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Controlling Aphids in the Garden Without Pesticides

Group of Aphids

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Controlling aphids in the garden, without the utilize of pesticides or powders and chemical sprays that kill the insect but leave unhealthy chemical residue behind, has gardeners jumping on the “green” bandwagon.

What Are Aphids

Aphids are small pear-shaped insects that come in a variety of colors, with green and black being the most ordinary. Aphids attach themselves to the area of the plant where new growth appears. They regenerate quickly and are voracious feeders. Aphids suck liquid from the plant, dehydrating it and eventually killing it. Their waste is a sticky shiny residue called honey dew.

Ants in the garden are attracted to the honey dew and will really take aphids as pets. Once they have the aphids securely settled in their ant colony, the ants cut new growth from nearby plants and bring it to the aphids. By feeding the aphids the ants are able to maintain a steady supply of honey dew.

Controlling Aphids in the Garden

Aphids especially love certain plants and can overrun a garden in a single weekend. But once acknowledged these garden pests can be controlled. Controlling aphids is not always as simple as it might seem. One method for removal these garden pests is a soapy spray. The soap washes off the protective waxy coating found on aphids. Without that coating this garden pest will dry out and die. To make the spray, mix one part hand soap to 100 parts water.

Most garden pests can be controlled when the plants are sprayed with the combination twice a week and again after each rain. The little bit of soap won’t harm the plants, and most other garden pests will not like the taste and will move to an area where they can discover a more delectable dinner.

While container gardens are relatively easy to handle and even easier to keep free of pests, an infestation of aphids can even occur from time to time on a patio or on the back steps. Insects don’t concern themselves with propriety, they simply want an easy meal. But either in the garden or in a container garden, controlling aphids is best done without commercial chemical pesticides. Vigilance and a good bottle of soap generally will do the trick.

Aphids can as well be washed off the plant with a vigorous hosing down. Be careful, however, that the plants are not damaged by the spray.

Organic Insect Control

Aphids suck the life out of flower plants and vegetable plants, causing the leaves to curl up and flower buds to remain hard and unfurled. The pear-shaped aphid will infest ntimely any type of plant but is particularly attracted to yellow flowers. Place a shallow yellow container in the garden with about an inch of water in it. This type of organic insect control relies on outsmarting the aphids. Aphids will be drawn to the color and jump into the container and drown. All the gardener needs to do is to make sure there is always water in the container.

Another organic insect control measure is to crush a few of the aphids on the plant or sprinkle the remains around the base of the plant. Other aphids will be deterred by the scent. And remember that ants and aphids go hand in hand. Ants will even move their pet aphids from one plant to the next, thereby creating more damage. To keep ants away try sprinkling baby powder, cornstarch or cinnamon around the base of the plant.

Organic Gardening Products

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Get rid of Plant Fungus from the Garden

Fungus

Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

Garden fungus can ruin any crop, but it does not have to.  Preventing fungus diseases before they destroy your crop is essential, and proper garden management may keep chemical fungicide off consumables.

The number one fungicide is developing a disease resistant garden. Garden location, right composting and garden management and occasional use of pesticide treatments all aide in the ability of a garden to ward off pests and disease. Proper care for a garden will result in healthy plants, excellent crop production and future soil health.

Garden Location

Beckerman recommends placing a garden in a sunny well-drained area. Too much shade encourages the growth of fungus. Stagnant water also promotes fungal infection in plants. Locating a garden in the highest point available with the least tree cover will help any garden resist fungi and various other diseases.

Composting

Composting is another suggestion from garden experts. Mixing natural organic matter in soil promotes the development of soil microbes necessary to combat fungus advancement. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants, and healthy plants generate their own fungicide in the form of healthy immune systems ready to fight off infection.
Proper Garden Management

Proper garden management is another excellent fungicide. Experts recommend watering in early morning so plants dry quickly and never working in the garden when plants are wet. Overnight wet plants promote the spread of infection. Working on wet plants promotes the spread of bacteria, nematodes and fungus. Experts also suggest using only enough fertilizer to meet plant needs, as over-fertilization–especially nitrogen rich fertilizers-will promote fungal infection.

Organic Fungicides

When all else fails, experts suggest, “reaching for the chemicals.” Some vegetable garden fungicides are available that meet organic specifications, and those persons wishing to remain chemical free will want to start with them. Fungicides with the active ingredients Copper or Sulfur are approved for organic production, according to Beckerman. These fungicides will not leave a residue on the vegetables or penetrate the plant and build up harmful levels of toxins. Experts warn that improper diagnosis of a fungus or improper use of a fungicide may result in treatment failure.

Chemical Fungicides

If no other option works to treat the infection of a vegetable garden, chemical fungicides might work. Chemical fungicides may leave harmful residues in or on vegetable garden contents. Experts list fungicides with the active ingredients chlorothalonil, Captan, Mancozeb and Maneb as garden fungicides not approved for organic gardening.

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How to recognize plant disease

Powdery mildew, a Biotrophic Fungus

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While the gardener hopes for disease-free plants, multitudes of organisms are ever present and merely biding their time for the appearance of the right conditions and host.

Damping-Off

Damping-off is likely the most discouraging problem for the gardener. Although it can occur any time during the growing season it generally attacks seedlings just when they seem to be getting off to a good start.

Damping-off is caused by fungi living right at the soil line where air meets the moist soil’s surface. If soil is kept continually damp the fungi attack the seedlings causing constricted stems at or immediately below the soil’s surface. The young plants fall over at the soil line and die.

Prevention is the only remedy. Allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings. If soil remains moist for a long period of time sprinkle the area around the seedlings with ground cinnamon. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide. The gardener may also make use of another natural fungicide, chamomile. Brew weak chamomile tea, let it cool and use around seedlings.

Mosaic Virus

Mosaic virus robs plants of their genetic organization, diverting energy to themselves. This virus primarily attacks summer and winter squash, gourds, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins although it also affects beans, peppers and tomatoes.

The virus causes abnormality in plant growth. Leaves look mottled or distorted and crinkled. They twist up or show bubbles. Often the affected plant will have leaves with yellowish spots on them. The fruit of affected cucumbers can have a variation of mottled light and dark green areas, sometimes paling almost white. Other fruit in the curcurbit family can be blanketed with warts or have skin that is faded, white and smooth. Although this virus may not kill the plant the fruit will taste so bitter that it will be inedible.

Mosaic virus overwinters in garden debris and a number of weed plants. Be sure the garden is scrupulously cleared out after the growing season and reduce or eliminate weed growth near food plants. Aphids and cucumber beetles also spread the virus when they feed from plant to plant. Eliminating these pests will go a long way toward preventing the virus from entering your garden.

Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight or rot is a fungal disease that affects a number of vegetables and fruits. Among its host plants are asparagus, beans, beets, carrots, grapes, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes and strawberries. The infection usually occurs when cool rainy or drizzling spring and summer weather lasts for several days. Botrytis rot can infect all parts of the plant except the roots. It appears as a mass of silver-gray spores on dead or dying plant tissue. Heavily infected plants release the spores as a dust that can be spread to other plants. The disease spreads most rapidly on wet or humid days and rain splatter also causes new infections.

As with other diseases, prevention is the best control. Inspect the plants often, watching for any infestation, blighted leaves or dead plants. Wait until the plants are dry before taking steps to sanitize them. Carry a paper bag with you when inspecting the plants. Remove infected plant material or the entire plant and place it in the bag to be thrown in the trash or burned.

Avoid overhead watering or misting which also provide favorable conditions for infection. Give plants plenty of space between them to promote good air circulation and allow the plants to dry out quickly, not giving botrytis the moist, humid conditions it needs in order to prosper.

Another fungal disease, powdery mildew, coats the leaves in dusty white or grey powder. Leaves are usually first attacked on the underside and then the mildew moves around to the top of the leaf, eventually covering the entire surface.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) has proven to be extremely effective as an antifungal in treating active botrytis and powdery mildew. Add 1 ounce of baking soda to 1 gallon of water and spray the solution on the affected plant. Caught early, the disease can be halted and the plant saved.

Feeding all plants with finished compost or compost ‘tea’ foliar spray helps to strengthen their immune system, allowing the plants’ own defensive structures to ward off many debilitating diseases.

Vegetable & Garden Fungicide

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