Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gardening Pests - Getting Rid of Aphids!

Well, I was so excited to see that my eggplant was beginning to bloom and wanted to snatch a photo of the first flower for y'all. My excitement was short-lived however when I noticed that the plant was infested with these little yellowish-white and pink colored teeny tiny bugs!


Those of you who have followed me in this new square foot vegetable gardening effort know that, in years past, I have had major struggles with bugs. All kinds of bugs. Every garden bug in existence I think.

And, in years past, the bugs have won the battle, taking over my gardening efforts, destroying my hard work, leaving me with shattered expectations and puny harvests. I had hoped this year by going up from the ground with a raised bed, versus my previous in-the-ground row gardening, and by pulling out the big guns in spring to combat the bugs early, that I might forgo the big struggle and not have to fight so hard. Well, that does not seem so.

Sadly, what you see up there is mild in comparison to what I found, but failed to get a picture of, just on the eggplant alone. If you look closely at the first picture of the bud, you'll see a small leaf to the top of that blossom that is literally covered with them! I guess I was in such a hurry to get those things off of my plants, that I didn't take the time to get a really proper shot of how many there were. I'm talking a major infestation, that was not limited to the eggplant. These buggers were all over my pepper plants. And starting on the tomatoes in the back rows. Apparently aphids don't discriminate - they love all kinds of vegetables, and roses too - and ironically, some of the plants that are supposed to repel them are actually in the same bed under attack.

I had noticed ants recently - I have learned that is often a sign of aphids. Apparently, the aphids excrete this type of honeydew that ants love. Since you will probably see the ants first, if you suddenly start seeing ants in your raised beds, start checking the underside leaves of your plants for aphids.

This is one of the things I am loving about raised bed vegetable gardening, and particularly, raised bed square foot gardening - easy visual and physical access to the plants and nicely organized and planned out squares, means that you can spot and take care of things like weeds and pests pretty easily and quickly. Unfortunately, I think I missed this early on because I have never had to deal with aphids before. I am convinced that I brought them home on the plants so be sure to give any seedlings you buy a good inspection - lift up those leaves and check them thoroughly!

Solution One:

Two home remedies that are supposed to help get rid of aphids are a mixture of soap and water and a mixture of oil and water with a little soap. The soap mixture dehydrates the aphids and kills them, while the oil mixture disrupts the aphid's respiratory cycle.

So I grabbed a clean 24-ounce spray bottle, filled it with warm water from the tap and added two teaspoons of a cheap lemon scented dishwashing soap, gently turned the bottle to distribute the soap, and went outside to spray down the plant. Starting with the bottom leaves, I lifted them and thoroughly sprayed the underside of each individual leaf, then the upper sides of all the leaves, the stems and any budding blossoms. Basically I just gave the entire plant, top to bottom and underneath a good heavy spray.

Note: The first time I tried this remedy I used generic lemon scented dishwashing liquid and did not rinse the plants off afterward, with no adverse effect on the plants. The second time I treated them several days later, I grabbed the Dawn dishwashing liquid, not thinking, but used the same dilution. A day later, on the plants that I sprayed, the leaves became very discolored and I also had quite a bit of leaf drop on all of my pepper plants - otherwise healthy and green leaves just dropped off. While I cannot say for sure that the discoloration or the leaf drop were related to the use of Dawn, I do not recommend using it for this spray treament, unless you plan to follow up with a second spray of plain water to rinse the plants off an hour later. That gives the spray time to work, and you rinse off any soap residue.
Make sure that you do this early in the morning, or on a cloudy day, because you don't want to douse your plants with soapy water or oil, only to have them get cooked by a big dose of sunshine. The spray should kill the aphids within an hour, so after that, you can follow up with a spray of plain water to rinse the plants off, if you like. I do recommend spraying the plants down with plain water.

I'll probably do this at least twice a week as long as I see these little buggers, to try and get these under control, but from what I read if it's an infestation, it's safe to treat every 3 to 4 days if needed.

By the way, aphids apparently LOVE fertilizer - so make sure you stay on a regular schedule of fertilizing your veggies plants only about once every 2 or 3 weeks depending on what stage they are at, and avoid over fertilizing.

Solution Two:

Next week I may try the oil version. One formula I found said to mix 3 parts of warm water to 1 part vegetable or horticultural oil, and add a couple of drops of dishwashing soap. I have a bottle of Murphy's Vegetable Oil Soap leftover from my Jerry Baker efforts last year, so I may mix that with water and give that a try.

You will, I repeat, you will have to repeat this treatment several times - unfortunately these bugs are very persistent I have learned, so watch your garden, look for them and treat regularly.

If neither of those work, I'll break out my Jerry Baker's Terrific Garden Tonics book, and give his tonic a try.

Solution Three:

Jerry Baker's Amazing Aphid Antidote

1 small onion, chopped fine
2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of baby shampoo
2 cups of water

Pulverize everything in a blender and let mixture sit overnight. Strain and put into a hand held sprayer; apply to plant liberally.

Of course if you'd rather, there are several commercial products on the market specifically to deal with aphids. Ladybugs are also great to have in your garden because they love aphids, so add some if you can, but I've rarely seen ladybugs around - and yeah, that was even before the chemical treatments. Hmmmmm...... maybe I should buy some.

And, last but not least, if you continue to have problems with these buggers, well... you'll just have to break out the big guns.

Anyhoo, I'll certainly keep y'all posted on the outcome of this latest trial in the veggie garden adventures. Stay tuned!

Click HERE for all the Year One 2009 Square Foot Vegetable Garden Updates


  1. girl...I have struggled with aphids in my greenhouse two years in a row!!!! dishsoap and water is the best safest way to go with them....especially if you have kids and pets!
    I have recently read that the ants don't like bounce sheets...funny hey? I put out small containers of borax and icing sugar mixed...they take the poison back and eat it and feed it to the queen....and bang! I just leave the lid on a paper coffee cup and cut a small enough hole that they are the only ones who can get in ....and of course out...lol and it seems to have helped a little bit....the yard next door is a huge ant hill...it always looks like it is quivering after we mow the grass for them...gross...and you are right dead on about the ants and aphids living in harmony! I have also got some more info...will leave it in a fresh comment....

  2. This was left for me on a post I did about help with aphids!
    "Sadly to say, as a residential gardener have a few less options than we commercial growers. We are able to purchase chemicals (or ladybugs) that are not available to the average joe. I spoke with two of our growers and got the following suggestion:

    1. Insecticidal or Dish soap and water. Spray on your plants. Also, make sure your greenhouse has no old plants/soil in it that are harboring the pest. Check around your yard for any plants that harbor aphids and remove asap :)

    2. Should this not improve your situation, you will have to begin breeding ladybugs until you have a colony big enough to release into your greenhouse. The ladybugs will make quick work of the aphids. I'd send you some of ours but they come in packages of 10,000 larvae. Can you imagine 10,000 ladybugs in your backyard greenhouse??!! Oh, now that would make a great horror film.......Attack of the Killer Ladybugs! "

    the person who left it is a professional greehouse operator...and if anyone would be able to help....
    at any rate...good luck and if you get any great tips...PLEASE share with me

  3. Tootsie, thanks for all the tips! I'll let you know if any others pop up for sure. Hope you got the blog woes settled finally.

  4. We know why they call them pests!

  5. I have always used Cheer soap granules. You put them in your sprayer and spray your plants. Not only does it not hurt the plant but it keeps ALL bugs away, slugs, worms, etc. because they don't like the heavy smell or the taste. For 30 years now I have only used this solution on my fruit trees, my strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. It does not attract the sun like oil or lemon. I also spray it around the foundation/base of my house at least twice a year and it keeps the spiders from coming indoors. If you have a problem with weevil you can wipe down your cupboards with this solution (do not rinse off) and they will be gone within a day or two. I'm serious -- the bugs hate this stuff.

  6. Thank you for the recipes, I am so going to try this, we have been lucky so far, but they always come around.

  7. Beeveroni, thanks so much. Will have to pick up some Cheer and give that a try! What is the ratio?

  8. Dearie, it looks like aphids AND maybe whiteflies, too...

    Spray them, yes, but don't be squeamish, take your fingers and strip them off of the buds once you give them a good spray.

  9. Yummy recipe! Okay, maybe not. Good luck in your fight against the bugs!

  10. It looks like aphids to me! I'm running out to check my garden now!


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