Three Defenses to Defeat an Army of Aphids

First of all, the picture above is about that army of aphids making camp on my tomatoes.  Not the two little ladies making whoopie right under their noses as well as mine.  But that's ok, read further and you will find out why I'll take that!

As usual, they came.  And not just one or two.  The whole dang army showed up this year! I usually get a head start on their populations by soaking the ground around the basecamp of the plant with soapy water to suffocate those little demons as soon as they hatch, but it was rainy this year.  I blame everything on the rains. It's a good scapegoat. 

So,  early on a Sunday morning, I walked into my glorious garden with plans to sit among my new chlorophyll filled friends, when I noticed a strange orangey reddish yellow aura emitting from the tops of their leaves.  No, actually it emitted from the tops, the middles, the stems, stalks and blooms.  OH NO! NOT AGAIN! Yes, again.  Why am I even surprised, as I know the question is never will the aphids come, but when. 

I call aphids the rainbow suckers because if they arrive in your garden, they come in all colors and sizes, and when you think you have found the end of them, think again. And in their defense, they aren’t there because they want to be.  The ants bring farm them in.  That’s another post I’ll do another time.  It is quite fascinating really, but this post is only about annihilating aphids, not farming them.  

So these three things are what works best for me to get rid of aphids from my tomato plants: 

If your tomatoes become plagued with aphids the first and safest thing to do is give your plants a bath.  Using a good thick but not harsh stream of water, start at the top of the plant and flood those little boogers right off of there!  They are actually quite fragile, and cannot hold up to much force at all.  At first I wash my plants early morning of every day for about a week, making sure to not miss the stalks since a lot of aphids can be washed away while in transit to a perfect leaf.  At the same time I rub my fingers up and down the stalk and brush the bottom sides of heavily infested leaves between my fingers.  It can be yucky but the water is running so I can just wash them right off of my fingers too.  

Thinning the greens back on the plants helps my tomatoes in several ways, but I have noticed it also cuts down on aphids.  Obviously thinning out greens covered in aphids is going to totally rid that plant of those particular pest.  I make sure to get any limb or leaf that is touching the ground off the plant. Leaves that touch the ground serve as the perfect bridge for the ants to bring on the aphids, so as long as there isn’t bloom growth, all those have got to go.  Don’t forget the sucker branches (new growth between the stalk and a branch), these branches serve no purpose. Nip them! Blooms will show themselves on heartier branches.  I prefer to grow tomatoes over greens, so as long as about one third of the leaves remain, I don’t even care that it looks a little skinny. 

This is the crux of why I took that picture of the whoopie making ladybugs. I need them to make a lot of babies! Once the larvae (ladybug babies) begin to crawl, I am less worried about my tomatoes surviving because these first stagers will soon be adults. Just one adult ladybug can take care of about 5,000 or so aphids. It is the larvae of the lacewings that smack down on aphids.  It seems to me the lacewings aren’t quite the ferocious feeder as are the ladies but as a bonus, they also will consume white flies and some other beetle pests as well, and that alone gives me reason to welcome them in!  Well, that and that they are just so adorable, but so are the ladybugs.   And I guess you can say praying mantis are sort of cute too, especially when they are babes, but once they reach as big as my pinky finger, I start squealing. But the mantis love to dine on those biggest red and orangey aphids! Mantis will munch through a leaf full of aphids before they even know what hit them, so I will never remove a praying mantis from my garden.  After all, my garden and I both appreciate the prayers! 

So there are more beneficial insects that will hook you up when it comes to fighting the aphid pest on your tomato plants, and I am sure there may be better ways to wash your plants and thin them, but this is how I do it and as far as I can tell, it is working just fine.  Any day now I will be making sauces!  Here is a picture of my heirloom black krim tomatoes just before turning red.  I would say they are going to survive the aphid attack.  Thanks to those mornings of washing tomato plants, thinning tomato limbs, and those predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings.   

This makes me so happy!

Oh, and jsyk: I have been keeping a good coat of DE (diatomaceous earth) sprinkled at the base of my plants to keep the ants at bay, therefore further aiding the battle against aphids.  

Happy Dirt Flipping Y'all!, 

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