This spring's sunny moments, or at least the dry periods between the showers, are offering gardeners fleeting chances to work in their gardens. Still, we are hearing from lots of people with some common problems this year. While not exactly pestilence or plague, insects and diseases are distressing many by their presence. Two problems bothering many gardeners this season are aphids and fungus.
Despite conditions that seemed uncomfortable to us, the winter was generally mild for the insect population. The cold temperatures were just barely into the upper 20s for most of the winter, which is not cold enough to kill off many of our usual insect pests. When we started hearing about aphids in January and February we realized it might be a big aphid year.
Aphids are active here throughout most of the year but conditions usually limit their numbers. These tiny sucking insects feed on the juices of many plants. Usually they find the tender new foliage on which to lay their young, and seemingly within a day or two the number of bugs can go from none to thousands. Often these creatures find plants that are already in distress and a large infestation can make matters worse for a stressed plant.
Usually in the home garden, attacks of aphids don't cause much damage and are primarily more a nuisance than a threatening presence. The first most effective approach is to try to wash as many as possible off the plant with a blast of water from the hose. Once the young aphid is dislodged from the plant it rarely is able to reattach itself. For those more inclined to let nature do part of the work, try ladybugs.
Ladybugs are aphid predators. Between the familiar adults and the more voracious ladybug larvae (which look something like a very tiny black and orange spotted alligator!) they can reduce a population of aphids in your yard in a matter of a few weeks. If you need more ladybugs in your yard you can buy containers of 1500 adults to release at home. While many of these will find their way to your neighbor's, enough should stick around to do the job in your garden.
If this doesn't work fast enough there are many safe organic sprays available. There is normally no reason to use a harsh chemical spray for aphids. (Next time: Getting fungus under control.)[[In-content Ad]]