3 Common Garden Pests and How to Control Them

You have done your best to create a wonderful garden, and you cannot wait to enjoy your first harvest. All seems to be going well until you find the leaves on your vegetables starting to wilt and stems bearing holes. I can imagine the disappointment.

When you see withered plants, wilting leaves, or holes through the stem, your plant could be infested with disease-causing pests and insects. These annoying little creatures can bring devastating losses if not controlled.

In this article, we shall identify some common garden pests and explore humane ways of controlling them.


Aphids are probably the most common garden pests. You can find them almost anywhere, in any zone, and under different climatic conditions.

They are pear-shaped and mainly green in color- which makes it pretty hard to spot them at first. They also occur in shades of black, gray, red, or yellow. Mature aphids can either be wingless or without wings.

How to know if you have an aphid problem in your garden

When the leaves of your vegetables start curling, wilting, or yellowing, look closely at the surface or underneath to see if there are aphids attached. You can identify them through the cornicles in their abdomen.

Damages caused by Aphids

The pests inject the plant and suck the sap. They then secrete sticky residue that attracts other pests, ants, and insects to join the party. They can bring different types of viruses.

The common ones include the cucumber mosaic virus that affects all sorts of vegetables, including spinach, pumpkins, tomatoes, beets, melons, lettuce, and cucumbers.

How to Control Aphids

The natural way 

Sprinkle a soapy water solution over your vegetables or use a high-pressure water spray to remove the sticky secretion. High rainfall also effectively controls these pests.

You can plant a flower garden to attract lady beetles. These are natural enemies and are very effective in controlling the spread of aphids.

Using pesticides

Use pesticides as a final resort when controlling aphids. Neems or anything with pyrethrin inside can control these pests effectively.

Hire a professional

Professional landscapers have the skills to get rid of aphids and discourage them permanently from coming into your garden.


Another nasty pest that lives up to its name is the cutworm. They are ‘heavy’ feeders that cut right through a plant’s stem. Cutworms feed at night, so it may be hard to catch them in action during the daytime.

How to know if you have cutworms in your garden

Look at the base of the plant. Do you see pores that look as if something chewed or drilled its way through? Do you have plants dying before they become mature? Do you have weak plants that look like they will never mature? 

You could be looking at a cutworm infestation. All cutworms are similar, irrespective of the species. They are smooth and can grow to about 2 inches at maturity.

They come in shades of green, black, gray, or brownish pink. Some have only one color on their body, while others may sport different color combinations.

Damages caused by cutworms

Cutworms cut through plants and, if not controlled, may kill them. Some eat the leaves (especially those of vegetables such as lettuce and cabbages), while others feed on the roots.

How to control cutworms

Cutworms are easier to control when the larva is still undeveloped. They love to feed during the summer season when there is little or no rainfall. You probably won’t experience cutworm problems during spring. 

The natural way of controlling cutworms

Remove the cutworms physically. They usually curl when disturbed. You can also use a solution of soap and water. Remove plant waste and weeds after harvesting to prevent the cutworm eggs from hatching in your garden. The pupae or larvae may still be in the soil. To get rid of them, till your garden in the fall and wait a couple of weeks before planting your crops.

Birds and bats will also eat adult cutworms, so provide a birdhouse or bat house and plant sunflowers, daisies, or zinnias to attract birds and bats into your garden.

Using pesticides

If you have an excessive cutworm infestation, you can apply pesticides to the leaves or stems of your plants. Permethrin and carbaryl are examples of pesticides you can use to control cutworms.


Slugs (or garden snails) are destructive and dangerous while in your garden or around your home, especially if you have small children. A young Australian boy called Ballard became paralyzed and eventually died after eating a slug that had a rat lungworm infestation.

Slugs love a cool, moist, shaded area. They mainly resurface in spring and fall. 

How to know if your garden has slugs

These garden pests are hard to miss. You can trail them around the garden by the slime they secrete. The slime is what they use to move, and traces of the slime will be found in one area long after they have moved away. They create irregular holes in the leaves or fruits of the plants they chew.

Damages caused by slugs

Slugs eat almost any type of vegetable. They love to feed on seedlings and small plants. 

How to control slugs 

The best way to get rid of slugs in your garden is to create an environment that is less attractive to them.

Remove shade 

Since they love shaded and moist areas, discourage them by pruning the lower branches or leaves of shrubs and plants. This will allow more sunlight to reach the ground. Support plants that grow tall to prevent them from coming into contact with slugs at the ground level. 

Add compost to control the soil moisture

If your soil is always moist, or if your zone experiences a lot of rainfall, add layers of compost to keep the soil at the root of the plant relatively dry. 

Water your plants in the morning

Slugs generally feed at night. Water your plants in the morning so that everything is gone by evening. 

Use natural enemies 

Beetles, ducks, and chickens are very effective in controlling slugs.

Pests are an inevitable part of gardening. However, with proper knowledge and techniques, you can effectively control these pests naturally or by using pesticides as a last resort. By being proactive in your approach to pest control and creating an environment that is less attractive to them, you can enjoy a healthy and thriving garden all year round.

If you’re dealing with other pests in your garden, take a look at these guides next: