Go Organic: Watch out for aphidsBy James Ashford
June 01, 2012
The warm weather of the last two weeks has made a very welcome change from grey skies and rain even if it does mean I’ve had to unearth the watering can again.
It will certainly kick-start the vegetable garden.
I’ve got the first flowers appearing on my greenhouse tomatoes which means the fruits won’t be too far behind.
The sunshine will also give a boost to the insect life in the garden. I’ve seen plenty of bumble bees foraging on the comfrey and we had some small drama at the Reading Post HQ in Tessa Road when a swarm of honey bees took up residence in a tree outside the newsroom. Some less welcome visitors have also been spurred into activity.
I’ve had a bumper crop of asparagus beetles already this year and the first of the aphids are making an appearance. Neither are too much of a problem in small numbers and there is certainly no need to reach for the sprayer but left alone they can become a problem.
Asparagus beetles appear as bright-red adults at the tip of the spears.
They meet on the growing ends to mate and will go on to produce their small grey slug-like larvae which then feed on the asparagus fronds. In large numbers they can strip the plants which weakens them for the following season.
Fortunately the adults are easy to catch and dispatch. When disturbed their reflex is to drop instantly to the soil.
If you cup your hand underneath the beetles and then tap the plant stem they will drop into your palm ready to be squished. You won’t get them all but you should be able to kill enough to prevent them producing enough offspring to do any lasting damage.
Aphids likewise do little damage in small numbers but can overwhelm your plants if left unchecked.
You must be vigilant because their numbers can multiply very rapidly indeed.
They are normally found on the growing tips and buds of plants and they can quite easily be squished off between finger and thumb.
If you keep their numbers under control they shouldn’t do any real damage but if they do manage to build up a significant population you may need to take stronger action.
You can dislodge them very successfully with a blast of water from a sprayer or an old washing-up liquid bottle.
If that fails to make an impact you can drown them with a very weak solution of washing-up liquid or as a last resort use insecticidal soap. Before you spray check for beneficial insects like ladybirds which will also be killed by insecticidal soap.