Aphids & Artichokes & Ants (Oh My)

It’s been fun watching the progress of our young artichoke plants with their silvery foliage.

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Well, it was fun until about a week ago when I noticed black areas along the stems of two of the lovely plants and looked closer to see hundreds of aphids! ICK. The black netting is protection against chickens who would dig up this bed mercilessly.

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Aphids feed by sucking the plant’s juices at the same time as they inject their toxic saliva into the plant. The plant may eventually weaken, become stunted and even die. The aphids may also transmit diseases to their host plant.

One might think that introducing a bunch of ladybugs could control the aphids organically, but the problem is I’ve seen ants, too. Aphids in the garden are often followed by ants. Ants would protect the aphids against ladybugs because they work for a special food that the aphids produce called honeydew which is sticky sweet and the ants’ favorite.

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Since we are organic gardeners, we don’t use pesticides at Coppertop. A strong blast of water from this BugBlaster (a gift a while back from a sister and tucked away) will usually get rid of aphids.

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It did a good job on the first attempt, as shown here. Quite a difference!

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One thing to be aware of is the BugBlaster doesn’t work like the “jet” setting on a typical sprayer, but instead as a 360-degree finer water blast, which I would have seen if I read the fine print. It blasted me on the first go around.

It is suggested that you spray every other day in the morning, allowing the plants to dry in the sun. To be certain I have the problem under control, I also made a spray of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure Castile Soap (2 Tbls per sprayer bottle) to apply to the artichoke plants tomorrow.

A trusted source informed me that it’s fine to let the artichoke buds go to flower their first year to gather strength for the plant for future years’ harvests, a bit like our asparagus. Good thing, since after seeing the aphids suck the life out of the plants I may have lost my taste for artichokes.

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