Aphid and whitefly control on organic herbs?

topic posted Tue, May 9, 2006 - 11:53 AM by  Alice
Hello there, folks. My tiny urban garden is struggling along, but I've run into a problem...

My culinary and medicinal herbs seem to be fighting a war againsts aphids and what appear to be small white flying creatures. The apids live under the leaves, the white flies on top of them, and their leaves are getting droopier by the day (espeically my mints!).

Does anyone have a non-chemical method of dealing with these pests? I had heard that marigolds had some anti-pest properties, but the peppermint is nestled in between three blooming marigolds to no avail (it has the worst infestation of the bunch!).

Since these herbs will be brewed into teas and otherwise consumed, I would prefer to keep the plants organic. My method of dealing with it so far has been a daily ritual of scraping off all the bastards with a stray leaf. Soooo time consuming!

- D
All of the above.
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Unsu...
    for Organics I reccomend Sevin. It breaks down in nature and washes away. It's also too large a molecule for plants to absorb so it's not going to go systemic.

    Yah Yah Chemical bug killers aren't exactly "organic" in the usual course of things.

    Well if better living through chemistry isn't going to work for ya, Try some soap and water I had a friend who used lime dust and also a little cleanser in water. Most cleansers have sodium hyperchlorite ( salt form of bleach) and may be rough on some plants.

    Of course soap and water is a chemical fertilizer being rich in nitrogen and phosphates.

    OK OK the Africans just go out and collect the bugs and eat them. Rather one with nature an all that.

    In the alternate, you say it's an urban garden?? That suggests you haven't got oodles of plants. Have you considered simply washing them down the drain??
    It'd be a constant battle but you'd win in the long haul.
    Actually a lot of organic types do exactly that. They simply kill the little critters between their fingers or wash them away with water.

    • Unsu...
      LOL! Sevin is *so* not organic. It's not malathion, but other than that...

      Don't the marigolds attract bad insects, keeping them away from other plants? Thus if you have a plant surrounded by marigolds, that is the problem.
  • If they are in small pots, fill your tub or a large bin with soap and water. Cover the soil with aluminum foil. With your hand, hold the aluminum foil and dirt, then dip the plants upside-down in the water. Swish them around. This not only get most of the bugs off, but get the soap on the underside of the plants better than spraying.
    • Unsu...
      I'm a big fan of tobacco bug spray (AKA nicotine tea), it works well on the aphids on my roses... a mix of tobacco, a little soap and water. Here's a fairly in-depth web page with many DIY home bug sprays for herbs:
      • Unsu...
        Do not do this in any garden with tomatoes or peppers. All tobacco has the tobacco mosaic virus, which will permanantly cause troubles.
        • I second that tobacco mosaic virus info ---> no nicotine tea on your nightshade family plants (even handling them after smoking or ashing cigs in your garden can cause this nasty plant-disfiguring virus) !!!
          • Unsu...


            Wed, May 10, 2006 - 4:43 PM
            Yeah, you are not even supposed to wear the same shoes after visiting a tobacco farm, or should cover your shoes with disposable covers. There's no way to get rid of it once it's in your soil either, and it can colonize from tobacco a mile away.
            • Unsu...

              Re: virus

              Wed, May 10, 2006 - 9:39 PM
              But who really goes on a tobacco farm tour? Ha!
              • Unsu...

                Re: virus

                Wed, May 10, 2006 - 10:17 PM
                Well up until a year ago, probably 75% of the landowners in this county were tobacco farmers in some capacity.
  • for all garden pests buy either ladybugs or praying mantis (easily purchased online). Ladybugs will take care of your aphids - the praying mantis will eat EVERYTHING, even the ladybugs, though, so do not purchase them at the same time or if you do obviously release them in separate locations.

    I have also successfully used a spray with cayenne or hot pepper oils in it. This can change the pH of your soil, I've heard, although I didn't notice any harm from it.

    Have you tried citronella candles? If nothign else you can use your garden hose on full force, but that might damage weaker plants.
  • Neem oil. Totally natural - used as medicine in India. It's easy to find online or at your local grow store ;-). There's 2 on the westside behind Safeway.


    "Neem oil is a botanical pesticide made from an extract of the plant Azadirachta indica. Since it doesn't strongly affect humans, mammals, or beneficial bugs, farmers use neem oil as an insecticide and miticide to keep away pests like aphids and white flies."
    • Yes, Neem works great and its totally organic. I use about 2 teaspoons/half gallon h2o. I also add about 1/2 teaspoon of Ecover dishwashing liquid that acts as a spreading agent. Make sure that your water is warm (but not hot) because the Neem will coagulate (its oil) otherwise.

      Get a spray bottle that you can pressurize and start spraying: top layer of soil, stem, undersides of leaves, as well as top side.

      If you have a really bad bug infestation you can Neem every five days until the problem is controlled. Once you have a cap on the bug numbers stop Neeming because even though its non-toxic, the Neem oil is clogging the plants stomata which makes breathing harder for them.

      If you are going to harvest soon after Neeming you might want to rinse the leaves with warm water to remove the oil residue.

      Good Luck

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