If you notice that the leaves or stems of your garden plants are covered with a sticky substance, it is a clear sign that aphids may have been sipping sap from them.
No matter how careful you are, aphids seem to find their way into every garden.
Aphids are those white bugs that you can see on your plants. They can be found feeding on a wide variety of plants and fruit-bearing trees, such as roses, beans, cabbage, potatoes, peaches, melons, apples and more.
They feed on plant juices – attacking leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit and even the roots. As a result, flowers or fruit can become distorted or deformed.
Apart from a sticky substance covering the leaves or stems, other common signs of aphid damage include misshapen, curling, stunted or yellow leaves, and a sudden increase in the ant population roaming your garden.
These small yet harmful insects can survive in almost any zone. They multiply quickly, so it’s important to control them before reproduction starts. Since these insects tend to move rather slowly, you can easily control them.
There are many simple and effective ways to get those aphids out of your garden.
Here are the top 10 ways to get rid of aphids.
1. Manual Removal
If the infestation is only minor and the damage to your plants is just beginning, you may be able to physically remove the aphids. All you need is a good pair of gardening gloves and a brush.
You can brush the insects off the leaves into a container. Another option is to prune off infected stalks, which in turn will prevent the aphids from spreading to healthy parts of the plants.
Finally, finish the task by dropping the aphids into a bucket of soapy water to kill them.
Follow up with frequent inspections of your garden to make sure you got them all and catch the problem early if not.
2. Blast of Water
Spraying water on your plants can go a long way toward getting rid of aphids if the infestation is mild.
A strong blast of water will dislodge them from the leaves and stems. Most dislodged aphids will be unable to return to the plant and ultimately die.
Fill your garden sprayer with water and start hosing down your plants, especially on both tops and bottoms of the leaves. Always spray infected plants with the hand sprayer in the early morning when the sun is not very strong, and when it is not going to rain. Make sure not to be too harsh on your plants, as it can affect their health.
Repeat this after a couple of days if you see any more aphids on your plants.
3. Neem Oil
Neel oil is a natural garden pesticide and insect repellent that can deter and kill aphids. This oil is also effective on other harmful pests, such as beetles, cabbage worms, ants, caterpillars and leaf miners.
Plus, it helps control fungal growth in your garden.
- Put 2 tablespoons of neem oil and 1 tablespoon of mild liquid soap in a spray bottle.
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water, and shake well to mix up the ingredients.
- Spray the solution on your plants, either in the morning or evening to avoid the sun.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a week, or as needed.
4. Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural insecticide. It consists of the fossils of tiny aquatic organisms known as diatoms. The microscopically sharp edges of diatoms can cut through the protective coverings of insects and ultimately kill them.
- Dust some food-grade DE around the garden and plants.
- Do it in the early morning or late evening when the plants are wet with dew. The moisture helps the DE adhere to the plant.
- Repeat once or twice a week as needed.
Note: When handling or applying DE, wear a respiratory dust mask and safety goggles to protect your respiratory tract and eyes.
5. Beneficial Insects
You can also protect your plants from harmful aphids by introducing proactive bugs into your garden.
Ladybirds, also called ladybug beetles are beneficial bugs that you can easily find in gardening stores. In fact, ladybugs can eat as many as 50 to 100 aphids a day!
Green lacewings and hoverflies are also known to eat aphids.
Purchase the bugs and place them in close proximity to the area with the aphids, so they can start dining right away.
6. Liquid Soap
You can also get rid of a mild to moderate aphid infestation using liquid soap.
Aphids have a waxy protective coating on their bodies that dissolves upon coming in with soapy water. This in turn dehydrates the insects and eventually kills them without harming the plant.
- Put 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle.
- Shake it thoroughly, then spray it on the infected plants. Do it either in the early morning or late evening.
- Repeat every 2 or 3 days for 2 weeks.
When it comes to organic pest-fighting arsenal, garlic is another good option. The sulfur in garlic is toxic to pests. Plus, it is an antifungal agent and keeps your plants safe from fungus-related diseases.
- Mince 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and add them to 2 teaspoons of mineral oil.
- Let this mixture sit for 24 hours.
- Strain out the garlic pieces.
- Add the garlic-infused oil to 2 cups of water.
- Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap and mix well. You can also add a little cayenne pepper.
- Put 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a spray bottle, along with 2 cups of water.
- Spray it on the infested plants, paying special attention to the undersides of the leaves.
- Repeat 1 or 2 times a week, as needed.
8. Tomato Leaves
Tomato plants, a popular plant of the nightshade family, contain toxic compounds called alkaloids in their leaves.
The leaves release the alkaloids when chopped. These alkaloids are toxic to aphids and help get rid of them safely.
- Soak 1 to 2 cups of chopped tomato leaves in 2 cups of water overnight.
- The next morning, strain the leaves out of the liquid using a fine strainer.
- Add another cup of water to the liquid, and pour the solution into a spray bottle.
- Spray it on the stems and foliage of the infested plants.
- Use this homemade spray 1 or 2 times a week, as needed.
9. Helpful Plants
Along with introducing helpful bugs into your garden, you can add some helpful plants to help get rid of aphids. Some of the plants that can keep aphids away from your garden include catnip, mustard, oregano, dill, fennel, clover, nasturtium, garlic, and chives.
The strong odor of garlic, oregano and catnip attract beneficial bugs, which in turn keep aphids away. Plant these herbs near lettuce, peas or rose bushes.
10. Organic Fertilizers
Do not use fertilizers high in nitrogen in your vegetable garden, as it promotes aphid reproduction. In fact, these tiny insects are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels.
To prevent high nitrogen levels in your plants, it is recommended to use compost or organic fertilizers. These fertilizers release nutrients slowly and hugely benefit your plants.
Organic fertilizers are also beneficial for the environment.
- Simply spraying the juice of onion or garlic on the infested parts of the plant can also help control aphid infestation.
- People also use horticulture oils like cottonseed or soyabean oil to kill aphids. To use, combine 1 cup of horticulture oil and 2 tablespoons of liquid castile soap, dilute with plenty of water, then spray on the infested plants. Horticulture oils, however, it may kill the good bugs as well. Plus, under certain conditions it puts the foilage at risk of burning.
- Thoroughly check around your yard or property before planting your vegetables to see if aphids are already present in the area.
- Grow plants inside or under a cover until they are large enough to be a little more tolerant of pests.
- When using any kind of spray, test it first by spraying it on an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all.
- Destroy ant colonies, as ants can kill insects that feed on aphids.
- Place aphid traps around the vegetable garden or in close proximity to vulnerable plants.