The benefit of organic gardening is that you don’t spray toxic insecticides on plants you’re going to eat. The challenge is paying attention to your plants to prevent problems before they get bigger.
I noticed a bug was attracted to my basil plant. First there was only one or two, but then there started to be more. I wondered if they were little grasshoppers, but I didn’t see any chewed up leaves. The leaves started to turn pale and yellow, and they folded inward instead of laying flat.
I did a little research and realized these were leafhoppers.
Leafhoppers are sap-sucking bugs. They are pests because they will drain the life out of your plants. If you sit and watch them, you’ll see honeydew drops coming out of the tail end. Every few seconds, another little drop forms.
They come in many species. This red-banded leafhopper landed on my spearmint.
I tried to get rid of them with a solution of soapy water, but even when I sprayed them directly, they didn’t budge. I flicked them off, and they kept coming back. I was stumped. Then I decided to cover the basil with netting. I bought tulle from the craft store, arranged it over the plant, and secured it with a rubberband around the rim of the pot.
Notice how sickly and yellow the leaves look? This was a couple of weeks ago, when I first covered the basil with the netting. Now that the bugs can’t get to the plant, it’s thriving again. I gave it an extra boost of compost, and the new leaves are growing vibrant green.
Next we’ll look at common plant pests you might not recognize.