Natural aphid control

Posted on: 20 June 2018 by 50connect editorial

Remove aphids from your plants without using harmful pesticides.

natural aphid control

Summer is a time when itchy-footed gardeners can finally spend the warmer days out in the garden tending the plants that have been neglected over the cold winter months. It's a time to mow the overgrown lawn, dig out those weeds and plant some new bulbs to brighten up the garden for summer. However, the warmer weather brings with it an array of insects that can potentially ruin your plants. One of the most common plant eating bugs are aphids. Also known as greenfly, blackfly or plant lice, these insects feed off the sap in plants, often transmitting viruses that can attack and kill them.

You could use harsh chemicals sprays to remove aphids, containing pesticides that damage the environment, or you could choose a natural approach.

Make your own natural bug control

You can make your own simple aphid removal spray using leaves that contain oxalic acid - such as rhubarb leaves - and soap fakes. Soap Flakes are made from pure soap and are fully biodegrable and are not hazardous to health.

Simply boil three pounds of the leaves in three litres of water. Strain, and add one ounce of Soap Flakes dissolved in one litre of warm water. Add to a gardeners spray bottle and spray onto plants affected by aphids - try a patch test first. This natural alternative will remove the aphids without harming your plants.

Soap Flakes are available from good  hardware stores or you can pick up a 2kg pack for around £15.99 on Amazon.

During dormant winter months it's a good idea to treat trees, including fruit trees, and shrubs for over wintering aphid and other insect eggs, to minimise pest damage the following spring and summer.

Simple solutions

Tar oil winter washes historically used by many gardeners for this purpose have been withdrawn from sale, but there is a natural alternative called Winter Tree Wash by Growing Success.

Based on plant oils, Winter Tree Wash is a unique formulation that is suitable for organic gardening, and can be used without excluding children and pets.

Examine the shoots and branches, particularly in crevices around buds, to assess whether pest eggs are numerous or not. Aphid eggs are 1mm long, shiny black and oval; apple sucker eggs are similar but pale yellow. A x10 hand lens will be useful for detecting these eggs. For best results, treat on a mild winter day when the bark is dry, and it's not too windy.

Winter Tree Wash form Growing Success starts at around £13.99 for 500ml in from leading garden centres, DIY stores, but you can pick up online at Amazon from around £9.99 (450ml).

Ladybirds love aphids

Gardeners can also entice scarlet superheroes to practice their powers of protection over prized blooms. Ladybirds may not seem likely candidates for such a grand title, but as predators of aphids and other harmful pests, they play an important role in a garden's lifecycle.

The average adult ladybird can consume 5000 aphids in its lifetime - a voracious predator! While adult ladybirds eat aphids their larvae are the champion aphid-munchers. The larva is a spiky, dark grey creature, with distinctive orange dots - almost the reverse of the adult colouration.

Aside from an appetite for one of the gardener's bugbears, the ladybird is also a fan of pollen rich plants such as angelica, dill, parsley, caraway, catnip, lemon balm, fennel and thyme, which you can grow in your own garden.

The thinking behind 'attraction gardening' - discouraging harmful pests by encouraging their predators - is hailed by horticulturists for being an organic way to safeguard planting and avoid using artificial methods of pest prevention. You can read more about organic pesticides and companion planting in this RHS guide.

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