How to Deal With These Tiny Pests
Aphids are nasty little bastards that can quickly get out of control. In my garden they tend to appear early on young lettuce plants. They look like tiny dots on the back of the lettuce leaves. They can vary in color and may be black, brown, yellow, white, or grey, depending on the species. Certain cabbage plants are also susceptible to another species of aphid. These are more grey or greenish in color. I commonly find these on my kale plants. Last year, at the end of the season I noticed a few on my kale plant, but I got lazy and did nothing about it assuming once the plant died back in winter the aphids would disappear. I really should have known better.
My kale survived the winter and the cabbage aphids did as well. As you can see from the photos, they are back with a vengeance.
The best thing to do once you spot these is to intervene as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips that have worked for me in the past:
- Shoot ‘em! With water that is. Check your young lettuce plants often. Once you spot aphids go get yourself a spray bottle and fill it with water. You can use your hose as well but I like how the spray bottles have a more direct shot. Just spray the aphids directly. A lot of the time this is enough to knock them off and if you are persistent it will take care of the problem. I have also added a tiny bit of dish soap to the water bottle and have had success with that as well.
- Cut ‘em! If you are like me and are sometimes a lazy gardener (hey, life gets busy, am I right?) the aphids may get a bit out of control before you have a chance to intervene. In this case it might be best to cut or trim the leaves or plants that are most affected. You can clip off the stems or leaves that have the most aphid clusters and compost them or throw them in with your yard waste if you don’t have a compost (yet! You should think about starting one, they are fun, more on that another day). If you are able to toss most of the aphid clusters you can then use the spray ‘em method for any remaining affected areas. If its at the end of the season you may want to consider pulling out the whole plant and composting it to prevent further spread or possible overwintering of the little a-holes. This is probably what I should have done with my kale last year. Sigh. Live and learn.
- Eat ‘em! Okay, to be clear, I don’t want you to eat the aphids. BUT, you know who does like to eat aphids? Ladybugs! Sometimes the best offense is a good defense…or something like that. Before you even get aphids you can be proactive and attract ladybugs to your garden and they will do the dirty work for you. Ladybugs are attracted to pollen plants. There are many you can plant, but one of my personal fave is marigolds. These flowers will attract ladybugs and also help deter other naughty garden pests. On the flip side you can also plant nasturtium, which attracts aphids. So, in theory if you already have aphids they may be more attracted to the nasturtium vs your veggies. As a rule of thumb I like to keep both marigolds and nasturtium in and around my garden. They are great plants to help with pests. Just keep in mind that this is more of a long term solution. It can take a while to develop the right little ecosystem within your garden that will attract the right kind of bugs and critters to help maintain and eradicate pests. If you have aphids now, like right this second, start with one of the first two tips.
Best of luck to you. What other methods have you had success with in getting rid of aphids? Comment below and share!