Friday, January 20, 2012

Garden Seeds: Garden Visitors

While picking produce in the garden at my kids’ school this week, I noticed the bok choy plant was infested with aphids.  Rats!  Our first pest in the garden this year. 

What are aphids?  Aphids are tiny insects with sucking mouthparts that extract the juice from plants.  They are green or gray/black and are attracted to various plants including annual flowers, roses, beans and members of the cabbage family.   They can be harmful!  Look for damage to your plant in the form of curled or yellowed leaves or a sooty mold on the plant leaves.

Here is a photo of the aphids on our bok choy plant as well as a generic close-up of an aphid:

We are committed to a pesticide-free youth garden at the school.  Here are some natural solutions and/or deterrents you can use for aphids in your garden in place of a pesticide:

Plants for Pest Control:  certain plants exude an odor that deter pests.  I've tried the following: marigolds, garlic, basil, catnip and nasturtiums.  Plant them in your vegetable beds next to plants you find attract pests easily.  Here are some marigolds I planted next to my broccoli in my square foot garden at home:

Homemade Pest Spray:  Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from above down, and from below up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil will smother the insects.  I have used this spray on aphids on my roses and it works well.  Mostly likely, you will have to apply it multiple times (good activity for kids.)

Remove decaying plants and weeds:  Pests are drawn to weedy gardens and dying plants.  In our school garden, the bok choy plant I mentioned had flowered and gone to seed.  This decaying plant attracted the aphids, and they then spread to nearby kale.  I removed the bok choy to eliminate the initial food for the aphids, and then sprayed my kale with the above solution.

Introduce Good Bugs:  Another option is to introduce a bug that will eat the aphids such as ladybugs or preying mantis.  Ladybugs are available for purchase in some nurseries and via catalogs.  

 Remember, bugs are not all bad and won’t necessarily kill your plant.  They all serve a purpose and can often be removed or controlled without the use of a chemical.  Experiment with the ideas above and observe their effectiveness!

1 comment:

Jessa said...

Great info Kelly! I finally got my first square-foot garden started last week, and I'm excited to watch my veggies grow!

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