Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Aphid Snacks for the Praying Mantis

My aphid obsession runs from my zucchini at the farm to both balcony gardens and back again. Abura mushi (oily bugs), as they are called in Japanese, are a common pest for Tokyo gardeners and farmers. The hot and humid conditions of summer make an ideal environment for them, and for the organic gardener and farmer it's paramount to cultivate good growing practices. Companion planting to ward off pests and attract beneficials becomes integral to success, along with building good soil, trimming and staking of plants, as well as creativity.

The other day while watering on the back balcony I noticed an infestation of aphids beginning on one of my nasturtiums. After an initial scowl of disgust followed by some squishing, I recalled my little praying mantis over on the pepper plants. (Often used as a trap crop, nasturtiums are also a favorite of ours in salads and as an attractor for beneficials. It is, technically, no surprise to see the little vampires at work.) Wondering how to get him (or her) to come to the buffet, I decided the most practical thing would be to take the buffet to him (or her). My new best friend gets a healthy snack, and I get a healthy plant back!

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