We’ve all heard of them. We all hope they never rear their destructive heads. Until the one day you walk out into your beautiful garden to find it teeming with life, not the stoic green plants you have come to cherish like a member of the family but the minuscule leaf dwelling bugs that are the plague of any home gardener’s life.
The problems aphids present are numerous. They feed on your plants and literally suck the life right out of them causing them to lose that healthy green glow. Aphids produce a waste product called honeydew. It is a sweet, sticky substance that can become a danger to your garden as well. The sticky waste can mold and turn black which in turn can build up and block light from reaching your plants. Aphids reproduce quickly, a few days is enough to produce a new generation. A handful of Aphids one day can turn into a swarm that terrorizes your garden in just a weeks’ time.
Leaving this problem unchecked ensures it will get worse and could ultimately lead to the death of the entire garden. It’s important not to delay, what may seem like a mere annoyance at first can quickly turn into a garden threatening problem.
So how do we combat these little terrors? You could turn to pesticides but if this is a vegetable garden pesticides may not be an option. Even if the garden is strictly for flowers there are drawbacks to using pesticides. There is always the risk that pesticides could kill the bugs that are helping keep the aphid population low. Because of this, spraying pesticides could result in even more garden destruction than before.
A natural remedy may be the best option in this case. Aphids have natural predators whose interests for this short time align with yours. Encouraging lady bugs to hang around your garden is one natural remedy. Ladybugs use pollen as a food source. You can increase the ladybug traffic by planting cilantro, dill, geraniums, and tansies. These are all plants that Ladybugs would be attracted to.
Try Neem oil derived from the Neem Tree. It has both insecticide and fungicide properties, and systemic benefits (that is the plant can absorb it without harm and so can control insects even without direct contact).
“Organic Gardening” magazine also recommends their “Kitchen insect spray” – made by combining a garlic bulb, a small onion, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor/blender. Process into a paste and add about 1 litre of water then steep for 1 hour. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, then add a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and mix again. This will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
An added problem is that other insects enjoy this sweet honey that aphid’s secrete. Ants in particular are fond of the sweet waste so it is natural to think they will set out to protect the producers of their sweet treat. The simplest way to deal with your garden ant problem is by using a mixture of sugar (powdered preferable but not necessary) and borax and leave in tiny dishes around the ant infested area. The ants will devour the sugary treat unaware of the deadly (to ants not us) borax lurking within the mixture and when they return their sweet prize to the nest the borax will run its course. Small amounts of Borax are found in some teeth whitening formulas so rest assured, you and your family are not in danger when using this sugar/borax method.
With just a few easy to follow steps you can ensure your garden stays aphid free and continues producing those favorite foods you love to grow yourself and that those beautiful plants will thrive all season long.