In Second Nature, Michael Pollan described his efforts to stop a woodchuck from eating his garden; efforts that ended with Pollan pouring a gallon of gasoline into the woodchuck’s burrow and setting it on fire.
I get the temptation.
Those lettuce seedlings I put in last week had aphids. Which doesn’t make me love my nursery any less, by the way — I’d rather have organic seedlings with a few bugs than bug-free seedlings that have been doused in pesticides.
That said, aphids are not something you want to blithely ignore. They breed fast, and while I’ve never had them actually kill an otherwise healthy plant, they are a pain to scrub off your salad greens.
So I set about de-aphiding the lettuce. Soapy water is rumored to be a good kid-safe aphid killer, though you have to re-apply it regularly — it only works if you get the soap on the aphids themselves. So before I planted the lettuce, I put a squirt of eco-friendly dish soap in a bowl of water, and dipped the leaves of each plant, swishing them them around to dislodge as many critters as possible.
Every few days, if I saw more aphids, I squirted the plants with more soapy water from a spray bottle, making sure to coat the undersides of the leaves and down in the crevices where the bugs like to hide. I thought about letting the soap sit for a couple of hours and then rinsing it off, but didn’t get around to it, and the lettuces didn’t seem to mind.
After 3 or 4 treatments, the aphids were pretty much gone, the lettuces were thriving, and I was starting to think about harvesting a few leaves with the boys to make a tiny homegrown salad.
Sensing my smugness, the deer showed up that night and nibbled every single plant down to an inch above the soil.