Gardening Tips: Controlling aphids

Black aphids colonize the undersides of leaves

Black aphids colonize the undersides of leaves

Garden pests can test anyone’s patience. Don’t let the bad bugs get you down! Simple, proactive actions can minimize your losses.

Check all your garden plants for pests once a week. If you see the starts of an insect infestation, consider putting more compost down around your plants and/or spraying them with compost tea every week to help them stay healthy and fend off attackers.

Cabbage aphids attack Brassica crops, like kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts

Cabbage aphids attack Brassica crops, like kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts

Today, we’ll talk about aphids.  They come in a range of colors – green, red, brown, black, yellow and dusty white – and suck sap from leaves.  Aphids are particularly bad in wet, cool springs, which we experienced this year; their eggs hatch sooner than their predators, so they’re able to get a head start and reproduce unchecked. Black aphids, some with wings (which are the males), are attacking some people’s tomatoes early this season, but rest assured others may show up in other parts of your garden.

Green aphids can be camouflaged by their host.

Green aphids often show up on peas and beans.

Control an aphid infestation as soon as possible to prevent them spreading. One of the easiest and cheapest control methods for aphids is a homemade insecticidal soap spray: Fill a clean gallon container with water, then add 1 Tbsp. of dishwashing soap. Gently mix  and fill a squirt bottle with the solution. Spray the plant stems and leaves, particularly the leaf undersides where the aphids hang out. Try not to spray flowers (to protect bees/pollinators) and only spray when plants are out of direct sunlight for an hour after spraying (typically early morning or evening), so the sun doesn’t burn the wet leaves.

Here’s a link to two other sprays known to be affective against aphids – one made from garlic and soap and the other from tomato leaves.

For more information about organic pest control, check out Mother Earth News’ excellent series here.

Happy growing!

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