red, black, green, white, pink, brown…yup, those are aphids. though they look like tiny grasshoppers, aphids mass together in numbers to enjoy a life of sucking the life out of garden plants and making baby aphids as fast as they can. they cannot fly, but can be carried on the wind for great distances. some species can be found living with ants that overwinter them underground, and during the warm seasons ‘milk’ them for the honeydew they produce while they’re chomping away on your beautiful salmon-hued roses. (true story)
as you can bet that you will host aphids each summer, a wise plan is to implement everyone’s favorite pest management–integrated pest management! yippee!
step one: plan ahead. plant some repellent plants (anise, chives, garlic, onions, petunias–further proving my long-standing theory that petunias stink) and a trap crop, nasturtiums in this case as aphids love the color yellow.
so, you’ve got aphids (i can hear that in the computer voice similar to ‘you’ve got mail,’ if only i could program my garden to speak to me…) and they’ve gotten to a point that you’re not comfortable with–maybe they’ve snuck into your dreams–don’t tell me i’m the only one who has been chased by a giant red aphid?
which leads us to step two: mechanical controls. haul out the hose and set it to high. since aphids can’t fly knocking them off really sets them back a bit (maybe a couple miles in aphid world) and knocking them off violently so that their little soft-bodies are smashed to soft-bodies bits in a miniature version of die hard: the aphid chronicles…well, that can only increase your odds for healthy plants. you can also set up a yellow bucket with soapy water as a deadly swimming pool or squish a few aphids around the infested area to release a chemical signal to the survivors to get outta dodge. there are a number of sprays said to work, and while i have not tried them all, it would certainly be an interesting experiment to do so simultaneously–stinging nettle, tomato leaves, potato leaves, dish or horticultural oil, or garlic-cayenne.
my favorite aphid control our childhood friends, ladybugs. purchased from a fridge at the garden supply store and slowly stirring to life, these ladybugs wake up hungry…so i sprayed sugar water on the aphid hotels (aka my nasturtiums) just to give them extra impetus to stick around, released them in the evening when they are less prone to migrate about the neighborhood, and let nature take its course. bon appetite mon petit chers!