Growing Eggplant: Eliminating Flea Beetles And Other Pests
Eggplant is among the easiest vegetable to grow. There are some pests you have to look out for. Flea beetles as well as other insects love to invade your eggplant crop and will do tremendous damage if you haven’t taken the appropriate precautions.
The adult Epitrix fuscula flea beetle is around 2 mm long and black or brown. They may be present during the growing season but are of most concern during the first few weeks after planting, when the plants are still young. Signs of infestation include numerous 'slot holes' in the leaves of your eggplant, which can weaken and even kill younger plants. Other choice crops for the flea beetle include potato, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein suggests, "First, evaluate the damage. Treat newly set transplants if they have 2 flea beetles per plant, seedlings 3 to 6 inches tall if they have greater than four beetles per plant, and plants over 6 inches tall if they have eight beetles per plant. Full size plants rarely require treatment for flea beetles."
Use a Repellent
Many home remedies have been discovered that help get rid of these pests, which will devour your eggplants. One that has been most successful takes advantage of bugs' aversion to garlic and hot pepper. Create a mixture of garlic and pepper with water and spray it onto the plant and the flea beetles should stay away. Other options include using lemon and coffee grounds placed around the perimeter of your eggplant plants.
TIP: Rachel adds, "One that I use with great success: Mix one teaspoon of gentle soap with 7.5 ml of neem oil and 1 quart of water. Mix solution thoroughly and spray plants every three days until the infestation abates. Continue to spray each week for the next month to prevent the critters from coming back.
Create a Barrier
An over-the-counter flypaper placed carefully around your eggplants is another way to combat unwanted pests. The protective barrier around your vegetables keeps flea beetles from reaching the eggplants. Row covers can also be used while the plants are young and tender, to protect them from infestation at this critical age.
TIP: Rachel adds, "Mulching your eggplants with plastic mulch can block the flea beetle larvae from emerging from the ground, and can keep the bugs from ever jumping on your plants.
Use a Decoy
Some gardeners have used decoy crops that the flea beetles love to eat to prevent them from harming the real produce. Flea beetles will leave eggplants alone in preference of the leaves of radishes, carrots, and Giant Southern Mustard Plants, so think about planting a few around your garden to keep them away.
TIP: Rachel suggests, "If flea beetles are a yearly problem. consider implementing a crop rotation system in your garden. These insects live in the soil over the winter, and may disperse come spring if they emerge to find their choice crop not nearby.
Have Them Eaten
Buying and releasing nematodes, a natural predator of the flea beetle, into your garden is an organic way to ward off an infestation. Release the nematodes as early as possible for best results.
A pesticidal treatment should only be considered when the infestation is large and causing serious damage to your crop. Use a pesticide that contains pyrethrins or rotenone. Reapply according to package instructions. Remember, pesticides will kill off all insects on your eggplants, including the beneficial ones.