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As gardeners, we are on constant vigil against pests. They can be anywhere, everywhere, and can strike at any time. But the aphid is probably the quickest one to pick up, the biggest nuisance, but thankfully the easiest one to get rid of.
They can destroy your perfect vegetables, suck the life out of your most beautiful flowers, and generally break your heart as they tear up the garden in a silent – almost invisible assault. But there are quick and easy ways to stop them from destroying your garden, and even to prevent them from getting in there in the first place!
- 1 What an Aphid is and How to Identify it
- 1.1 How do I know if I even have Aphids?
- 1.1.1 Take a garden hose to the little critters
- 1.1.2 Try spraying insecticide soap
- 1.1.3 Neem oil can help curb their numbers
- 1.1.4 Garlic will make aphids think twice about staying in your garden
- 1.1.5 Go buy some ladybugs
- 1.1.6 Diatomaceous earth or silica is a more direct way of killing them (a bit more dangerous)
- 1.2 Prevention is better than cure
- 1.3 Wrapping up
- 1.1 How do I know if I even have Aphids?
What an Aphid is and How to Identify it
Aphids, also called garden lice, are small soft-bodied pests that suck the sap out of your plants. Like miniature vampires – without the sexy voices. They come in quite a wide variety of different types, and their coloring can range from black to red to white to green. In small numbers they can’t do much damage to your garden – and can even be a sort of boon – but unfortunately, their rate of growth is quite staggering, and the more aphids there is the more damage they can and will do to your garden.
Generally, they are attracted to plants who are struggling in a drought, and some plants, like fennel, attract the black aphid in droves. But whatever reason they decide to come into your garden, they are a nuisance and a damaging one at that.
When you spot them in your garden, you’ll need to act quickly to stop them from spreading.
How do I know if I even have Aphids?
The aphid is sometimes so tiny that they can’t even be seen, to top it off, they love to hide and keep out of sight. When the colonies are also particularly small, you won’t know they’re there until they are suddenly everywhere. Their numbers grow like wildfire. Quite an apt description with the amount of damage they incur.
The first thing to look out for is curled up brown leaves, or yellowed leaves. They suck the sap out of your plants, so dying leaves will be your first sign. When you spot a leaf that is inexplicably not doing well, check under it to see if the aphids are perhaps hiding there.
If there is no sign of them, check for any sticky residue on that same leaf and the rest of the plant. They leave behind honeydew in their wake, if the plant is a little sticky it’s most likely a sure sign of aphids.
Something else to look out for is when your fruits and vegetables start to look a little off. A little misformed. The aphid bites your plants repeatedly, and this results in some vegetables growing a little out of sorts.
Natural remedies for aphid infestations
There are quite a few natural remedies you can try to get aphids packing. They range from a quick blast of the hose to some homemade sprays to even luring other insects into your garden. Try a few of these before moving on to more chemically induced treatments. Keeping our plants happy is as important as keeping them healthy.
Take a garden hose to the little critters
If the population isn’t too big, and you can easily spot them, turn on the garden hose and just spray them off! You will remove the honey-dew they spit up from their feasting (stopping ants from coming into your garden as well) and you’ll get their numbers down by large chunks.
Some plants just can’t stand the spray of a hose – and you might damage them more, but don’t fret too much! We still have a few remedies to try on these aphids.
Try spraying insecticide soap
Aphids are not very tough insects. They will drop quite easily. Using insecticide soap, you can quickly wipe out entire colonies from your garden if used correctly. Simply whip up a batch, take aim at the aphids and spray away.
Just stop yourself from drenching the entire plant. It won’t kill the plant along with the Aphids due to over-enthusiasm.
Or how about some dish soap
If you don’t like the idea of using insecticide soap, try some dish soap instead. Although not as effective as an insecticide, it does make it much easier to spray them off when they’re all slippery.
About ½ teaspoon dish soap to around 30oz will do the trick fine. Simply coat the plant with soap using a spray bottle, then turn on the house and wash it down. It works especially well with those thicker plants like rose bushes where you can’t see where they are hiding.
Neem oil can help curb their numbers
Although usually used in the soil, it is particularly effective to kill off aphids. The oil coats the bugs making it difficult for them to eat, reproduce and even breathe. The oil will eventually suffocate them and they will start dropping.
Neem oil is sold today on the market in organic forms specifically for gardens. Just head on over to your local shop, ask specifically for a spray bottle of Neem oil for insects and they will point you in the right direction. It is best to use it sparingly, so if you have a very large infestation, perhaps try some of the other remedies first.
Garlic will make aphids think twice about staying in your garden
Garlic turns your plants into a smelly situation for your aphid friends. They can’t reproduce, can’t eat, and will eventually drop off and leave to find a better home. What is even better is it is an excellent remedy against fungi and also acts as an antibacterial agent.
To make a garlic spray simply finely chop up 3-4 garlic cloves, mix in 2 teaspoons of mineral oil and let it stand for at least 24 hours. Strain out only the liquid of the mixture, then add that liquid to about 500ml water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and now test it.
To test it, spray the mixture onto a single leaf, leave it overnight and check on it. If there is no discoloration, you’re good to go. However, if the leaf turns yellow, you can simply dilute the mixture and try again.
Garlic has been used in gardens for many years, and it has always been a benefit to keeping a bottle of garlic spray read in the fridge.
Go buy some ladybugs
Much like you can buy bees for a hive, you can also purchase ladybugs for your garden! They are excellent at keeping pests at bay and will do a studious job in keeping your garden safe and secure from aphids.
However, this is only working best for greenhouses or more enclosed areas. Otherwise, the bugs will simply fly away. Be sure also, to buy a little less than you think you’d need. Although you can buy 1000 ladybugs and they will clean out your greenhouse quickly, you can end up with starving ladybugs. Rather speak to the supplier and explain the size of your greenhouse. They should be able to give you an estimate on how many you will need.
A better solution is to rather attract ladybugs to your garden, but we’ll cover that a little later.
Diatomaceous earth or silica is a more direct way of killing them (a bit more dangerous)
We left the most ‘dangerous’ for last.
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of dead organisms. It contains an ingredient called silica, which is deadly to insects. And humans, if ingested, so be careful!
Simply put a coating of the dust over the insects and should slowly perish. The silica sticks to their small bodies and due to tiny hooks. These cut open the body of the insects and they slowly bleed out and perish. A quick hose down after they’re gone is all that is needed to seal the deal.
Make sure to buy the organic Diatomaceous and not the higher concentrated product meant for pools. As stated, silica is no friend to humans nor animals and could end up killing one of your pets if you’re not careful. So perhaps try some of the other remedies first before going out to buy some diatomaceous.
Prevention is better than cure
Aphids only appear in gardens where the plants are unhappy. If you’re using too much fertilizer, not watering enough, or watering too much, your plants will begin to weaken, making them prime targets for the wandering aphid.
To prevent your garden from being overrun by these little bugs, try checking the following or trying some of these tips:
1. Take care of your plants
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to make sure your plants are healthy. This means you’re going to have to make sure that you take care of them properly. This includes:
- Don’t over-fertilize
When you over-fertilize, your plant will create new growth shoots which will ensure aphids experience a boom in their population. It’s the extra nitrogen that makes them so darn happy. So be sure to give your plants only the recommended amounts, less if your soil is particularly fertile.
- Don’t forget to water.
The second we start forgetting to water our plants we instantly open the door for all kinds of trouble. One of them being aphids, but other parasites can take root as well.
Plants create a natural chemical to keep pests away from them, but only when they are hearty and healthy, during high-summers or droughts, plants will rather use that extra energy to survive. To top it off, the quality of the sap changes when the plant is continuously thirsty, and it becomes a magnet to the Aphids.
Keep your plants happy and healthy and they’ll keep the pests away by themselves!
2. Use your plants to your advantage
Plants themselves are an excellent way to repel pests if you get the right ones.
For aphids in particular you can try catmint and marigolds. Their sharp smell will keep the little critters well out of our garden. If you want to try a herb rather than a plant, you can try chives, it should keep them away from your roses, fruit trees, and other fruits and vegetables.
If you’d diver them to another part of your garden entirely try using Nasturtium and garlic chives. This combination will attract black aphids and once the nasturtiums have become completely infested, simply throw them out.
Finally, you can try fennel which works as a trap crop. Simply plant it some ways away from your main garden. The aphids and beetles will have a merry old time, and the fennel might even attract some ladybugs to boot.
Plants are excellent in keeping your garden safe. They had to stay safe without us for a very long time after all. Try hearing around which other plants other gardeners use to stem the inevitable assault of aphids. You might find the perfect plant to fit into your garden.
3. Get some predators in your garden
When you have a mouse problem, many people will get a cat. A cat can’t eat all the mice, but it will be a danger sign for other mice to stay away.
The same goes for your aphid problem. If you want to keep aphids out, try attracting their natural enemies to your garden. This can include ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, damsel bugs, and parasite wasps. Some species will ward off the aphids without ever having to touch them, like the parasite wasp.
For ladybugs, you’ll need aphids in the garden to lure them in. When you see a patch of aphids, lead them to be and see if the ladybugs might be around to come and take care of them. But first, you have to make your garden ladybug friendly.
Try to plant the same type of early flowering plants you would for bees. Aconite, Evergreen clematis, Oregon grape, and the Primrose will work fine. Also, try for a variety of plants to attract different species of aphids; roses, broccoli, and any type of tree should do.
Don’t use pesticides! They kill all insects, not only the pests, and once all the helpful insects are out of the way the pests will have free reign. Rather try using treatments like Neem oil or insecticidal soaps for better slower but better results, and they won’t harm your ladybugs.
Also, leave any piles of leaves in your garden. This will ensure your ladybugs have somewhere to hibernate. When spring comes along, leave it to at least mid-spring, or until you see them walking about. If you scoop up the leaves, you might be taking out the ladybugs along with it.
- Parasite wasp
The parasite wasp is not dangerous to humans. Very few species can even sting, and those that do are not very poisonous at all. Wasps are a particular boon if you can get them in. They can keep a whole colony under control without any help from you.
To attract a parasite wasp, you’ll need to make them feel at home. That means they’ll need flowers for nectar and pollen. They like daisies in particular and many different plants from the dill family. The wasp will also need water. A shallow birdbath or some other spot in the garden with water will keep the parasite wasp happy and content.
You can buy wasps as you can ladybugs, but it is better to rather lure them into your garden than to put them there. If they are there by choice, then something is keeping them there and that something should be enough.
Aphids are small but nasty little critters with a taste for your garden. They can be easily dealt with when spotted early but can become a disaster when left alone.
You can, thankfully, sort them out with quite a few home remedies and even some unconventional ones. Always remember, nature is your friend, and if you can make a garden that is home to parasite killers like ladybugs, you should rarely have a problem with an aphid.
But the best advice for any gardener is to check regularly, deal with them quickly, and always try and keep your plants healthy above all else. A healthy plant is a strong plant and will be able to take care of itself most of the time.