Aphids, tiny insects that look like tiny pear-shaped dots on plants (they come in different sizes and colors), are a fact of life for gardeners. Aphid control should be a part of your regular garden maintenance routine. While these are one of the most hated of garden pests, aphid control can help you cut down on their numbers and stop them from killing the plants in your container garden. Aphids are difficult to get rid of, and they do a lot of damage by sucking the sap out of plant stems and new leaf growth. Here are 5 tips for aphid control.
Aphid Control Tip #1: Always be on the lookout. Aphids are small, and you might not see them if you don’t actively look for them. Even if you don’t think you have an aphid problem now, you might have a few aphids that you should eradicate before they become a problem in your container garden. Aphid control begins by spending some time with your plants and learning the symptoms of aphid damage. Symptoms of aphids include decreased plant growth, yellowing and browning, curling and wilting. Aphids often transmit diseases and viruses to the plants, and their honeydew reduces the effectiveness of fungicides and can cause sooty mold. (Honeydew is a sugary liquid released by these garden pests as they eat your plants.)
Aphid Control Tip #2: Kill ants. Some gardeners say that ants aren’t good or bad for the garden. They’re just there. But if you have an aphid problem, they will get out of hand if you have ants. Ants protect aphids so they can feed on the honeydew that the aphids produce.
Aphid Control Tip #3: Invite ladybugs. When practicing good aphid control methods, you will want to get rid of some insects (ants) and invite others to the garden. Ladybug larvae are natural predators of aphids, so either include plants in your garden that will attract ladybugs or release ladybugs into your garden (you can purchase ladybugs at your local garden shop). Other insects that eat aphids include hoverfly larvae, wasps, aphid midge larvae, green lacewing larvae, crab spiders and lacewigs.
Aphid Control Tip #4: Destroy infested plants. If too much damage has been done to a container plant, you may need to just rip it out and throw it away. Weak, dying plants are more prone to damage, as are young plants with new growth. If you destroy an infested plant, you are practicing good aphid control by removing them from the garden.
Aphid Control Tip #5: Use soapy water or insecticides. It’s always nice to use organic aphid control methods, but sometimes even soapy water won’t kill insect pests. Spray infested leaves with a spray bottle with water and several tablespoons of dish soap. Rinse the plant again later with regular water so there’s no residue. If that doesn’t work, then try a plant-safe insecticide. You can even find insecticides that are safe for tomato plants and other vegetable plants (so you can eat the food from the garden later).