When most people hear the word flea they readily think of the small insect that affects their dogs and cats. What a lot of people may not know is that there are a variety of insects labeled fleas for similar characteristics such as jumping. One such insect directly related to and affecting home vegetable gardening is the flea beetle.
The flea beetle, so named because they “jump away” just like a normal flea would, are usually brown or black in color and very small, about the size of a pinhead. Do not let their size fool you though. If left unattended, they can rip through the leaves of your vegetable plants in no time and because they jump around they can easily spread plant disease very quickly.
Here is what you can do to curtail these little pests.
Ensure the environments in which your plants grow are conducive for proper growth. Mix in compost in your soil throughout the year and make sure the soil maintains a neutral pH level by testing it with a home soil test kit which costs just a few bucks at your local home or garden center.
Spray affected plants with a neem oil soap. Don’t let the name fool you, it is an organic, healthy and safe way to treat plants that won’t inhibit their growth or do any damage to the underlying ecosystem that makes it possible for a great garden.
Finally, apply beneficial nematodes to your garden. These small creatures will help with long term control as they will “go after” the flea beetles. Check with your local home or garden center, or call a local co-op in your area to find out what the beneficial nematodes are. It is a low cost solution for what could be a destructive problem for future growing seasons.
Flea beetles can be a problem to your home vegetable garden, especially your tomatoes. If you are like me and treat your tomatoes like they are gold, then you want to make sure you are doing everything you possibly can to prohibit and deter flea beetles from being a problem. Follow the steps above, and you will be well on your way to a flea beetle-”less” home vegetable garden.