Skip to main content

Why Aphids

Ok, I'm mildly obsessed these days with aphids. Whether I'm in the garden or out on the balcony, abura mushi (Japanese for aphid) are everywhere. Trying to do battle organically and sensibly is my current challenge, and I thought I'd share some of what I've learned so far about why they find my plants so delectable and what can be done about it.

Aphid Attractions
I'm still researching this, but what I've learned thus far is that they are attracted to the color yellow, which means those giant zucchini blossoms must seem ideal. It also explains why nasturtiums are listed as a trap crop.

They are also encouraged by high amounts of nitrogen in the soil. High levels of nitrogen encourage a fair amount of new growth, which is wear aphids often best like to feed. Despite their tiny size, they need a great deal of the heady brew offered by new growth where the greatest amount of amino acids are present. I worked a fair amount of composted chicken manure and old coffee grounds (both excellent sources of nitrogen) into the beds before planting, which may subsequently be contributing to my aphid problem.

Humid weather (welcome to Tokyo in summer!) is an ideal environment for them, too. Keeping plantings and plants a bit less dense so air can flow and sunshine can penetrate are, as I've mentioned before, pivotal. I'm slowly beginning to learn the art of judicious pruning on tomatoes, eggplants, and now zucchini.

Aphid Deterrants
Companion planting is high on the priority list. The practice of mixing herbs and flowers in with vegetables serves to attract beneficials, repel pests, or act as a trap crop. Bringing in beneficials (like a praying mantis or two) to eat aphids and keep their numbers down means more vegetables at harvest time and healthier plants. Companion planting effectively puts up a big welcome sign for pollinators, too, which again means more vegetables at harvest time. Fennel, parsley, cilantro, dill or other herbs that bloom in umbel (umbrella-shaped) blossoms are nearly irrisistable.

Aphids and other pests find mint, peppermint, onions, and garlic repellant. Planting these among vegetables or concocting a spray from them will help ward off garden evildoers. Those that decide to enter the garden anyway will get munched on by the beneficials.

There are some plants aphids adore more than vegetables, and sad as it is to say nasturtiums are one of them. Planting a trap crop around the garden means a lack of those lovely blossoms for summer salads, but it helps ensure the survival of other vegetables. Some determined aphids will, of course, still make it through, but it shouldn't be more than a good dousing with water or a praying mantis or two can't efficiently dispatch.

A Few Good Resources
I wanted to learn a thing or two about aphids, and this article from Vegetable offers good basic information on the bug, what it likes, and how to avoid it as well as get rid of it.

Perhaps offering more information than one could possibly ever want to know about aphids is this article from The Earth Life Web. Great links, references, and explanations will help the aphid obsessed and infested gardener get to know this pest.

The best site I've found yet about organic pest control techniques, this article from OISAT on trap crops offers an incredibly useful table of crops, their companion crop, and the targeted pest. This article from Hobby Farms is a nice companion piece, too.

This fact sheet from Colorado State University's Extension Office offers a handy table for making insecticidal soaps, and Organic Matters Magazine also offers a short but useful article on aphids and remedies such as onion and garlic spray.


Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro