Know more about your garden pests before getting rid of them

Do you ever wonder why there are holes in your kale or cabbage leaves? Have you found sticky residue on your okra plants? Have your squash plants, without warning, started to wilt? These symptoms are all caused by common pests that regularly plague vegetable gardens.

During summer, when plants are trying to survive high temperatures and the water supply quickly evaporates, the presence of pests is inevitable. In reality, these hungry and sometimes destructive creatures have been lurking in the soil and under leaves, quietly waiting for their turn to strike. In most cases, by the time a pest infestation has made its public appearance, trying to get a handle on the situation becomes too overwhelming of a task, or the plant has taken on too much damage to thrive.

It is important to take preventative measures to ensure that your plants live a long, healthy and productive life. Here are some tips from the Sustainable Food Center for staying ahead of pest damage:

1) Pest identification: Identifying and understanding the pests that exist in your area and could potentially damage your crops can ultimately save you a lot of time, energy and heartache. Squash vine borer, for example, is a prominent pest in Central Texas. If you are gardening in an area that has been recently plagued by this insect, it may be wise to not plant squash there — or you might need to find other ways to protect your squash like protecting the stems when young or removing larvae from the stems

2) Know your beneficial insects: Just as important as being able to identify insects that are damaging your plants is knowing which insects are helping your plants. Insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis and wheel bugs are all good to have around for combating a pest problem.

3) Life cycle: Did you know that severe damage to a plant can occur even before the insect reaches adulthood? Life cycles are important to consider when scouting and applying pest control methods. For example, some caterpillars can cause more damage to a plant than they do in their adult stage. You also want to know how to identify eggs to eradicate the pest early in its life cycle.

4) Signs and symptoms: Know your plants! The best pest control is the gardener’s shadow. Pay attention to coloration, chew marks and structural and textural changes in your plant. These signs and symptoms can be helpful clues in figuring out what type of pest is nibbling on your crop.

5) Control methods: There are many methods that can be used to treat pest problems without damaging other plants, soil, beneficial insects, animals or human beings. Homemade hot pepper sprays, insecticidal soaps, neem oil, sticky traps and water are all examples of ways to control pest populations without potentially damaging anything or anyone else.

6) Resources: Find a Texas AgriLife Extension office near you and give them a call. The Travis County Master Gardeners Association has trained volunteers to answer any and all of your gardening questions. Garden centers sometimes offer pest management courses. You can also turn to books and websites specifically about garden pests.

Learn more about gardening and pest management by signing up for a class at Sustainable Food Center,

Recipe for Rodale’s Organic Life All-Purpose Pest Spray

1 garlic bulb

1 small onion

1 tsp. of powdered cayenne pepper

1 quart of water

1 Tbsp. liquid dish soap

Chop, grind or liquefy garlic and onion. Add cayenne pepper and mix with water. Steep 1 hour, strain through cheesecloth and then add liquid dish soap. Mix well. Spray your plants thoroughly, including the undersides of the leaves. Store the mixture for up to a week in a labeled, covered container in the refrigerator.


Hill Country Galleria holds sidewalk sale for tax-free weekend

The Hill Country Galleria is holding a propertywide sidewalk sale this weekend as part of tax-free weekend. If you spend $150 on tax-free-eligible items, you can get a $20 Hill Country Galleria gift card. Bring your receipts to Guest Services to get your gift card. Also, look for deals at many retailers that weekend.


Get ready to power shop at Le Garage Sale

We know you’ve been waiting. Pencil in Le Garage Sale on your calendar Aug. 26-27 at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. The semiannual sale features more than 100 Austin boutiques. Their goal is to get rid of last season’s leftovers for very, very low prices. It’s $10 a day, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 26 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 27, but if you want to get attend the VIP preview shopping experience at 10 a.m. Aug. 26, it’s $20. Pay cash at the door or buy your ticket online at


Fail Collective and EA/ST Co. open stores, maker co-working showroom

Jewelry-maker Christine Fail, who owns jewelry line Fail, and Bri Ussery, who owns the Good Hippie skin care, have opened new boutiques and a co-working space for makers at 2612 E. Cesar Chavez St., Suite 100. Fail opened the Fail Collective, where you can see all of her collection. Ussery opened EA/ST Co., which offers Good Hippie skin care as well as home goods, art, clothing, ceramics and more from local makers.

The boutiques and co-working space and showroom are open noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday.,


Don’t forget Austin Fall Home & Garden Show next week

The Austin Home & Garden show returns to the Austin Convention Center Aug. 18-20. Hear from HGTV’s “Kitchen Cousins” stars Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, who will be talking 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Aug. 19 and 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 20. Joining them will be home technology expert Boyce Thompson, green building expert Dennis Celsor, plus KXAN weather forecaster Natalie Farrari, dog trainer Troy Pfeifer, and bird expert John Karger. 2-7 p.m. Aug. 18, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 19, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 20. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. $9.50 adults 17 and older, $8.50 seniors and military, free 16 and younger; $1 off coupons online, $1 off admission with canned good donation.


Get the royal treatment in bath fixtures at Alexander Marchant

Want to have a faucet like the queen of England? Now you can. Alexander Marchant has started carrying Samuel Heath kitchen and bath fixtures. It’s been used by British royals since Queen Victoria. Prices start at $2,200.

Find Alexander Marchant at 1114 W. Fifth St. Building A.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, August 20

ARIES (March 21-April 19). You have the plan, the focus, the stamina to get where you want to go. This is the time for action. The best part about it is that you don’t even have to clear a path. The open road is your invitation. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). Your willingness to try new things even when you don’t know what you’re doing...
Dear Abby - Sunday, August 20

Dear Abby: I have been married five years and have two children under 3. I grew up in a large Italian-American family; my husband did not. He doesn’t understand the closeness I have with my family. To him, “family” is just the four of us. He doesn’t comprehend the need for my family to get together all the time and feels that...
Tips for the best back to school photos
Tips for the best back to school photos

School is already back in session for many Central Texas kids, but those in Austin and several other school districts start on Monday, with even more districts starting later in the week or on Aug. 28. In the hustle of that first day, don’t forget to actually take a photo. Think about the background and location. Make sure it doesn’t overpower...
Catch eclipse fever and more family fun this week, Aug. 20-26
Catch eclipse fever and more family fun this week, Aug. 20-26

Events 7th Annual Austin Pet Expo. See all kinds of pets and things for your pet. Free. Bring your pet. Palmer Event Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Round Rock ISD Partners in Education Foundation School Supplies Sunday/Kutz for Kidz Event. Get free supplies and more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Hernandez Middle...
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 20
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 20

Today’s Birthdays: Writer-producer-director Walter Bernstein is 98. Boxing promoter Don King is 86. Former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, is 84. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is 82. Former MLB All-Star Graig Nettles is 73. Broadcast journalist Connie Chung is 71. Musician Jimmy Pankow (Chicago) is 70. Actor Ray Wise is 70. Actor John Noble...
More Stories