Aphids are among the worst garden pests. They appear in spring and, left unchecked, can wreak havoc on your roses and other plants, making a meal of their leaves. Getting rid of aphids takes work, but your plants and your garden will thank you for it.
Luckily, you have a handful of natural options to reach for in your battle against these hungry invaders.
Remove Aphids by Hand
Starting in early spring, examine the leaves on your plants regularly. If you can, take a look at least every week, or every time you work in the garden. If you've got aphids, you'll be able to spot them on leaves, especially where they're curled, as well as on new growth and any flower buds. They usually pop up in little clusters.
When you spot them, you can either pick them off directly (wearing gloves) or spray them with a sharp stream of water to throw them off the plant. This can prove to be a very effective tactic where there are just a few of the hungry buggers.
Since you might not get them all, thought, cut off the infected foliage when you're done. Don’t put it in your compost bin—dispose of it in the garbage.
Recruit Insects that Eat Aphids
Ladybugs and lacewings are among the most effective pest controlling insects. These will devour the aphids and leave your plants clean, and they're prettier to look at than the garden eating mini monsters they're replacing.
You can look online to buy them or simply go to larger garden stores, which should have them in stock during the season.
You can also make your own pesticide to eliminate aphids. Use one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in one cup of vegetable oil. This is the basic solution. Put 1 ½ teaspoons in a cup of warm water in a spray bottle. Don’t just spray the aphids on the plant, but take time to spray the entire plant. It will kill the bugs it finds and keep them off other areas of the plant.
Plant the Right Things
On a broader level of control, what you plant can have an effect on aphid populations. Some plants, like birch trees, will tend to attract them. Others will tend to keep these pests away.
Spearmint, Queen Anne’s lace and sweet fennel are among those that draw in bugs like ladybugs and lacewings that keep down the aphid population. Also, consider sweet clover—a lacewing favorite.
Keep Ants Under Control
It’s important to keep ants away from the garden as much as possible. They like the sap excreted by aphids, known as honeydew, and will protect the aphids to keep their food source active. They’ll also transport the aphids to other plants. Eliminating ants will help your garden stay aphid free.