Pests are one of the biggest drawbacks to Natural/Organic farming in most people's way of thinking. Healthy soil practices usually diminish the problem and keep things manageable, but some years. . . YEESH! I am so happy to have Kristi from Stone Family Farmstead as our guest! She has some practical, real and useful information and tips!
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Taking care of a garden, regardless of size, can be daunting when you are dealing with an overpopulation of pests. Aphids are one of the worst because of how rapid they multiply in your garden. If you are an organic gardener, you will want to know how to get rid of aphids naturally and organically.
But before I get to the remedies for aphids, let me share a few things that can be helpful for keeping all pests at bay. Using these tips will train your eye on what to look for, and you will learn when something looks “off” with your plants, which would allow you to head any pest or disease issues off at the pass.
- Make an appearance in your garden every day, preferably early in the morning. Taking a walk around your garden in the cool of the morning to harvest and look for chewed up leaves, eggs and larvae on the back of leaves, droppings, or any other indicators that something else is enjoying your bounty before you get to is a habit that will pay dividends.
- Keep your plants pruned back as much as is healthy for them. This will aid you in quickly assessing your plants for any stripped branches, droppings, pests on the backs of the leaves, etc. Make sure not to prune them back too much, though, or your fruit can suffer sunscald.
- All plants and gardens have some kind of bugs on and in them, and that’s ok. Some pests on our plants will not multiply as rapidly as others, and so it’s fine just to remove them by hand. Others, not so much. If you find a few aphids on insects on your plants, let that be a warning for you to start examining your plants briefly every day so the bug population doesn’t get out of control.
Aphids attack a wide array of plants. They can be many different colors, but they all look and behave the same. Aphids carry diseases from plant to plant and are sometimes accompanied by a large colony of ants.
They collect on the undersides of leaves, at the base, on stems, or in darker crevices of plants. They are rarely alone, but usually in large clusters on squash, tomato, roses, or many other types of plant leaves.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
Examine the undersides of your leaves to find colonies of these little guys. If you find them, you have a few choices on how to deal with them.
Three choices to get rid of aphids
- Chemical-free treatment: A natural way to get rid of aphids before using any kind of organic pesticide, remove all of the severely infested leaves from the plant. Next, if you still have small clusters on the backs of leaves (or the tops sometimes) you can just smush them with your fingers (wear gloves if you are squeamish!). If smushing isn’t your jam, you can power spray your plants with water and that should knock them off of your plant. You’ll need to do this daily until the infestation is gone. I have handled aphid issues just using this method, and a sprinkle of diatomaceous earth on my plants (do not us DE when plants are flowering, as it will also harm pollinators.)
- Another way to get rid of aphids that is also effective is a warm soap and water solution (1Tb dish soap to a small bucket or 32 oz spray bottle of warm water, add essential oils if you prefer). Spray or sponge solution onto plants and leaves daily until the infestation is gone.
- Organic pesticide treatment: Neem oil can be used in the garden and while it may not kill off beneficials, it may repel beneficials because of the smell. There are also all-natural insecticidal soaps that can help. I would suggest using organic 100% neem oil. The neem oil varieties at the local garden centers contain only the neem oil, and none of the active ingredient azadirachtin, which is the component of neem oil that kills the chewing bugs in the first place. (source)
Peppermint Neem Oil Recipe - To a ½ gallon of water, add .5-1 tsp. 100% organic neem oil (2 capfuls), 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and a squirt of dish soap. To use, spray on the aphids, soaking the leaves where the bugs are. Repeat daily for a few weeks, or until the infestation is gone.
Consistency is key
Learning how to get rid of aphids naturally is easy, but it takes some consistency. Once you see the infestation subside, your plants no longer need to be treated with pesticide, DE, or soap treatments until you see indications of another infestation. Do so for very long poses the risk of killing off the population of beneficial predator insects, which would make it easier for the next infestation to take hold. For further information about aphids, check out UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ page on the topic.
Companion planting is a great way to plan for pest control. This free companion planting matrix makes it simple.
Need information on getting rid
of other pests in the garden?
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Garden Planting Planning Chart
This chart will help you see at a glance what needs to be transplanted, direct sown and started indoors. Keep track of your succession planting with ease. All in one place, you can just look down the column for that month and do the planting you planned! Easy peasy.
About the Author:
Kristi Stone is a student of all things modern homesteading and is living the dream on her 1-acre hobby farm. Her favorite things to do include growing and preserving food for her family, breeding and raising Nigerian Dwarf goats, studying and using herbs, and running her hobby farm in sunny Southern California. Kristi writes about all of these topics and more on her blog, Stone Family Farmstead.
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