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11 Devastating Vegetable Garden Pests And How To Control Them

This guide to vegetable garden pests will give you some simple ideas to help you to control them.

Vegetable Garden Pests

When you grow vegetables you quickly come to realize that you are not just feeding yourself and your family. There are lots of creatures that will love your garden as much as you do.

While sharing veg is something that you will have to get used to, there are many things you can do to prevent sharing too much 😉

In the guide to vegetable garden pests below, I added images to identify these pests. Let’s have a look at the likely culprits that you may find in your vegetable garden. Here’s a detailed guide to garden pests and diseases.

Vegetable Garden Pests

Here are the pests that cause the most common problems in your garden, starting from the biggest to the smallest.

You might also want to read out guide to getting rid of garden pests for good.

1. Deer

Deer in garden

Deer seems like an unlikely pest in a guide to vegetable garden pests, but if you live in an area where deer run wild, they can be a devastating visitor.

High fencing is the most effective way to protect against deer, but if you have an open garden, growing strong-smelling plants such as onions and garlic will put them off.

Deer will do no damage to root plants and stay away from the likes of rhubarb.

Here’s how to stop deer from eating hydrangeas.

2. Cats

Cute cat in a basket

Cats can be a pain if they decide to use your vegetable garden plot as a litter tray.

Polite cats will bury and leave you with the occasional surprise. Others are a little more open about their mess and will place it anywhere.

A 2-liter soda bottle filled with water will reflect some odd cat-like shapes back at them which can put them off.

You could also plant lavender and rosemary: cats don’t seem to like the smell.

There is even a plant called scaredy cat that smells like dogs pee. Learn more about how to keep cats from pooping in your garden.

3. Rabbits

A close up of a bunny face

It is surprising what rabbits will nibble at! I have read that a border of onions might deter them.

I’m not too sure about that, as one year we planted about 50 leek seedlings only to return to find 50 cut offshoots. A rabbit had given all of them a try, maybe he wasn’t sure if he liked them or not.

Fencing is the best protection: it only needs to be about 3 feet high. Make sure you bury the bottom of the fence for it to work.

There are not many plants that deter rabbits, but if you sow plenty of clover into your grass, they will tend to eat that rather than anything else.

Here’s more about how to keep rabbits out of your garden.

4. Moles

A baby mole coming out of the ground

Moles will not do much damage to your vegetables, but they can damage the garden, and their runs can be used by other pests.

Other than traps, you could try planting a border of daffodils and marigolds, or a border of any of the allium family of plants.

Here are tips for getting rid of moles.

5. Birds

A close up of a pigeon
Birds are probably the most devastating of the pests group. They can demolish your fruit bushes in days, going for red currants, black currants, raspberries, strawberries, and loganberries.

A net cage is an obvious answer, but if there is a way in they will find it, and then never quite figure how to get out.

If this happens your fruit cage becomes a prison with an abundant supply of rations.

Even in the depths of winter, a pigeon could destroy your brassica plants, especially when they are hungry.

Here is a guide to controlling larger pests using powders, sprays, and scarers.

6. Slugs And Snails

A close up of a slug
These can be extremely damaging to leaves, roots, and potato tubers, and one of the most difficult pests to control.

If you are trying to avoid slug pellets there are other ways you can form barriers between your plants and slugs.

Crushed eggshells are sharp: spread them close to the bottom of your plant to stop slugs and snails from climbing up.

Beer traps are very effective, and copper strips around pots will stop them from climbing up.

Coffee grounds are said to be very effective too, as they hate the caffeine.

We plant our potatoes in a trench lined with seaweed, it makes a great fertilizer, and slugs seem to hate it.

Many people hunt at night for slugs and snails, but this seems like an endless job. You could also splash some cider on some wilted lettuce leaves and put them under a black bag. You’ll find a nice haul in the morning 😉

7. Caterpillars

White cabbage butterfly caterpillars
I am always amazed by how much caterpillars can eat!

What you thought was your best cabbage can be reduced to a cabbage skeleton in just days.

Prevention is a good option. Nettles are the natural target for the white cabbage butterfly, and will often favor nettles over your prized brassicas.

But still, keep checking the underside of leaves for eggs and wipe them off, they are easily missed and if they hatch they will quickly get devouring your plants.

8. Leaf Beetles

Leaf beetle
There are many thousands of types of leaf beetle. If you have an infestation, it could be devastating to the particular crop they are favoring.

All leaf beetles can be controlled by using a homemade soap spray.

Individual species may have a particular physical control, such as waving sticky tape above your plant to catch the flea beetle.

But to find the control, if one exists, you would at first need to identify the beetle.

9. Cabbage Root Fly

Cabbage root fly

Cabbage root fly is probably the one that has hurt us more than any. The fly lays its eggs at the base of any brassica, and the larvae feed on the plant’s roots.

Well-developed plants can survive, but young plants will never recover.

The best prevention is to cut a square of cardboard or carpet under-felt, make a slit to the middle, and to slide over the stem of the plant creating a barrier where the plants meet the ground. Image from James Niland Flickr

10. Carrot Root Fly

A carrot fly on a wooden surface

Up until June, this fly will scour the atmosphere for the scent of carrot and parsnip, and once detected she will hone in like a guided missile.

Traveling just a few inches from the ground she can detect the smell of carrots from miles away.

The trouble is that she can’t fly much higher, so if you put a 2-foot high barrier around your carrots and parsnips, she’ll never get at them. Carrot Root Fly Image From Wikipedia

11. Aphids

Aphids on a stem
Aphids are all sap-eating insects: white fly, green fly, black fly, or other sap-sucking mites.

There are a number of ways of getting rid of aphids. You could:

  • blast them with water to dislodge them
  • control the ants that protect them to leave them vulnerable to predators
  • make up a garlic spray to kill them

Just chop up a garlic clove and an onion, mix with a pint of water and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, let steep for an hour or so, strain, and add some washing up liquid. Use this on your plants as a prevention and a cure.

Try companion plants to encourage the insects that feed on aphids, you can then provide a natural solution to pest control.

Here is a guide to smaller garden pests and controlling them using powders and sprays.

We have also created a guide to vegetable garden pests problem page to help you identify your troublesome pest by the damage you have on your plants.

Here’s a list of gardening problems our Facebook friends are struggling with and how to easily solve them. And here’s how to get rid of ticks in your backyard.

Why not encourage some cute visitors to your garden to solve garden pest problems.

How To Control Garden Pests

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Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project. Check out her books below:

How to Grow Lavender for Fun and Profit: Lessons Learned from Planting Three Hundred Lavender Plants

How to Raise Chickens for Eggs: A Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens for Nutritious, Organic Eggs at Home

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I have voles. They are more commonly known as "field mice" They burrow underground making mounds and eating away at roots. They make holes in melons and I can't find a way to rid myself of them. Too many for cats to munch on. Looks like I'm going to have to invest in raised garden beds which should take care of any 4 legged critters.