Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aphids Suck

The first two years we had this garden, we grew gorgeous Brussels sprouts but before we had a chance to harvest a single one, aphids found them. They left the other brassicas alone though so we got a good harvest of broccoli and kale, totally aphid free. This year, we opted against the Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, it appears that in the absence of Brussels sprouts, aphids are perfectly happy infesting the broccoli, kale and cabbage that we did grow. I'm most disappointed by the loss of cabbage because we had some BEAUTIFUL heads forming!

We'd tried using non-pesticide type remedies in the past. Companion planting with lavender (which grows very well here) didn't help. The aphids were unaffected. Setting up two little lady-bug homes in our garden to encourage lady bugs didn't help either. I've seen all of one lady bug in our garden in the past 3 years. Chickens would probably eat ahpids, but they'd also eat our garden and I can't take that chance. (Chickens also love slugs by the way, but chickens sleep at night when slugs come out, so they are a terrible option!).

A little online research turned up an easy solution. Apparently tomato leaves (of the nightshade family) are poison to most bugs. You can make a 'tea' of tomato leaves to use as a pesticide. It's safe for humans and pets, but deadly to bugs.  The problem is that it's deadly to ALL bugs, so you'd also lose any beneficial bugs in your garden.  Since we don't have many of those, I figured it was worth a shot.  My plan was to only spray brassicas.

So I pulled off about two packed cups worth of tomato leaves and coarsely chopped them.

Then I added hot water and let the mixture sit overnight (or about 8 hours).

I then strained out all the leaves and poured the liquid into a clean spray bottle we had. I added plain water to fill the bottle (about another cup) and voila - organic tomato pesticide!

I immediately went out to the garden to try and rescue our brassicas. It took almost half the bottle just to spray our two kale plants. Then I tackled the least infested of the cabbages. The cabbages that were the worst, I just pulled from the garden. Same for the broccoli. Actually, it was as I was spraying the broccoli that it occurred to me that we DO have one beneficial bug in our garden...our bees! I totally hadn't thought about the bees, but I was careful to not spray any flower at all, so hopefully it won't affect them. I'd feel awful if I accidentally killed our three hives!

This was two days ago. Tonight will be my first opportunity to investigate the results. I promise to report back. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this worked!