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!
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.
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.
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!
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