Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

220 Aphid Control Tips. Chickens vs. Heat

August 16, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 220
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
220 Aphid Control Tips. Chickens vs. Heat
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Wherever you live, wherever you garden, at some point in the year, your plants will get aphids. This sucking insect enjoys the sap from many of your favorite plants, including vegetables, fruits, flowers, shrubs and trees. Aphids can also spread plant diseases. Oh, and they do attract ants, who covet the sweet excretions of aphids. We have tips for controlling this widespread garden pest, aphids. 

Record breaking temperatures persist throughout much of the northern hemisphere this summer. How are your backyard chickens doing with the heat. We have strategies for helping your roosters and hens and chicks cope with triple digit heat, this summer.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, links, product information, and transcripts at the new home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout

Pictured: Aphids on a rose bud

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Dave Wilson Nursery

Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects (with pictures of the beneficials)

All About Aphids (UC)

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GB 220 TRANSCRIPT Aphids. Chickens vs. Heat

Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by smart pots the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container it's made in the USA visit smart For more information and a special discount, that's smart

Farmer Fred  0:20  

 Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot. 

Farmer Fred  0:31  

Wherever you live, wherever you garden, at some point in the year, your plants will get aphids. This sucking insect enjoys the sap from many of your favorite plants, including vegetables, fruits, flowers, shrubs and trees. Aphids can also spread plant diseases. Oh, and they do attract ants, who covet the sweet excretions of aphids. We have tips for controlling this widespread garden pest, aphids. 

Record breaking temperatures persist throughout much of the northern hemisphere this summer. How are your backyard chickens doing with the heat. We have strategies for helping your roosters and hens and chicks cope with triple digit heat, this summer.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go! 

Farmer Fred  1:33  

If there's one garden problem that just about every gardener complains about its aphids. They're out in spring, summer, and if you live in a nice place, fall and winter, too. Aphids are sucking insects. They can reproduce without mating. They produce a sticky mess, and they attract ants. Plus they can suck the life out of your plant and vector diseases as well. They are not a good guy. I don't know of any socially redeeming value of aphids. Well, I take that back. Maybe our guest, America's favorite retired college horticultural Professor, Debbie Flower, might say something nice about aphids. She always has something nice to say about everything.

Debbie Flower  2:13  

They are food for other insects, the insects that we call the beneficials or the natural enemies. They eat aphids.

Farmer Fred  2:19  

And not only that, but they also serve as little homes for brand new beneficial insects, too, and those beneficials lay their eggs in the aphids.

Debbie Flower  2:27  

They lay their eggs in the aphids, and then when the eggs hatch, they eat the aphid, from the inside out.

Farmer Fred  2:32  

Well, obviously then, we are arriving at the point where we can probably say with a good deal of certainty that if you spray for aphids with a non-discriminating chemical spray, you're going to be killing off the good guys, too.

Debbie Flower  2:46  

Yes, the good guys seek out the aphids, the lady beetles, seek them out, the lacewings, the soldier beetles, the wasps, the little tiny wasps, not the ones that bite humans. They're so small, you really have to know what you're looking for to see them. So don't worry about those wasps. But all of those are around those aphids, and among the aphids, and maybe even inside the aphids, and if you spray to kill the aphids, you spray to kill those as well. And that's a bad thing to do to your garden.

Farmer Fred  3:14  

Well, let's talk a little bit about aphids. People probably noticed them the most in the spring, when they are especially on roses, you'll see them right near the tips, going after the new buds. Snd they like tender young growth.

Debbie Flower  3:27  

They love young growth. That's the easiest, they're sucking insects. So they have to take their mouthparts and puncture the plant. And then that releases the sap. They have to get into the vascular system of the plant and get the liquids out of the plant. And that's what they survive on. And so it's much easier to puncture a very young growth piece than it is to puncture an older one.

Farmer Fred  3:47  

I believe it was you who explained to us that aphids and other sucking insects really don't suck. They just sort of poke a hole and the pressure from inside the leaf basically forces the sap from the leaf into the aphid.

Debbie Flower  4:00  

Right. They have plumbing inside of their body that allows  what they can handle for food to go into their stomach and be digested and use for food. But the extra that is too much for them comes out the other end, and that's what we call the honeydew. That’s those drops you get on your windshield, or the sticky stuff, the dark part on the sidewalk under a tree. That's called honeydew, and that's the excess plant sap that has gone through an insect stomach.

Farmer Fred  4:26  

And aphids come in a wide variety of colors.

Debbie Flower  4:28  

Oh They sure do. They blend in almost every color in the rainbow. Yeah,

Farmer Fred  4:32  

yeah. And other things that you will notice along with aphids is their relationship with ants.

Debbie Flower  4:39  

Yes, ants like that honeydew that comes out of the aphid. It's nice and sweet. It's a nice source. They have to work very hard for it, so the ants will hang around the aphids and they will herd the aphids, keep them together. They'll collect the honeydew out of the aphids’ butts, and they will ward off the beneficial or natural enemies that come to feed on the aphids.

Farmer Fred  4:58  

In a lot of situations, if you you can control the ants, you can control the aphids.

Debbie Flower  5:03  

Yes, very much. So, controlling the ants controls the aphids in many, many situations.

Farmer Fred  5:08  

One of the easiest ways I know to control aphid populations is just a blast of water from the hose. Wash them off the plant and they don't tend to get back on.

Debbie Flower  5:18  

right. once they're knocked off, they have little legs, but it's a long trip. Some do fly eventually. If there's a lot of aphids on the plant they will produce a population that fly so that they can go somewhere else. But a very strong stream, like fire hose strong, - not really, don't call the fire company - but just to give you an idea of strong. A really strong stream of water on the aphids will, if it's strong enough, it will actually squash their little bodies. But it knocks them off, knocks their feeding parts out of the plant, knocks them off, and they generally do not get back up.

Farmer Fred  5:50  

Well, all of America now wants to know about that strong blast of water. How strong can it be without damaging the plant?

Debbie Flower  5:58  

Depends on the plant. You'll have to experiment. Another way that I have used to control a particularly infested plant was on a honeysuckle. The new growth was so covered with aphids that the new growth looked gray instead of the green of the leaves of the honeysuckle. And so I just clipped off that new growth that was so heavily infested, and dumped it into soapy water. Soapy water is a good way to kill a lot of insects because insects breathe through their skin. And when it gets soap on it, that mucks up that system.

Farmer Fred  6:29  

Yeah, insecticidal soap is good for a lot of the garden bad guys with minimal damage to the good guys, unless the good guys are there.

Debbie Flower  6:38  

Right. If you touch the good guy insecticidal soap. Another type of pesticide often recommended for aphids and other insects is oils, horticultural oils, not your home vegetable oil. But they both work by covering the insects breathing apparatus, which as I said, is through their skin. So that kills them. But if the lady beetles are there and get hit, the beetles themselves (may die). The adult beetles probably wouldn't be there because they fly. Same with lacewings and soldier beetles but with Lacewings and lady beetles, they're larva don't have wings. And so if their larva were there, you potentially would kill them if they got coated in the (horticultural oil) pesticide, as well.

Farmer Fred  7:17  

And know those larval stages of the garden good guys, too. We'll have a link in today's show notes of what some of the good guys look like when they're just teenagers, especially the lady bugs that don't look anything like an adult lady bug, the teenage, younger lady bugs. I always like to say it looks like an alligator in a San Francisco Giants warm-up jacket.  black and orange.

Debbie Flower  7:39  

Yes, they're pretty odd looking and the lacewing ones they call them aphid lions so another similarly kind of ugly looking one not in a San Francisco Giants coat but different colors, tan, but they're not pretty. And people look at them and say what is that? and they're ready to kill it. Don't be ready to kill those.

Farmer Fred  7:57  

Exactly. Again, a blast of water on aphids can help control them. Not only are they a sucking insect taking the life out of the plant, but they can vector diseases as well.

Debbie Flower  8:06  

Yes, they can. That's how some viruses in particular are carried from plant to plant because the virus is traveling from the sap if it picks it up from one plant and takes it to another, where it feeds again.

Farmer Fred  8:17  

But I wouldn't let a few aphids put me in a panic, I would give time for the good guys to do the job.

Debbie Flower  8:23  

Right. In IPM, integrated pest management, there are steps you go through. And one is to prevent the aphids getting into your landscape. So don't use a lot of fertilizer, so you don't have a lot of young soft tissue. If you bring home a new plant, check it before you mingle it with the other plants, whether they're house plants or outdoor plants or vegetable plants or whatever. And check it. If it's got aphids, don't introduce it to your other plants. Don't use pesticides that will kill the beneficials in your landscape. Encourage the beneficials by having flowers, typically Daisy type flowers, for them to feed on or others that we see, like bolting chard or lettuce or basil or something like that. Control the ants. And keep the dust down. Because beneficials don't like to do their thing in dusty places, they'll go elsewhere, it's easier.

Farmer Fred  9:11  

water is a powerful elixir because not only can you wash off the aphids, but you can wash off the dust from those plants you bring home from the nursery. Maybe before you plant them, rinse them off. Especially the underside of the leaves or the surface of the soil where eggs may be.

Debbie Flower  9:24  

The undersides of leaves is where many of the plant pests hang out. So that is definitely a place you need to look when you're examining your plants that you already have and the plants that you're bringing home. Space the plants correctly. You want to space them for their mature size. If it's going to be a three foot plant, don't put anything closer than a foot and a half to any side of that plant. If the plants grow too close together, the beneficials can't get in there and can't do  their business. So that's prevention. Then you observe. So watch your plants. You can use a yellow sticky trap to collect the aphids or to see if you've got them. Look for the honeydew. And if there's honeydew, it might be sticky on the ground, it might be sticky on the leaves. Honeydew often hosts black mold fungus, it's just fungus that grows on the surface. It doesn't directly harm the plant, but it obviously cuts the light off so the plant can't grow. That's something you might see.

Farmer Fred  10:18  

Aphids go after a wide variety of plants, fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants.

Debbie Flower  10:23  

But they're pretty specific, one type of aphid like the yellow aphid, goes for the asclepia, which is milkweed, only gets on asclepia, which is milkweed. And it's not the same aphid that's on, say a crape myrtle, or that's on a rose. Those are different aphids, but they all act the same way.

Farmer Fred  10:40  

What about mulches? And I'm thinking of silver colored mulches, sort of like aluminum foil. I have heard that they won't land on plants where they can't see the ground. If they look down and they see a reflection of the sky, they'll keep moving,

Debbie Flower  10:55  

right, they orient themselves using the sky. And so if there's a mulch there that looks like the sky, they get confused, basically.

Farmer Fred  11:03  

And I guess that silver mulch could also maybe give you an earlier crop  in the case of food, because it is providing some warmth for the soil.

Debbie Flower  11:11  

It's trapping heat. Yes, but I would be concerned in a very high sun place like the Southwest US that you might get too much sun. In the beginning when the plants are small, and the mulch is reflecting a lot of light back up onto them. Eventually the plants will shade  the mulch.

Farmer Fred  11:29  

But to do that (adding a sheet of mulch) you need to clean out your garden first. Yes. And put down that mulch and it's sort of like using red plastic mulch around tomatoes, you will get an earlier crop, but you're sacrificing tomato production later on.

Debbie Flower  11:43  

And you're introducing a garbage, a plastic or a waste into the yard that maybe you don't need.

Farmer Fred  11:50  

All right, and we talked a little bit about chemical controls and the fact that there are so many general pesticides available, but again, the good guys are going to get it, just like the bad guys will get it. But you have to be wary of the weather, especially heat, when using oil.

Debbie Flower  12:09  

Yes, you can cause spotting, it can cause damage on the leafs when you're using oil.

Farmer Fred  12:14  

And just like with insecticidal soap, when it comes to using horticultural oils, you want a commercially available product, you don't want to be making homemade insecticidal soap. You don't want to be making homemade oils.

Debbie Flower  12:25  

right. Insecticidal soap is soap. It's not detergent. What we use in our kitchen and our laundry room and in our bathrooms is very often detergent, not soap. and detergent is much harder on plants and can damage plants.

Farmer Fred  12:40  

Really, just having the right plants in the right place. planting them correctly, taking care of them so they aren't stressed, is going to go a long way to helping prevent pest problems.

Debbie Flower  12:50  

That's very true. Often we get this question: “I have a row of this tree. They're all the same. I planted them all the same time. They're all in the same place. they'll get the same water. One has a pest problem.” Well, there's something stressing that one plant, the location, the root system, something the insects go to the plant that stressed.

Farmer Fred  13:11  

And rule number one when it comes to battling pests, is identify the pest. Yes, yeah. Know what you're dealing with. We'll have links on today's show notes about aphids with great pictures of aphids, so you have an idea of what you're going after. It's still scary to me that an aphid could reproduce without mating. Yeah. And especially if you have a greenhouse. It's Be careful, right?

Debbie Flower  13:34  

Right. So yeah, pictures of aphids, will you have pictures of cast skins, as aphids grow, they are like a snake, they have to get rid of their body skin and grow a new one. And so they leave little white specks on your plant, which is another sign of them on the plant. And the other one that you would want to learn to be able to identify is called an aphid mummy. And that's when the Wasp has laid its egg inside the aphid and it blows up to this egg shaped little structure, because the wasp is growing inside the aphid.

Farmer Fred  14:06  

Yeah, and that new baby Wasp then eats its way out of the aphid.

Debbie Flower  14:09  

Yes, and goes and kills other aphids.

Farmer Fred  14:12  

I've seen that movie. That's amazing how nature can help you out in that situation. If you want to know you have an aphid situation, yellow sticky traps will let you know you have an issue.

Debbie Flower  14:23  

right. They do not solve the problem. You can look at them and see that you've got aphids, but in order to do that, to know what an aphid looks like on a yellow sticky trap.

Farmer Fred  14:34  

yeah, everybody likes yellow.

Debbie Flower  14:36  

Yeah, don't wear yellow in the garden. You can bring aphids that land on you and you can move them from place to place yourself if you're wearing yellow in the garden.

Farmer Fred  14:46  

I guess you could soak that shirt in Tanglefoot first and then walk around the garden.

Debbie Flower  14:55  

trap them. Yeah, but yeah, there there are several insects that will be attacked. To get a yellow sticky trap, you can buy the yellow sticky traps. or you can buy plastic yellow plates and put the Tanglefoot on it. That’s  the commercial name of the (sticky goop). That’s just one. There's more than one. Or you can use Vaseline, or you can use very thick lubricating oil that's used in the auto industry, something that they will stick to, but the color yellow will still come out. Put them in the garden. This was a lab I did with the students, we'd make them and then  send them home with them and those office black office clips and clip them to someplace in the garden, then bring them back. And then we really need magnification to look at them. We used dissecting microscopes, but you can use a 10 power lens. And then you need a diagram of what they're going to look like, what these insects are going to look like after they’ve smashed onto a yellow plate.

Farmer Fred  15:45  

By the way, speaking of that, is that why you all your outdoor dinner parties use yellow plastic plates?

Debbie Flower  15:51  

I’m trying to get the aphids out of the garden. You know, I'll try anything. 

Farmer Fred  15:55  

Well, you build up a nice collection of yellow plates. There you go. There's your future traps. One nice thing about the commercial aphid yellow sticky traps is they're divided into grids, a grid printed on it. So you can actually count the number of aphids that you have. And if you have, I would think , more than one per square you've got a problem, right?

Debbie Flower

 numbers do matter. Yes, they do. 

Farmer Fred

Yeah, yeah, count them. use yellow sticky traps to monitor, a blast of water to control them, and encourage the beneficials by having lots of good bug hotels, those members of the daisy family, especially. And maybe keep around some of your old vegetable plants that are starting to flower because that attracts beneficial insects.

Debbie Flower  16:34  

Beneficials need to eat too. And they need both a protein meal, which is the aphid; and they need a sugar meal, which is from the flowers. 

Farmer Fred  16:42  

And they need a place to raise their young, right? Other than the backside of aphids, right? Yeah. All right. aphid controls. It's a passing phase in that eventually, if you just monitor the situation, and you see the good guys, I wouldn't worry about the aphids, I'd give that a chance for the good guys to do their job. Come back in a couple of weeks and see if you still have aphids.

Debbie Flower  17:04  

I don't know about a couple of weeks, but yeah. 

Farmer Fred

what would you do? 

Debbie Flower

I'd watch it every few days. See if I'm seeing damage, the damage would be distortion of the leafs  and discoloration. And if it's tolerable, than do nothing. If it's not tolerable, then I get out the hose and and spray them.

Farmer Fred  17:21  

Or if it's a really infested plant, you can cut off the infested portions yes plant.

Debbie Flower  17:27  

Yes, there are certain plants that do get infestations regularly. We talked about the butterfly weed and I talked about the honeysuckle, maybe you just don't grow them. 

Farmer Fred  17:37  

Or put them in another part of your garden right where the plant might be happier. Aphids. They’re here. We can learn to live with them, with a little bit of control. We can do this. Debbie Flower, thanks for your help on the aphid controls. 

Debbie Flower  17:49  

You're welcome Fred. 


Farmer Fred  17:54  

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Farmer Fred  19:49  

Occasional triple digit daytime high temperatures are with us for another few weeks or so. And we've talked in the past about caring for your garden in a heatwave. But what about your backyard chickens? Laying hens, especially, can be adversely affected by summer heat waves. And now's the time to take a few precautions. That’s according to Northern California based urban chicken consultant, Cherie Sintes-Glover.

Cherie Sintes-Glover  20:15  

When it comes to summer heat, that's what affects chickens more than anything. And that's because of a couple things. The first one is that chickens actually have a higher body temperature. So for them, when  it gets to be in the 70s, that's probably  the absolute perfect temperature range for them. That's when they're the happiest. The daylight hours are enough for them to generate those eggs, and they're doing great. But once that temperature begins to rise and increase, and especially here in the Central valley of California, we get temperatures over 100 to 110, sometimes even 115, if you're up near the Chico area. And that is brutal. That's when you're actually going to have a chicken death on your hands. So the best way to prevent heat stress in chickens is you can do a couple things. Number one is avoid feeding treats like chicken scratch, that means like corn, scratch, anything like that. And those carbohydrates are going to actually increase that chicken’s body temperature. So I have a strict rule in my backyard flock, which is no scratch, new corn scratch, during the summer months, when it's basically over 85 degrees. Then another thing you can do is have good airflow. You want there to be good ventilation. And chickens tend to reset their body temperature at night when the temperature is lower. So I actually have large box fans that are set up on a timer. And what that does is they switch on and off during the cooler hours of the early morning. And that allows that chicken to kind of reset and be able to handle it, especially if we go into day after day after day with those 100 degrees or more temperatures outside. You also want to make sure your chickens have good, fresh, cold water and use electrolytes. They actually have  basically its powder Gatorade for your chickens, that are called poultry electrolytes. You can find them at any poultry store or even on Amazon, and pick those up. Add those to the water but don't wait until it's 100 degrees. What you're going to do is be able to add in a few days before. So watch your weather reports. When you know that a heatwave is coming, don't wait . Go ahead and start the birds on the electrolytes before that. You just add them to the water, which makes it super simple. And one last trick and actually I learned this from someone who used to show rabbits. What you do is you take a two liter bottle or any kind of plastic bottle. You fill it up with water and you freeze it. Then what you can do is place those frozen water bottles inside your chicken coop. What's cool about that: not only will it provide a little bit of coolness when it evaporates and starts to melt, but you'll find that your chickens will snuggle up next to that frozen two liter water bottle just to help them cool off during the hottest parts of the day. And what's super great is that it doesn't create a mess. A lot of people want to go with misters, but I find that those end up creating pools of water that really aren't healthy for the birds to drink out of and they tend to clog up right there more more work than they're worth so those will be my my biggest tips when it comes to eliminating or at least help preventing heat stress in your chicken.      

Farmer Fred  23:22  

Probably some shade, too. 

Cherie Sintes-Glover  23:26  

Oh yes. I forgot about the shade. It's funny because to me I'm like shade is automatic and that's partly for me as the chicken keeper because I would not want to work with my chickens in the hot sun but oh my gosh yes make sure they have a good shaded area to go to. It still gets really hot, even in the shade but at least that will provide them some protection from the sun. So a nice tree, a shade cloth you can set that up, anything you can do to help those chickens, especially in the late afternoon sun. 

Farmer Fred  23:49  

Find out more information at Cherie’s website,


Farmer Fred  24:03  

Nothing scares me more than seeing a group of tree trimmers emerge from an unmarked truck and start pruning or removing the neighbors trees. My fear is for the financial health of my neighbors. If those workers, who may or may not be certified arborists, are not currently licensed, bonded and insured, those neighbors may be financially responsible if one of the workers is injured on their property, or the tree trimming activity causes damage to their house or their neighbors house or property. And the fact that everyone arrived in unmarked vehicles? That’s a red flag. On Friday’s Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter and podcast, we find out more information to help you choose a qualified tree trimming firm. Or tree removal firm. Especially if your tree is a victim of a very common summertime occurrence, sudden limb failure, when big branches crash to the ground, on a hot, non-windy afternoon. And yes, besides, arborists, we will have more information about this poorly understood problem of old, large oaks, eucalyptus, elms and ash trees. The key to reducing the chance of this happening on your property, is to bring in an arborist for an evaluation. Perhaps a consulting arborist. It’s all part of Friday’s Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter and podcast.

Find a link to the newsletter in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free, Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the Garden Basics podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. That’s at Garden Basics dot net. For current newsletter subscribers, look for  All About Arborists and sudden limb failure in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter on the morning of Friday, August 19th in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link at garden basics dot net. 

Farmer Fred  26:13  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.

Aphid Control Tips
Smart Pots!
Chickens vs Heat
Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter