Sunday, 17 April 2016

A drastic remedy for aphid infestation

For the last three years I have kept some of my mature chilli plants at the end of the growing-season, and over-Wintered them. I thought I was getting quite good at this, since this time I have successfully nurtured 9 plants through the cold months. There were several casualties though - I started with 15 - and I'm not really sure what makes the difference between death and survival. However, the biggest problem I have had is with aphids. Despite my sustained vigilance and efforts to prevent and then eradicate the blessed things, my chillis soon became infested with aphids. I tried many different ways to remove them, or at least keep them in check, none of which had much effect. Then a couple of weeks ago I tried spraying them with diluted Fairy Liquid washing-up liquid, something I had seen lots of people on social media advocating.


Well, the result was, shall we say, "dramatic"...


First the bad news: many of the plants began within a few hours to shed leaves. A couple of the plants lost almost all their leaves.





Now the good news: lots of aphids died too! I thought this might possibly be the end of my beloved chillis (actually I didn't spray all of them, just in case!), but fortunately they are definitely NOT dead, and are now beginning to produce new leaves, and the aphid population is substantially reduced. I hesitate to say "eliminated", because that would be unreasonably optimistic!


New growth appearing on Scotch Bonnet "Caribbean Antillais"



Brazilian Starfish


On Wednesday the weather was glorious - warm (18C) and sunny almost all day - and I seized the opportunity to take my chilli plants outside for a bit of fresh air. I removed all the dead/dying leaves and re-potted the plants in fresh compost, then gave them a feed of the "Cultivate" plant-food I am trialling. Here they are all lined-up. You can see that a couple of them look pretty bare.




My big Rocoto was one of the plants that was not affected by aphids (it spent most of the Winter in the garage, which is cooler), so it did not get the Fairy treatment, nor did it need re-potting.


There is a twist to this tale as well... Following the advice of other bloggers, I used the "Original" flavour of Fairy Liquid, but I hadn't realised that there are TWO versions, both called "Original". One is the mild version, and the other is the Fairy Platinum, which is much more powerful - in other words it has lots more chemicals in it - which are harmful to plants. I used the wrong one! The one to use is the one in the clear bottle (at right below), not the one in the silver-coloured bottle.



Both bottles use the word "Original", but in a different sense. I think the significance is that one is "original flavour" and the other is "original formula", or something like that.




Anyway, all is not lost. This plant is another that was not sprayed. It is "Turkey Small Red", and it is looking really good. It has already set six fruits and there are lots of flowers which hold the promise of more fruit to follow:


"Turkey Small Red"
There is also one fruit already on one of the two "Aji Limon" plants, which is a triumph in itself, since this variety is often one of the last to mature when grown anew from seed.


"Aji Limon"


The plant is quite big, though at this stage very "soft". It needs to spend some time outdoors to toughen-up.



"Aji Limon"


Meanwhile, the chillis I have grown from seed are progressing well. Most of them are about 5 or 6 inches tall - big enough to spend some time outdoors, though mostly (as seen here) with a bit of protection.





12 comments:

  1. I wonder how toxic the chemicals are?

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    1. They dissolve grease pretty well...

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  2. Its always good to learn from other's mistakes. Blogging at its best when you are so honest!
    Not that your chillis look bad - they are a triumph.
    By the way are they all chillis or are some sweet peppers?
    It's not uncommon for overwintered plants that have to suffer poor winter light to get bad attacks of aphids.
    Sometimes premature loss of old tired leaves is not a bad thing!

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    1. Roger, at present I have only one Sweet Pepper (a no-name one from Turkey). All the rest are chillis. With a bit of luck I will soon have a "Piment d'Espelette" plant, which produces exceptionally mild chillis that are nearer Sweet Peppers than their name implies.

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  3. When i use a dishsoap treatment for aphids I do it a little differently... I put the plant in the sink, get soap dishsoap on my hands with a little water, then I GENTLY massage the entire plant (stems & both sides of each individual leaf) with my hands. When the plant is completely soaped up, I turn on gentle spray & thoroughly rinse the plant. Some of the soapy water rinses into the soil - I never mind that because the method has never failed to rid the plants of aphids (gone completely, not just hiding) & I have never experienced the drastic leaf loss you have pictured. I leave the plants in the sink to drip out excess moisture & then put them back on their shelves. I do not use any particular dish liquid, whatever is on hand does the trick.

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    1. Sounds like a long job! How many plants do you have?

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  4. My overwintering attempt a couple of years ago was also a disaster due to aphids, but my plants succumbed much sooner than yours, not even lasting until Christmas. Will have to try this treatment (with an alternative soap as we don't have Fairy here) next time.

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  5. Hi Mark, I guess we all have tried a lot of things for aphids, I didn’t like the washing-up liquid method because it lasts for such a short time – and being a busy gardener I have many more important things to do than washing away aphids. I have ended up using an organic, systemic product from Bakker which is fermented soy with herbs, and I have used it for almost 10 years. I could not have a garden like mine without this product and as a disabled gardener it enables me to garden when I want to, not when the garden desperately needs me to. I mainly use the ‘soil drench method’ since with the amount of plants I have it would be very costly and time consuming doing it any other way. The effect lasts 3-4 weeks. But I also spray as a top-up in the spring on roses and other plants especially affected. It even works on red lily beetles! You can check it out here:
    http://www.spaldingbulb.co.uk/product/pireco-foliar-for-insects

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    1. Hi Helene; Thanks for the info about the stuff from Bakker. I might try that next time. Have you used it on chillis?

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    2. I haven’t grown chillies for a few years, but when I did I never had aphids on them – I grew them together with my tumbler tomatoes and basil and one basil plant for each group of chilli and tomato plant took care of keeping the aphids away :-) But I can’t see any reason why you can’t use this on chillies too, I would use soil drench though after fruiting, not spray the fruit. This stuff stinks! Don’t mix it indoors, as it is oil based it will linger for days….I did that the first time. The fermented soy basically smells like something you have forgot at the back of your fridge. But it really works! I am surprised not more people use it. The company who produce it also sell trade version/size but this can’t be bought here, I am considering buying it from Ireland as it will be cheaper in the long run. Let me know how you get on with it and if you have any question please just ask. PS! I am not on commission from them – but probably should be, I have been promoting this stuff for years as it is so good.

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    3. Helene, you're not making this stuff sound attractive, you know!

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    4. Oh, I know – but seriously, it works, and for me being able to do this once a month or so from March to September and be largely free of aphids is such a help. Never mind a bit of stink when you mix and apply it :-) And it helps for a lot more than aphids – even red spider mites! I grow a lot of lilies, I think I have over 200 now, I could not grow lilies on this scale without this stuff, they would have been decimated by red lily beetles.

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