Rest and aphids
Rest and aphids
At last the middle of June is here and we can all slow down and watch the garden grow. It may be that I like to plant things a little later than other people that it isn’t until June 15th or maybe it just does take that long to get the summer garden planted. Today I spent some time in the garden observing how things are growing and found that last week’s heat stressed out the plants and showed me where the garden’s weaknesses are. The big problem is aphids on all my kale, broccoli and cabbage and surprisingly on the chard also (I hardly ever see aphids on chard). So I thought I would dedicate this blog to aphids.
Aphids are problematic on lots of plants, both vegetable and in the landscape. And the one thing that seems to be clear is that they appear on plants when there is a nutrient imbalance. My father who is my mentor and has way more years of experience than me, swears after 30 years of growing Brussels Sprouts that if he doesn’t get the nutrients right then they get covered with aphids. He swears by kelp and seaweed. If you don’t mix kelp meal into the soil at planting then buy an extract and water it in through out the growing season. The other thing that attracts aphids is high nitrogen, too much nitrogen creates lush plants that seem to be more attractive to aphids. Remember aphids also come in on older weaker plants as they are dying or going to seed, so pull them when they are done producing or are bolting.
There are lots of great aphid predators so remember when you get an infestation that it might just be a few days til the natural balance team comes in. The main predators are parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside the aphids. The aphid die and are left as gray mummies. Look for dead aphids that are gray and dried out, that means that you have wasps helping you. Lady bugs, lacewings and syrphid flies are all good predators also.
You want to be careful with using pest control as you don’t want to eliminate the predators. There are two natural pest controls for aphids that don’t affect the predators. The first is spraying off the aphids with a hard force of water, they usually will dry out when knocked off the plant. The other is a soap spray- mix 2 tsps of mild liquid soap with a quart of water, spray it on the aphids and it will dry them out. The problem is actually getting the soap on the aphids as the leaves tend to curl up where the aphids are. It takes some time and you need to do it every two weeks to get some control.
If you notice aphids coming in, pruning off the leaves that they are on and removing them from the garden can help. When I harvest kale, I always pull of the older leaves and any leaves that I find with aphids. Supposedly controlling wild mustard in your garden, helps with overwintering aphids. Though I have enough other plants that they like growing year round that I don’t know if that would help me.
Since aphids are a sign of nutrient imbalance, I am trying to figure out what that is and how to help future plantings. Because my infestation is so bad, I am trying to control them on the plants I don’t want to lose by watering with a kelp extract on a weekly basis, pulling off all leaves that are badly infested, and trying some soap spray. I‘ll let you know how it goes next month.