Attack of the aphids!

‘Attack of the aphids’: is it a H G Wells novel? Is it a new blockbuster coming to cinemas near you? Sadly not! My poor little pak choi plants are being eaten alive!

Some introductory gardening lectures that I’m working through via the Food Revolution Network have highlighted the importance of watching what is happening with plants you are growing on a daily basis and judging what your plants need based on what you observe. Recently, I’ve noticed that a few of the leaves on my pak choi plants have become curled, mottled and one or two are blistered. On closer examination, I discovered tiny little green insects on the undersides of some of the leaves. I promptly pulled out a Reader’s digest book I have on my bookshelf called ‘Slugs, pests and diseases’, which soon helped me to identify the culprit. Aphids!

Photo courtesy of Dustin Humes on Unsplash

I have since done some reading up on the subject, and this is what I have learnt:

  • There are several types of aphids, including greenfly, blackfly and whitefly. They pierce leaves and other parts of the plant and suck the sap, causing physical damage and often transmitting virus diseases in the process. Attacked leaves are often twisted, curled or blistered.
  • Aphids may excrete sticky honeydew on leaves, which can then be colonized by black sooty mould.
  • Plants can be attacked growing in the open, under glass or indoors. The danger period is spring and early summer in the open, but they can attack any time of the year under glass or indoors.

Bummer! So much for thinking that growing my plants indoors would provide better protection than growing outdoors!

Solutions that I’m going to try:

  • I’ve read that beneficial natural predators can help keep aphids in check; for example, ladybirds feed on aphids.
  • For now, I have pulled off the aphids I can identify with tweezers. When I next go on a walk I will keep an eye out for some ladybirds that I could give a new temporary home amongst my plants!
  • I have also bought some fine netting to protect plants from flies and other pests, which I can make use of going forwards.

My vision of putting home grown pak choi on the table this autumn may be a longer way off than I originally anticipated! Hopefully my existing pak choi plants can be salvaged. This morning I planted another batch of pak choi seeds into modules in my propagator – this time I’ll make sure that they are potted on under protective netting and I stay vigilant for any unwanted hungry insect guests!

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