There are hundreds of diseases and pests out there but there are just a few that are common to everyone’s garden across the prairies.
Ants strangely are reviled as the greatest scourge to gardener-kind, but actually don’t cause that much damage. They injure plants only when they are burrowing through the soil, or creating their cone shaped towers in the middle of your lawn. They do a little of their own agriculture, as well, as they tend aphid flocks. They protect aphids, mealybugs, and scale so that they can collect their droppings called honeydew. This honeydew is brought back to the nests to feed their little grubs. Isn’t that just precious. Also, they will bite you really hard and freak you right out when they swarm up your leg.
There are all kinds of remedies – from boiling water to the absolute worst, using Borax and icing sugar. I would recommend using ant traps or ant powder and just encourage the ants to move over to the neighbour’s yard by continually harassing the colony.
Aphids affect a whole host of plant material but primarily on Roses, Lupines, and Ninebark.
They can be a number of colours but usually yellow, green, or a blueish black. They are primarily identified by having two cornicles or horns on their back ends. They suck the sap from the leaves and stems and they multiply at an unbelievable rate. During the summer, they are all female and in the garden world, everyone will tell you that they are born pregnant. They over winter as eggs in the bark of trees, or in the soil near perennials.
For perennials, I have noticed that they are worse if you over feed and make the plants too juicy and weak. The best remedy is to run your fingers along the stems and squish them. Wash the stems every two or three days with water or spray them with an insecticidal soap or garlic spray.
For shrubs, use the same remedy as above, but in late April spray the stems with dormant oil before the shrubs leaf out. The dormant oil smothers the eggs and helps hinder their hatching.
In August, the aphids change and become either winged males or females and fly off together to create new colonies.
If you ever have time during the year to read The Truth About Garden Remedies by Jeff Gillman, it is a must. The author is a professor and made it his mission to scientifically test out homemade remedies to see which ones worked and which ones were useless. Incredibly interesting.