If you’ve ever grown anything in the warm months of spring and summer then chances are you have encountered aphids. Aphids, a soft-bodied pest, don’t limit themselves to the summer vegetable garden but can be a pest on any type of plant even trees. In fact our neighbor recently had to cut down a 30 year old tulip poplar that had become infested with aphids. Nobody wants aphids to get to this point, so what’s a gardener to do to help keep aphid populations under control? And can you get rid of aphids in the garden without using harsh chemicals and pesticides?
Detering Aphids in the Garden
The first step for a gardener who wants to use natural pest control would be to try to deter aphids from coming to the yard at all. This includes making your garden and yard a place where aphid hunters thrive. Aphids are a favorite snack of ladybugs and lacewings, just to name a few. And having healthy soil and plants, as well as hedges for these beneficial insects to live makes it more likely to have them hanging out in your yard and garden.
A note on buying beneficial insects: This is not something I would ever recommend. The fact is especially in the case of ladybugs or ladybirds, when they are released from the captivity they were shipped in, they tend to travel great distances. So you’re really just providing ladybugs for your neighbors. Instead of trying to get rid of aphids in the garden by buying bugs, instead work on drawing beneficial insects naturally to your yard.
How to Identify Aphids
As I mentioned before, aphids are soft bodied insects, and they attack plants by sucking on the leaves. You should NOT notice gaping holes in leaves from aphids, but you will notice white spots on the leaves from where they are sucking out the juices. Once you’ve seen the white patches, check underneath the leaf for evidence of actual aphids.
You may also notice an increase in ants around your plants. Ants love to milk aphids for the honeydew they secrete. That’s actually how I found my most recent gathering of aphids. A steady line of ants was going up my okra plants, and there, hidden beneath the leaf, was a crowd of aphids.
Getting Rid of Aphids
Once you’ve identified you are in fact dealing with aphids, and you know where they are, there are a few different approaches you can use to get rid of them. Since they are soft-bodied, natural approaches would work really well for aphid control. The first I recommend is simply spraying jets of water from a good hose nozzle. The water will wash the aphids off of the leaves and you’ll be left with a nice clean leaf.
If spraying with water is not effective, you can also wipe them away with a cloth and rinse it out afterwards.
If you would like even less physical contact with the aphids, a natural neem oil is a good choice. I mix neem oil with water and place in a spray bottle. This gives you a handy natural pest repellent on hand at all times. You want the neem oil to come in direct contact with the aphids. This means turning the leaf over and spraying the neem oil directly on the aphids you see. Neem oil is only effective when it comes into contact with the aphids though, so you may need to reapply if you see more aphids or if it rains shortly after you apply the neem oil.
How to get rid of Aphids in the garden Naturally
Aphids in large numbers can severely damage plants. So you want to make sure you’re keeping your eyes open for anything that can be sucking on your plant’s leaves and thereby damaging it. I’d love to know if you have any other suggestions for taking care of aphids in a natural way.
Also don’t miss out on my new book Natural Pest Control for the Home Garden as I delve into natural ways to take care of a multitude of pests in the garden. The book also includes lots of images of different types of pests so you can identify them properly before just spraying. Knowledge is power, and prevention is certainly the best cure in cases of garden pests. Happy Gardening!