Ladybugs to the Rescue! Or the Battle Against Aphids.

At the Urban Training Farm, we’ve noted a number of curled under leaves hiding in the midst of our melon plants.  Big bummer.  Upon further inspection – and the wisdom of good garden friends – we know that we have an aphid infestation!  Ugh.  Aphids are notorious for attacking many a garden plant – including friends and family of cole crops/brassicas, okra, squash, beans, melons – you name it, an aphid will eat it.

Our first line of defense was to ask our garden help – which happens to include two members of the McLennan County Master Gardeners.  Robert Creech – a new MCMG intern and professor at Truett Seminary – suggested that he and his wife have used water as a forceful control – using a strong stream to physically remove aphids from the undersides of plants.  Mary Lou – another MCMG member – has tried applying orange oil to the undersides of leaves.  However, she says if the aphids have made their way to blossoms on the plants, best not to use orange oil as the fruit ends up funky looking.  Thankfully, the aphids are still on the undersides of our melon leaves – not crowding out the flowers.  Yet.  But we should act to combat these little buggers ASAP.

We at the Urban Training Farm are committed to using organic, natural controls as we encounter pests in the garden – so we hope to detail our methods via the UGC Blog.  Thus far – I, Bethel – have concluded that we will do the following:

  1. First, we shall use a hose to wash off the aphids.  As suggested by the Creeches.
  2. Next, I will make soapy water spray concoction – using 3Tbls dishwashing soap for every 1 gallon water.  Spray soap on the underside and top of the leaves.  This spray is said to kill aphids within one hour – but must be reapplied frequently (daily) – especially if it rains.  I have also read that soap residue on leaves can burn the plants as they soak up the sun – so it is a good idea to rinse the leaves after soap has done the dirty work over an hour period.  Garlic-pepper spray is another homemade option.  Maybe some other time.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
  4. Plant beneficials – such as marigolds – within the garden to attract more ladybugs!  Thankfully we already have a small but sturdy ladybug population in the garden, nibbling away at the aphids.  Ladybugs can eat 50-60 aphids/day – but they are not limited to aphids.  Lady bug diets also include scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, thrips, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape root worms, Colorado potato beetle larvae, whitefly, and mites – as well as many other soft-bodied insects and eggs. What a wonderful addition to the garden!
  5. Buy and release more lady bugs into the garden!  There are many places on the internet from which you can order lady bugs.  We ordered lady bugs from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon – 4,500 live ladybugs for $15 (+S&H).  From what I’ve read, 1,500 lady bugs can cover an area of up to 1500 square feet.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our battle against the aphids – and on the addition of our new lady bug population!

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