Top 15 Biggest Garden Pests of 2013

We had a tremendous response to this month's Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest. An offer of free plants and talk of common enemies will certainly bring out the passion in gardeners! 

The winner, chosen at random from among all the submitted entries, is Annie Shaw, Greenbelt, MD. Congratulations, Annie! She receives the 7 False Solomons Seal (Smilacina racemosa or Maianthemum racemosum) plants courtesy of Sunshine Farm & Gardens(value $35+).

For this contest entry, we asked our readers to tell us their Biggest Garden Pests this growing season. Here are some of their responses. Can you relate? Did your biggest garden pest make the list?


~ In my garden, the most damaging pest has been the Asian tiger mosquito. Even just a few are enough for me to use as an excuse not to do the necessary weeding and watering!  It's especially annoying that they are most aggressive in the early morning and early evening hours that once were the best times in the garden.
- Elaine Dynes, Silver Spring, MD

~ Mosquitoes!  We've had more rain this summer and many more mosquitoes.  I search every day to drain surface water and still those tiny aggressive asian variety of mosquitoes plague me.  I've really limited my time in my yard this year due to them. And, spent less time weeding or even enjoying meals outside. I dress in long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a hat and still they find available skin to bite.  I need to attract more bats into my yard for sure!  I've used a variety of repellents (reading labels carefully so that birds and other critters will not be harmed), and am afraid of using DEET.  Now I use catnip spray which reduces somewhat the numbers hovering over me when I'm outside.
- Annie Shaw, Greenbelt, MD

Biggest garden pest is a toss up between rabbits and tiger mosquitoes. The rabbits have been finding ways under the chicken wire surrounding the veggie garden and outside the, sampling (as in stripping off flowers and foliage) any new perennial or annual.
   Tigers have driven me back inside when I try to get out to do a little weeding/planting/harvesting. I'm covered head to toe and my garden shirt and pants are sprayed. So I put repellent on exposed neck and face. They try to bite through my socks, through my gloves, or on the one square inch of face I missed. At least the majority of them just swarm around unwilling to land on me. 
- Cindy Walczak, Olney, MD


~ My biggest garden pests this year were the rabbits. Totally fearless and very numerous. They just watch you appear, and only hop away a few feet when you come into the yard.
- Jennifer Whalen, Silver Spring, MD

~ My biggest garden pest has been bunny rabbits.  They seem to ignore all  the common rabbit food in the yard - violets, clover, etc and focus on my desirable plants.  They don't seem to know what is edible so they
will chew off plants like coleus and leave the stem with all the leaves on the ground.

- Dorothy Cichra, Silver Spring, MD


~ At first thought, I might nominate the bean leaf beetle as my biggest garden pest this year, because they have totally decimated my bush bean plants. On second thought, I might nominate mosquitoes as my biggest garden pest this year, because they have persisted in overwhelming numbers in spite of multiple attempts to control their population around my yard and have now invaded my house.  But quite honestly, I am compelled to nominate ticks as my biggest garden pest this year, because I fear they may succeed in dampening my eagerness to spend time in my garden. I have had allergic reactions to three tick bites this year, and although I have not been diagnosed with Lyme disease, the allergic reactions cause symptoms that linger for 6 weeks. The threat of more serious health effects from ticks is quite worrisome with so many deer roaming my neighborhood. I have seen deer ticks among the leaves of trees as I worked under them or trimmed their branches, and I have found ticks crawling on my arms as I sat in my backyard swing. I can combat pests that are eating on my plants or forfeit garden produce due to insect infestations, but to think that the joy I experience from working in my garden could be diminished or even sacrificed due to fear of serious health effects from my next tick bite is very sad indeed. 
- Susan Drilea, North Potomac, MD


~ My worst pest this summer has definitely been weeds, much worse than ever because of so much rain. A cleared area could have sizeable weeds after a week!
- Mona Potter, Ellicott City MD 


~ Japanese Stiltgrass...I back to woods and the woodland floor used to be covered in Garlic Mustard (which was bad enough), but now there is stiltgrass everywhere and my neighbors on either side do not use any weedkillers, so their entire yards and gardens are covered in stiltgrass. I am fighting it off, but I think it's a losing battle.- Katie Rapp, Gaithersburg, MD


~ The biggest garden pest this year has been compacted clay and excessive moisture!  I lost a cherry tree that the builder planted in my front yard because it happened to sit at the lowest point of elevation in a newly dug bed.  As I cultivated and amended the ground above it, the excess rains filed the lowest area of the cultivated bed, unable to permeate the construction-compacted clay below it, and it drowned my very unhappy Yoshino cherry tree.  For that reason, excess water and construction-compacted clay tied for my biggest pest this year!
- Doug Reimel, Clarksburg, MD


~ My biggest garden pest this year left me without a flower to my name. The pest was LIFE CHANGE... I retired, moved from DC to the Philadelphia area and just Today the sod cutter started carving out my new garden. But gardeners bought the house I left.

- Janice Gable, Westville, NJ
~ The biggest garden pest in my garden this year has been fungal diseases.  We had a damp Spring that continued into a very rainy Summer.  In addition, we have had a number of cloudy days without rain.  There has been little opportunity for soils, and especially mulched beds, to dry out.  If your yard is particularly shady, as mine is, it only exacerbates the problem.  The conditions this year have created a perfect environment for fungal diseases of all sorts - anthracnose, canker, mildew, mold, etc.  Some fungi, like Bird's Nest fungi, are cup-like structures with spore masses within that are propelled by rain drops and we've had lots of rain.
- Dr. Diana Locke, Gaithersburg, MD


Biggest pest is the same every year, despite my efforts: plum curculio boring into my peaches.  Spoils them completely.
- Judy Thomas, Mechanicsville, VA 


~ Biggest pest this year is a Sawfly on hibiscus.  They are making a mess by skeletonizing the leaves.  Flowers are doing fine.  Wish I could see and catch the critters and use them for goldfish pond food.
- George Graine, Falls Church, VA

~ If you mean insects and animals rather than weeds and diseases, my biggest pest problem this year is the Hibiscus sawfly larva.  The little green worm has skeletonized about half the leaves of my one hibiscus.  
I've only squished one of the culprits so far.    If insects have not done a lot of damage, I leave them alone.   I don't have a vegetable garden or I could find more problems.
- Wendy Bruno, Silver Spring, MD


~ Yes, my zucchini plants were plagued with squash vine borers, and my two puny cucumber vines were lost to cucumber beetles.  There are definitely one too many rabbits hovering near my raised veggie beds as well, and  ever-present squirrels are eying my tomatoes.  I can tolerate all of  those without much more than a shrug and a sigh, but having RATS is the absolute worst!  There is nothing so unnerving as being in your yard and seeing a blur of something scurrying for cover, not to mention looking out the kitchen window to see one or two just hanging out in the yard  back behind some shrubs.  We have spent the summer eradicating any
potential habitat by hacking back shrubs and ground cover.  I'll spare you the other gory measures we have had to take... now if we could just  convince the neighbors to clean up their stockpile of lumber and other  household junk from their backyard, we could rest a bit easier.

- Marianna Judy, Silver Spring, MD


~ I garden in a community garden plot at Grist Mill Park in the Mt Vernon, VA area.  My biggest garden pest this year …and the garden nemesis of every gardener there…has been a family of ground hogs.  The mother, extremely well nourished, had 3 adorable kits this spring.  Adorable for about the first month until they all started munching at the “Grist Mill Buffet”. 
   My personal contribution to their healthy menu has included two rounds of green beans (I didn’t learn my lesson the first time and planted another group), edamame, and several sequential plantings of okra.  I must say, they have a very discriminating palate.  They only eat the healthy young shoots.  Once the plants get a certain size, they’re no longer interested.
    We’ve tried every helpful hint to get rid of them including turning many of the plots into veritable fortresses of chicken wire, pinwheels, wind chimes, and stinky repellants.  The only sure fire tactic so far has been to create chicken wire houses around the plants until they grow big enough to no longer be appealing. 
    I garden early in the morning so I can enjoy the peaceful setting and cooler weather.  Guess who else likes that time of day? It’s play time for the two remaining youngsters (sadly, I think, a dog killed one of them).  To make matters worse, they run in and out of the plots chattering as they play and get breakfast.  It almost sounds like they’re laughing at all our efforts to keep them out. 
     So far, they are getting the last laugh.  However, the war is not over.  I’m considering my battle plans for next season.
- Tamara Beaver, Alexandria, VA


~ Raccoons pick the tomatoes off the plants, take a bite and then spit them out.   Then takes another tomato from the same plant and repeats!!
-  Mary Valentine, Hedgesville WV


~ Last year I moved into a much smaller house with a very small yard.  There was no lawn, instead a small woodland surrounded the house which made it a perfect for us.  My neighbors around me have lawns and I hope when they see my yard full of great critters and native plants they will be encourage to convert at least part of their yards as well.  All this being said, I do have a pest problem.  I have woodland voles.  I saw one of them when moving leaves away to plant a shrub.  What a cute critter, but that cute critter eats the roots of some of my plants.  It's really quite annoying but I don't want to use chemicals or kill traps.  Any ideas on how to get them to move elsewhere? 
- Betty Truax, Palmyra, VA


~ Biggest garden pest "trowel" down for 2013 ......deer! I had planted tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce in containers at the top of a hill at the back of the house.  All were doing well until deer discovered them and took 2 of the cucumber plants and half the Juliet tomato plant.  I was unhappy to say the least.  Nonetheless I continued watering the one remaining cucumber and the half tomato and enjoyed watching their recovery until deer returned an August night for another huge part of the tomato.  My husband and I enjoyed one cucumber all summer and are carefully watching the 3 green tomatoes for signs of ripening. Next year the containers will move onto the deck with fencing.  I cannot give up!  Thanks heavens for our CSA!
- Rosemary 

My greatest garden problem this year has been the deer.  Due to the fact they completely devastate my backyard vegetable garden, I planted tomatoes and peppers in containers and placed them in them next to my driveway in my front yard.  And you know what?  Those blasted deer managed to chew and eat every leaf on  my heirloom tomatoes and left Celebrity and other hybrids totally alone.
- Joan Richards, Fairfax, VA

Deer have been the worst pests for my garden this year,though even they have not been too bad. For some reason it seems to have been a light year  for other pests. I usually have no trouble with deer,but they have been a slight nuisance this year.
- Meridith Mackay-Smith, White Post,VA

~ The biggest pest in my garden this year has been the deer.  Damage this year is the worst it's ever been.  I have a whole bed of yellow daylilies, all different kinds, and I got almost no flowers. Certain hostas have been eaten to the ground--while others are untouched.  Tomatoes near the daylily bed have been pruned repeatedly.  I've had some damage before, but never this much.  They seem to have lost interest, though, because a few scapes of the latest daylily survived the snack attacks and are in bloom now. 
   The smallest pest is phytophthera mold.  June was so wet that I lost an entire bed of rudbeckia 'Cappucino' that I grew from seed last year.  What a disappointment!!
- Lucy Goszkowski, Annapolis, MD

Photo Sources:
- Mosquito photo courtesy of Mosquito Dunks, Summit Chemical Company.
- Rabbit photo from Wikipedia commons.
- Deer photo courtesy of Randall Cleaver, Takoma Park, MD.


If you want to attract spiders in your garden, grow some permanent perennials. These kinds of spiders find perennials very suitable for a home.
The allium leaf miner is a serious threat to plants in the onion family such as leeks, onion, chives, shallots and garlic, but could also potentially harm ornamental alliums.

Popular Posts