Gardening has been very new to me, and over the past year I’ve learnt A LOT… especially when it came to pests in the garden.
In my previous post on how to begin a sustainable veggie garden, I briefly mentioned a few tips on how to keep pests away naturally, but I’ll share more on aphids specifically (and in future posts; caterpillars, rats, mice, snails & slugs) and go into further detail on removing them here.
Also! If there are any others garden pests that you have natural tips for keeping at bay, please share in the comments! We’d love to hear them!!
Aaaaaaalrighty then, let’s begin.
These quarter-inch-long garden pests have soft pear-shaped bodies in various shades of white, black, yellow, green, brown, or red. They feed on the plant’s sap and literally suck the life out of leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and roots. So if your garden plants are stunted, shrivelled, yellowing, or curling at the leaves, despite your best efforts to keep them alive, check the undersides of the leaves, and you may find the culprits (a.k.a large groups of these guys and/or the sticky residue they leave behind after feeding.
Image from Gardeners Path
Here’s how to get rid of them without the need for toxic chemicals.
Phase 1: Removal
Try any of the following tips below for aphid removal, and see which works best for your garden.
Natural Aphid Pesticides
Pure neem oil, or Azadirachtin, acts as a repellent and regulates the growth of these bugs (as aphids reproduce so quickly that by the time you notice the insects on your plants, you’re likely in the midst of a full-blown infestation). The neem oil has a bitter taste so these insects tend not eat the leaves treated with it. Also, if these guys do come in contact with the Azadirachtin, it halts the larvae’s growth and prevents them from growing into adults.
Homemade Lemon Spray
This natural pesticide works instantly, killing the aphids on contact. To make it: simply grate the rind of 1 large lemon, boil it in enough water to fill a garden spray bottle, then let the mixture sit overnight. In the morning drain the liquid into the garden spray bottle you’ll be using and spray the aphids and larvae directly. Ensure you hose down the leaves coated in this spray well immediately after use to prevent damage.
Homemade Vinegar Spray
This will also kill aphids and larvae on contact. In a spray bottle, fill it 1/3 of the way with distilled white vinegar and the rest of the way with water. Note: It is really important your hose down the spray off your plants immediately after use as it can dry out and burn the leaves, kill them. I used this spray on my garden and found it very effective, however the leaves I missed with the hose ended up dying as the vinegar in the spray dried them out and burnt them. So be careful with it, you only need a tiny amount.
Spray Leaves with DIY Insecticidal Soap
Using a homemade insecticidal soap spray can help combat against large numbers of aphids. This low-toxicity bug control solution will dry out the soft bodies and kill the aphids without harming your plants (but I always just do a tester on a small section of the plant to make sure it doesn’t react with the leaf). To make: simply add a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap (non-detergent if possible) with one quart of water, then spray or wipe the solution onto the leaves, stems, and buds of the plant – remember that these bugs like to hide beneath leaves, so ensure you thoroughly coat the underside of the leaves, too. Repeat the process every 2-3 days for the next few weeks, until you no longer notice aphids on the plant.
Natural Aphid Repellents
Sprinkling calcium powder around the base of the plants will deter aphids as they don’t like the calcium and will tend to stay away from it.
Place a square of aluminium foil around the base of the plants affected by aphids. This causes light to bounce around to the underside of the leaves, which they don’t like and so repels them.
Yellow Plastic Bowl
Aphids are naturally attracted to the colour yellow (they were all over the yellow flowers blooming from my bok choy plant!), so if you place a yellow plastic bowl filled 1/3 of the way with water in the centre of the infested area in your garden, many of the aphids will be drawn to it and will end up in the water and drown.
Burying shredded banana peels around the base of plants can an effective deterrent (odd I know, but many gardeners swear by it!).
If you spot a few aphids on your plants, the small infestation can be successfully eliminated by spraying them with a strong stream of water from the hose. Run water all over the plant, making sure to target the underside of each leaf (where aphids tend to hide). Repeat this process every few days until you’ve successfully removed all the aphids, which could take up to two weeks or more.
Squash a Few
Squashing a few aphids near the infested area will produce a chemical reaction among the other aphids that it’s time to leave.
If the aphid infestation in your garden just isn’t swayed by any of these natural sprays or repellents, you may need to kill them with a systemic pesticide (which simply means it contains chemicals that are actually absorbed by a plant when applied to seeds, soil, or leaves, which then circulate through the plant’s tissues, killing the insects that feed on them. Consider using something that contains Imidacloprid, which will kill aphids when ingested, but won’t harm pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Mix and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Phase 2: Prevention
After removing all the aphids from your garden, here are a few measures to put in place to prevent them coming back.
Introduce Beneficial Bugs
Bugs like lady beetles, lacewings, and parasitic wasps actually eat aphids. If you provide a habitat of flowering ground covers (particularly varieties like cosmos and stonecrop that supply nectar throughout the growing season), you’ll attract them to your garden and help keep the aphid population under control. Note: do not use broad-spectrum pesticide on your garden as it will kill them too.
Plant Neighbouring Plants Strategically
Plants like oregano, chive, sage, garlic, leeks, onions, and other strong scented ones can aid in deterring aphids. Plant these in aphid-prone areas in your garden. What’s more, you can grow plants that attract aphids, such as calendula and nasturtium, on the opposite side of your property, right away from your garden. Companion planting is another option (which involves planting different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect each other from pests), though this is more of a long-term plan, however it could help your aphid population reduce down significantly over a few seasons.
I hope this helps! Let me know what you thought in the comments below!
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Lots of love,
Noonan, Jennifer. How To: Get Rid of Aphids. bob vila. Retrieved from https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-get-rid-of-aphids/
justjukka. (May 30, 2012). Aphids. Library Thing. Retrieved from https://www.librarything.com/topic/137749
Pleasant, Barbara. (October/November 2010). Systemic Pesticides: Chemicals You Can’t Wash Off. Mother Earth News. https://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/environmental-policy/systemic-pesticides-zmaz10onzraw