One of the many benefits of container gardening is that your precious plants are less subject to the pests and diseases that often plague ground gardeners. Soil-born diseases are nil, as most potting soils are sterilized. Likewise, being up off the ground has its advantages: whatever insects are creeping around in your yard dirt probably have a hard time climbing up into your pots. There are, however, exceptions, and one of the most common and most obnoxious is the aphid.
Turns out I have been harboring these monsters. Aphids basically suck leaves and stems dry, and they reproduce very quickly, leaving you with an infestation in no time. I hadn't been looking for bugs, but when my eggplant plants continued to look sad and stunted, I realized I needed to be checking for pests. Sure enough, the underside of the leaves revealed these little buggers, and I promptly took action.

With aphids, you can usually start by blasting them off the leaves and stems of plants with a strong spray from your garden hose. Unfortunately, my watering can can't quite muster the water pressure, and it certainly cannot wash the undersides of leaves thoroughly. On to Option B.

I started by looking up some homemade insecticide sprays online. Aphids are soft-bodied, so they are pretty weak against oils, soaps, spiciness, and a whole litany of other things. The trick, however, is to avoid killing your plants in the process of killing your pests. You can find recipes all over the interwebs (here and here and here), and a former neighbor and gardener extraordinaire passed on her recipe as well. I hodgepodged together a mix of garlic, onion, hot and red pepper, chili powder, and ginger, boiled it down, strained it, cooled it, added a tiny bit of dish soap, and then loaded it up into a generic spray bottle. A healthy initial dose on the eggplants seemed to kill and/or wash away the visible aphids, and left my garden smelling like a wacky chili.

But then the aphids were back two days later. And I noticed that they had also taken up residence on my zucchinis. (Later I realized that the ants that had been crawling all over the zucchinis were actually attracted to sticky sweet aphid byproduct, and I should have seen it as a warning sign...) I sprayed with the spicy mixture again, this time all over the garden. But then the aphids came back. Obviously, this meant war.

After a little bit of internet research and consulting with the friendly employees at the neighborhood organic home-goods store and a gardening shop, the next step up are insecticidal soap sprays. Made of fatty acids, essential oils, and sometimes anti-fungal agents like sulfur, insecticidal soaps are still organic, and theoretically safe to use around children and animals, but definitely more harsh than anything you can make on your stove top.

Today I picked up Safer Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray at my local hardware store. It includes treatment for mites and fungus as well as insects. The hardware store also carried Garden Safe brand, which was only for insects, but the Safer was a little cheaper, and I figured I could stand to prevent a mite or fungus infestation while I'm at it.

The directions instruct you not to use the spray in bright sunlight or high heat (both of which we have today), so I will wait until this evening to spray.

This is serious war. Hopefully I'll have good news in a few days.

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. I am fighting squirrels. They eat my strawberries and today they POOPED ALL OVER MY DECK. Not cool.