In this article: Learn how to control aphids through companion planting and other natural measures.
Have you ever gone out to your garden and found your tomatoes or broccoli covered in tiny little bugs?
These tiny insects, called aphids, can wreak havoc in on your crops causing damage and bringing disease. But what can you do do control aphids naturally?
First let’s talk about what aphids are.
What are aphids?
Aphids are small, sap-sucking, soft-bodied insects. And when I say small, I mean tiny. Adults are usually less than ¼ of an inch and the nymphs are even smaller.
Aphids exist in many different colors- green, red, white, yellow, gray….and different aphid species exist for different crops. There are bean aphids, cabbage aphids, melon aphids, and potato aphids to name a few.
Aphids can reproduce quickly and multiple generations will be born in a single season.
Most aphids are wing-less, so they are slow moving so controlling their numbers isn’t too hard if you are attentive.
Aphids will excrete a substance called honeydew as they suck the sap from your plants. You may find your plants sticky with this substance, proof that aphids have been feeding on your plant. You may also find ants wherever you find aphids. Ants will “farm” aphids for this honeydew, as it is one of their food sources.
Control Aphids Naturally With These Plants That Repel Aphids
You may have seen aphids around your garden, and maybe like me, you haven’t really had an issue with them majorly affecting your crops. But in addition to feeding on your plants, aphids also carry disease such as mosaic viruses, that can destroy your crops.
It’s worth taking measures to keep aphids out of your garden or to remove them once they are there. Below are 9 companion plants that can help you control aphids naturally in your garden.
Basil’s strong scent disrupts the olfactory receptors in aphids and has a repellent effect, which will keep your plants free of aphids.
Basil also acts as a deterrent for some aphid species and will inhibit the feeding behaviors of aphids.
Basil is a great companion for tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, and asparagus to name a few.
Aphids, and many other pests, dislike garlic. Garlic’s strong scent disrupts the aphids’ sense of smell, keeping them away from your vegetables.
Garlic can also be crushed and combined with water and a little soap to spray directly on your plants.
Keep garlic away from peas and beans.
Like garlic, onions are a member of the allium family, most of which will repel pests like aphids.
Onion scent will help control aphids and prevent them from destroying your plants.
Onions are a good companions for brassicas like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. Keep onions away from your beans and peas.
Rosemary is a very fragrant herb that can attract natural enemies of aphids.
Rosemary also contains volatile oils that when emitted have a repellent effect on aphids. Frequent clipping can help release these oils.
Mint is another fragrant herb that attracts beneficial insects. Like rosemary, mint contains volatile oils can can help repel aphids.
Mint can take over your garden, so frequent cutting both to release oils and prevent the plant from going to seed can help.
Peppermint essential oil can also be used.
Catnip may attract cats but the smell will confuse insects such as aphids.
Catnip will also attract beneficial insects that can help you control aphid infestations.
Parsley will attract predatory wasps that feed on aphids. These wasps can help reduce aphid populations if you are dealing with infestations or prevent infestations from beginning in the first place.
Nasturtiums are very attractive to aphids. They work as a trap plant, drawing aphids to them instead of to your vegetable crops.
Check the nasturtiums often and remove and destroy infestations to control the amounts in the garden.
Nasturtiums grow well with most all plants.
Sunflowers are another trap plant you can add to your garden for aphids. Sunflowers are large and strong and able to withstand aphid attacks.
Other Natural Ways to Control Aphids
Essential Oils to Control Aphids
Essential oils can help control aphids in addition to companion planting or in place of companion planting.
Like in the case of rosemary and mint, it is the oils released that help repel aphids, so using essential oils can be used the same was as an insect repellent.
The following essential oils can be used to help repel aphids in your garden:
Check out my article on Essential Oils for Gardening for more information on how to use these oils in the garden.
Beneficial Insects for Controlling Aphids
Luckily for you, there are some ready and waiting beneficial insects to help you fight aphids in your garden.
Ladybugs are the most useful and common predator of aphids. Both adult and larva will feast on aphids all season long. And I have even had ladybugs keep pests off my citrus trees indoors during the winter.
If you don’t have a lot of ladybugs in your area, you can even buy them!
Green Lacewing larva feed on soft bodied insects like aphids. Many wild flowers like Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod, and dandelion can draw in lacewings as can many cultivated flowers like cosmos and zinnias. You can also purchase eggs or larva.
Tiny parasitic wasps will lay their eggs on aphids, the larvae will then eat the aphid from the inside. Planting parsley in your garden can help attract these wasps.
Tricks and Traps for Controlling Aphids
Finally, here are a couple other things you can do to control aphids in the garden:
Yellow sticky traps: Aphids are drawn to the color yellow, so placing yellow sticky traps around the plants will draw them in where they will stick. These also work to control cucumber beetles.
Spraying Water: Aphids are tiny and using your garden sprayer directly on the aphids will dislodge them and send them flying. This is only a temporary fix.
Soapy Water: Making a mix of water and soap to spray or wipe on your plants can be effective. Adding in some crushed garlic can add extra protection as well. You can also purchase organic insecticidal soap to spray on your plants.
Do you have a problem with aphids in your garden? Share your stories in the comments!
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© 2019, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.