Aphids are one of the most common and annoying pests in the garden. What makes them even worse is that they are hard to spot. It’s unlikely that you’ll see them unless there’s a heavy infestation on the plants. Nonetheless, if you find any green tiny bugs moving around on your plant, they’re most likely aphids! Read on to learn how to get rid of aphids in vegetable garden to restore the health and productivity of your plants.
What Are Aphids
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that suck the sap out of plant leaves and stems. They multiply quickly and can weaken the plants, depleting their productivity if the infestation is heavy. Adults are ¼ inches long and exist in various colors, white, black, brown, grey, green, yellow and pink. They have a pear-shaped body without wings, though some species develop wings if the population is high. They have long legs, antennas at the front and short appendages sticking out from the rear. They usually exist in large colonies, although you may sometimes see them feeding alone or in small groups.
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The good news is that once you’ve identified an aphid infestation on the plant, it’s easy to control them.
Symptoms Of Aphid Damage On Vegetable Crops
Squash, cucumbers, beans, potato, melon, lettuce and other cruciferous vegetables are most susceptible to aphid attacks. While a few aphids won’t cause any significant damage to the crop, heavy populations can be problematic.
Here are some of the symptoms you’ll find on plants infested by aphids:
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- Yellowing, curling or misshapen leaves.
- A sticky substance on leaves and stems. This is ‘honeydew’, a substance secreted by aphids as they feed. The sweet, sticky material often invites other pests, including ants.
- Sooty, black mold on leaves and stems. This is the result of fungal growth on the plant induced by the secretion of honeydew.
- Misshapen flowers and fruit.
Ways To Get Rid Of Aphids In The Garden
Now that you know what aphids can do, how to identify them and their damage on the vegetable plants, the next step is to get rid of them. You might have to employ a combination of different techniques and repeated efforts until the plants are completely free of aphids.
Here’s what you can do:
Blast Off With Water
One of the most straightforward techniques that gardeners use against aphids is to blast them off the plant with a strong spray of water from the hose. Be sure to spray on the underside of the leaves because that’s where the aphids usually hide!
The technique is more effective earlier in the growing season when the pest population is low. However, be careful when spraying the plants with water, especially with the younger and weaker plants. The jet of water shouldn’t be so strong that it damages the leaves or stems.
Remove With Hand
If you’re not too squeamish, you can grab them off the plants with your hands and either destroy them with bare hands or drop them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Alternatively, you can also prune out the heavily infested leaves and drop them in the bucket of soapy water to kill the pests. Be careful not to prune out a lot of foliage at a time or the plant might go into stress.
Insecticidal soaps, easily available at garden centers, are also helpful against aphids. For best results, spray them directly on the aphids to coat them. Coating them with insecticidal soap through a generous spray suffocates and kills the aphids.
Neem oil, together with other horticultural oils repel pests, including aphids. You can either purchase pre-prepared neem oil spray or dilute neem oil in water according to the package instructions to prepare a spray at home. Spray it on the infected plants multiple times during the season to control pests. Other than warding off various pests, it’s also helpful against different kinds of fungus. On the downside, neem oil will also drive away beneficial insects.
Soap Water Spray
If you don’t want to purchase anything, there’s an effective spray you can make at home solely with soap and water. Although most gardeners recommend castile soap for the purpose, any other soap will also do the trick. You can also use liquid dish detergent to make the spray.
Mix together 2 tbsp soap in 2 cups of water and add it to a sprayer bottle. Spray it on the plants, preferably directly on the aphids. Be sure to spray on the underside of the leaves because that’s where the eggs and larvae are most commonly present. Repeat the application multiple times during the season to kill the aphids.
Yellow colored sticky traps are available in garden centers. You can place them around or on the stems of the most vulnerable plants. The bright yellow color of the paper attracts aphids, together with other garden pests, while the sticky surface traps them until they eventually die. You can also make these traps on your own by layering a yellow poster board with petroleum jelly. Place them around the garden or near the vegetable plants to keep the aphids out.
That’s how to get rid of aphids in vegetable garden. Choose the method that’s most suitable for your garden or use any appropriate combination of the techniques to ward off aphids from your crops. Be diligent in controlling aphids in your garden. Small infestations are easier to handle, but once the aphid population grows too big, their control will become difficult.