How to Get Rid of Aphids on your Kale
Aphids are some of the most annoying insect pests that can infest your kale crops. If you are diligently monitoring your vegetable garden, you may be able to recognize early on if aphids have begun to find a home in your kale. However, if you leave your garden unattended for any significant length of time, you may come back to it and find things completely covered in these bothersome bugs. They can reproduce and multiply very quickly, so it’s best to not let things get out of control in the first place!
Aphids are quite recognizable to many gardeners. They are very small and gray/green in colour. Where you find one aphid, you will usually find many. In large colonies, the kale leaves tend to curl and cover many of them, making them harder to identify and remove.
To prevent the aphids from ruining your crops, they can be controlled by several of their natural enemies. Ladybugs, fly larvae, wasps, and birds can all help to keep the aphid population under control. To do so, however, the crop needs to be exposed. Growing within a confined greenhouse or under a tarp may help the kale to grow, but it prevent these predators from getting to the bugs.
Aphids and their eggs can also survive on other weeds in the garden, so ensure that the garden is free of weeds before starting your kale crop.
Monitor your garden frequently, inspecting the leaves of your crops for early signs of aphid infestation. You may find them on the undersides of leaves or closer to the stems, where they will begin to suck the sap from the plant. This is their main method of damaging the plant, by depriving the plant of its nutrients, or possibly infecting the plant with diseases. Because of their overlapping leaves, it is very important that you be diligent in your inspections. If you notice a few aphids, an easy way to get rid of them is to simply spray them with the garden hose or a spray bottle. This will knock them off the plants, but not kill them. If you add a few drops of soap to your spray bottle, then this is more toxic to the insects and will help to kill them.
Even if a small population of aphids manages to survive on your crops, your kale will still likely grow into the wonderful vegetable that you were hoping to get. When you harvest the kale leaves, inspect them all to ensure that they look healthy and they don’t have any unnoticed bug infestations growing. As with all vegetables grown in your own garden, you must be sure to wash the leaves thoroughly. Submerge the leaves in cold water, and vigorously shake them to help wash any clinging aphids off and into the water. If you find the pests floating in the water after doing this, drain the water, and rinse again until you are satisfied that the kale leaves are clean. At this point, you can proceed to cook a delicious meal using the kale that you can be proud of having grown yourself, despite the annoying threat of pests such as aphids.
For more information, The University of California has a very informative website with more information about garden pest management.