ladybugs: the good guys in organic gardening

getting rid of aphids / omamas.com

Abby here.

Out of nowhere, yellow aphids decided to invade the greenhouse and make my life miserable.

getting rid of aphids / omamas.com

getting rid of aphids / omamas.com

When it comes to organic gardening, aphids have by far been my worst problem. These little yellow nuisances have made their appearance in moderation before, going after our cabbage and greens, but this year they had a taste for peppers and parsley.

When I discovered they by the thousands (I know, it’s gross) on the peppers a few weeks ago, my gut reaction was to pull out the pepper plants and get them as far away from the greenhouse as possible. I think I had 3 gone before I settled down and realized there had to be a better solution.

I sprayed them with neem oil, trying to avoid the fruit and focusing on the leaves. Neem oil is safe for organic gardening, but I preferred to not spray the actual fruit if possible. I then ran out quickly and bought 4,000 ladybugs for $22 at our local Planet Natural. We released them that night, per the instructions, and it was incredible to see the aphids disappear by the masses each day. I read that ladybugs eat 40-50 aphids a day, so we kept them busy for a while.  Now there are literally no aphids on the peppers!

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All was good, until I discovered just as many aphids on our parsley in another section of the greenhouse. I opted out of spraying them with neem oil this time, because of the fact we eat the parsley leaves.  I went straight for the ladybugs this time, after how well they worked on the peppers. Again, they had their work cut out for them. It’s going a little slower due to not spraying them with neem oil first, but the aphids are still disappearing more and more each day.

I harvested some parsley today to make some spaghetti sauce, and just soaked it in salt water for about 10 minutes to remove a few remaining aphids.  And if you think the idea of bugs on your produce is gross… well, it’s just a way of life.  If there are no bugs ever, it only means your food has been sprayed to death with pesticides and herbicides and that ain’t no good either, folks.

So what’s the key to organic gardening? I’d say staying attentive to your plants before anything gets too out of hand. I was foolish in thinking the beneficial nematodes and ladybugs I released at the beginning of the summer would do that job. And check the undersides of leaves… aphids generally set-up camp there.

Happy gardening!

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