27 October 2009

Organic gardening & Mealy Aphids

When I started growing vegetables a few years ago I wouldn't have classed myself as an organic gardener per se.  We have kept our veg beds as chemical free as possible but we did clear the third of an acre field with a weedkiller prior to sowing the lawn (there were more docks than grass).  And if I was given the odd packet of 'treated' seeds then I gratefully took them - my housekeeping budget didn't stretch to organic seeds (or any seeds some weeks come to that).

However, as time has passed and the more I read up about organic gardening and biodiversity, the stronger I feel that we don't need to use artificial chemicals to produce great veg.

What we need is education.  Thanks to expensive, colourful advertising, pesticide and herbicide manufacturers lead us to believe that their products will solve all of our gardening problems.  Just spray this product over there and all your pests and weeds will be gone. They forget to tell us that they kill the good things too.

Today I was weeding and discovered  my Ragged Jack Kale has been completely infested with Mealy Cabbage Aphid.  In the past I would have pulled it all up and thrown it straight into the compost.  Now, instead of being scared by pests and diseases and either ignoring them or sending them to the bin, I learn about them.

Aphid eggs can over winter, so throwing the plants into my not very hot compost heap wont kill them. I can spray them with an incecticidal soap (think it's a bit late for that now - should have kept a better eye on them) and I can rub them off between my fingers.  Mealy Aphids can also affect swedes and turnips which are planted right next to them so I'd best do something about them quickly.  In the summer I could have blasted them with the spray of the hose, but they're getting enough blasting from the rain.  As the plants now look so poorly I'll try spraying them but will probably end up pulling them and putting them in the green waste bin (is that very eco friendly I wonder?).

Sometimes it seems so much easier to find artificial chemical solutions - organic answers need a bit more research (is garlic spray organically acceptable in Ireland - I'm still trying to find out?).  However, it is worth persevering.  Our garden has been buzzing with wildlife activity of all sorts this year and colourful too thanks to the companion planting.

Becky spent an hour or so this morning potting up all the little Borage seedlings that had self seeded in the potato patch.  Black bean aphids are repelled by Borage so I know where we'll be planting those seedlings out in the springtime.  Lacewing larvea and hoverflies are also predators of aphids so I'll try planting corriander near the brassicas next year to attract more of them.

Isn't it a shame that we can't spend as much money telling gardeners about crop rotation, soil management and organic gardening methods as is spent on 'stamp it out' chemical adverts?


  1. I have come to the conclusion that nature really knows best. There will be a natural predator around somewhere that will love to polish off those bugs!

  2. I see we share the some of the same aphid issues as you do. Matron is right, after a couple bad years of aphid infestation on our brassicas the predators have arrived in the form of lady bugs and parasitic wasps. This past year was not nearly as bad, but I have yet to find any viable organic solutions to staving off aphids and hope the preditor insects keep up the good work.


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