Last month, I noticed my chives were growing a little out of control. I decided to manicure their unsightly appearance, and I cut them all the way down to a few inches off the ground. I just wanted to freshen them up, but it turns out I made a colossal mess. What was a problem free plant is now teeming with black aphids.
Alas, my solution has been to cut the chives again. They were so infested, I decided to remove the problem and start from scratch. After a second haircut, I took Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap, liquid form (you can purchase at Walgreens, grocery stores, Amazon, etc.) and rubbed it all over the stubby shoots. I was careful to apply it liberally and took care to get it down deep between the shoots, especially on the older shoots that had an exterior papery layer like an onion where the aphids could hide.
Dr. Bronner’s soap is a great organic solution to soft-bodied insects infesting plants. The soap kills the aphids by essentially suffocating them. If you don’t have Dr. Bronner’s and aren’t worried about staying 100% organic, you can use almost any liquid dish soap or edible oil you have around the house. It’s important not to apply the oil or soap when the temperatures outside exceed 90° or if the plant appears drought stressed. Many recommendations suggest making a spray with the soap with a 1 to 2% oil or soap solution in water. I’m a little too lazy to getting around to making a spray, so in my case, I just applied the soap directly.
A week later I returned to check up on the chives and it was apparent that I had gotten the situation under control, but not resolved. Like most problems in the garden, it seemed I needed a multi-solution approach. In addition to the haircut and shampoo, I have now been spraying the chives with a strong jet stream of water about once a week. This knocks the aphids off their food source and they are not smart/strategic enough to climb back up.
Three weeks have passed since I initially discovered my aphid problem and the chives are looking much better. I will continue to monitor the chives, but I feel confident that they are now on the road to a full recovery.
Aphids are one of the most troublesome and interesting pests I’ve encountered in the garden. I love their bizarre life cycle! Did you know they are the Madonnas of the insect world. They fully engage in Immaculate Conception, giving birth to 100% clones of them selves.
For a more in depth understanding of aphids and managing them, check out the University of California's IPM website.