you would be able to procure organic pesticides like neem oil in any local gardening store, but do confirm that they only have organic ingredients. Ideally choose something that has the ingredients listed on the bottle. The dosage also should be mentioned there. Squirrels – sorry these are tough to control and we usually just end up sharing with them. The only mechanism that might help is using the net bags that we use for veggies, and tying them around your flowers or veggies.

  12. A W Xavier says:

    Useful article. Can you elaborate on the 50% spirit solution.

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