by guest blogger Beth Terry
Gardening without buying new plastic…it’s hard enough when you know what you’re doing. But for an inexperienced gardener like me, who thought she could just plant some seeds, water them, and watch the veggies grow, this experience is proving to be a real challenge. This month, I’ve been dealing with bugs and soil issues (even though I bought brand new garden soil!) and weather that feels like March in the middle of July. And since I’m growing this garden organically and without plastic, I can’t just run out and buy a magic potion in a brightly colored spray bottle and call it a day.
(If you’re new to this series, check out my first three posts about buying soil, planting and mulching, and watering without plastic. And check out my blog My Plastic-free Life, to understand the problems with plastic and to find plastic-free alternatives.)
My first unwelcome visitor (which turned out to be the very least of my worries) appeared in the form of little white swirly patterns all across the leaves of my Rainbow Chard. Checking the Internet, I discovered they were made by leaf miner larvae, which tunnel their way through leafy greens, feeding and leaving trails where they’ve been.
“Prevent these hungry critters from depositing their eggs by covering your chard with a floating row cover. Cut away infested leaves. Swiss chard is quick to recover and fast-growing, so any damaged plants should spring up again in no time.”
No row cover for me. I removed all the infested leaves by hand, which turned out to be quite a few by the time I noticed the problem, and have been cutting out affected areas as I see them. The chard is my one super-successful plant this year, and I’m eating it faster than the leaf miners can attack!
Photoshop may have saved my tomato plant. My eyesight is not great, so I had no idea this plant was covered with aphids until I enlarged an image to edit it and pretty much freaked out at what I saw.
I emailed Eric Hurlock from OrganicGardening.com right away. He suggested that instead of using any kind of insecticide, I get rid of them mechanically by blasting with the hose. He also noted the presence of a ladybug on the plant and said that was a good sign. I was all set to go out and buy a container of ladybugs, but Eric directed me to an article explaining why buying ladybugs is not such a good idea:
“The short point here is that purchasing wild-harvested ladybugs, which is almost certainly what you will find at retail outlets, will not do much good for your garden, and it may introduce nonnative species into your local ecosystem. Additionally, purchasing these ladybugs may contribute to the decimation of the wild ladybug populations.”
My final solution was to blast the plant with my old (plastic) garden hose one time, and then maintain the plant by squishing the aphids manually as I see them. It’s pretty gross. And also pretty amazing how easily aphids squish. It’s a wonder their bodies hold together at all. A friend of mine said she’d heard that leaving “dead aphid juice” on the leaves will deter other aphids from coming. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems to be working.
I do have one question, though: I have three different tomato plants, and this plant is the only one with an aphid problem. Could it be that this plant is less healthy for some reason?