They say observation is critical to any successful garden. Watching your plants grow will help you learn how they respond to various techniques and environmental conditions. It’ll also help you get ahead of pests and diseases. Critters like aphids, for example.
The other morning as I enjoyed my coffee in the greenhouse, I noticed tiny white and green specs all over my eggplant leaves. I touched them, and it felt sticky. A closer look and I saw they were moving. Yup, my plant was covered in aphids.
Oh Hell No
First, I had a minor meltdown. After collecting myself, I got to work. I noticed the foliage of one eggplant covered with the tiny bugs, and a neighboring tomato plant was starting with them.
These guys had to go.
What Are Aphids?
Aphids come in a whole slew of colors, shapes, and sizes. They love flowers, herbs, vegetable crops, shrubs, and trees; no discrimination here.
They suck sap from plants and excrete a sugar liquid called ‘honeydew,’ which is why my fingers felt sticky after touching the leaves.
Aphids breed quickly without a mate and can take over an entire plant in the blink of an eye.
Foliage may react by puckering or wilting. A severe infestation sucks all of the energy away from fruit production.
If you notice a few aphids, chances are you’re not in trouble.
One of my favorite gardening books, Garden Alchemy: 80 Recipes and Concoctions for Organic Fertilizers, Plant Elixers, Potting Mixes, Pest Deterrents, and More, offers some excellent advice.
Author Stephanie Rose says if 20% of the plant is infested, you need to take matters into your own hands.
I’m no mathematician, but this looked like it was time for me to intervene.
Planting marigolds close to fruit and veggie crops repels aphids and other insects.
There are a few helpful predators that will do their best to control aphid infestations outdoors. Chickadees, wasps, hoverflies, and ladybugs love to snack on these creepy crawlers.
Indoor growing presents its challenges, as many of these predators can’t access the plant. I did notice a ladybug doing some good work, but she had a long road ahead of her.
In situations like these, you can move the affected plant outdoors to let the birds and bugs do their work. This method works beautifully! minutes after I moved my plant outside, wasps and hoverflies were happily eating.
But if you’re unwilling to wait, or if the problem is too severe, Rose recommends a super simple method: the garden hose.
Using the jet spray, gently shower down the entire plant from top to bottom. Make sure you get both sides of the leaves and the stem.
I had aphids collecting on my fabric pot like a bad dandruff case, so I also showered that down.
Spraying the plant not only sends the aphids flying, but it also creates an environment for them that they don’t like. Most of them won’t be able to make it back up the wet stem.
FYI, this trick also works for spider mites and spittlebugs.
So, after a good shower, my eggplant is now back to looking pristine. It got a good drink at the same time too. Be sure to check the plant regularly to give it another hose down if need be.
Now, back to my coffee in the greenhouse.