Aphid Infestation Wiped Out My Purple Kale

Posted on Jun 21 2010 - 3:43am by Mike Lieberman

A few weeks ago the cabbage worms killed the container that had the oak greens in them. This week an aphid infestation has wiped out the container with the purple kale.

The natural garden pest control worked well for a bit, but I couldn’t keep up with them. There were massive gray clumps of them on the plant each time I went out there.

When I had my fire escape garden in New York City, I had no insect problems at all. In the two months that I’ve had my balcony garden, the insects have already wiped out two containers.

I still refuse to use any kind of pesticides or nasty ass chemicals. What I’ll have to do is buy some netting and make row covers to keep the insects out.

Between killing all the seeds and two containers falling victims to insects, I’m not having the best of luck in LA so far, but I’m still gonna keep on growing.


36 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Tee Riddle June 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm -

    I hate bugs. Well, the bad ones anyway. That sucks about the aphids, those dudes are ruthless. The row covers might be a great idea. I'm not sure how well ladybugs would work since you are on a balcony, but I know ladybugs eat aphids like mad.

  2. Chamomilla June 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm -

    Have you tried Neem oil? I plan to try it on my herd of aphids as soon as I get hold of it…

  3. Cynthia June 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm -

    Yeah the ladybugs are good, if you can get them to come/stay in your garden area. I see ads all the time to buy them and lacewings. I had large amounts of aphids that took over and killed 2 of my Yucca plants out front of my house (they were 3 years old, grew from small and had beautiful flowers). Turns out it was over watering and a pipe had burst under grown and I was watering them too much. I also had that problem on some cucumbers plants last season and now that I think back it was too much water. Being in Texas it gets so hot and me being a new garderner I thought I was doing the right thing. Now I try to watch the waterning, but not to the point of killing the plant. Good luck. Is LA weather considerably different from New York, maybe more humidity???

  4. Lynett Andrea June 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm -

    The darn cabbage worms got to my red cabbage but I'm hoping I caught them early enough to save the crop. Have you heard of the soapy water mist for controlling aphids? Just put a drop or two of dish soap in a spray bottle…doesn't hurt the plant. 🙂

  5. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm -

    The lady bugs wouldn't do very well on my balcony. I'd release them and they'd fly away. There's too much else around for them.

  6. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm -

    I have yet to use Neem oil, but have heard of using it. Lemme know how it works out for you.

  7. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm -

    LA is def diff than NY in terms of weather. It's much warmer and drier here.

  8. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm -

    I'll give the Dr. Bronner's soap another go. I think I just might've been been lazy on using it.

  9. Tiffany June 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm -

    Another balcony gardener here in Chicago has suggested planting marigolds to keep the aphids away–she was having problems with them on her eggplant. We haven't had issues with aphids, so I don't know if it works or not, she says it helped her some.

  10. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm -

    I'll have to look into that. I've heard that marigolds help out in many ways. Thanks for the tip.

  11. this_urban_homestead June 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm -

    You might try a preventative spray that is all natural. I mix one up that uses Meyer's Dish Soap and neem oil. I spray once every two or three weeks and have noticed a huge improvement over last year already. There are tons of recipes online. All it does is make the leaves and things taste bad to the insects.

  12. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm -

    I've been using Dr. Bronners and water. Maybe not often enough? Too weak? Might give it until the end of the week to see if I can revive.

  13. this_urban_homestead June 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm -

    See if you can get your hands on some neem oil. I really do think that might be the key. I don't think there is going to be a difference between the soaps, they are both natural and simply use different oils.

  14. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm -

    Word. Will do.

  15. Sketchkat06 June 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm -

    sympathies to you dude. Those nasty critters wiped out several broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages this year. I find they are very partial to anything in the cabbage family (kale included) though I managed to fight them off my kale. The row cover is a great idea. So far, better than using any spray or soap, just wiping them off with fingers (ew!) for a small number of aphids, or a small wet rag for larger infestations has worked best.

    Y'know I bought a used bedskirt from the SA to make a canopy shade and the material is very likely light enough to let light through but still screen out bugs…. perhaps you could look for some thin sheets on cheap there? Good luck!

  16. Mike Lieberman June 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm -

    They are pretty damned nasty. Will do. From what I've heard the netting at the fabric store is pretty cheap as well.

  17. Whenuwish1 June 22, 2010 at 4:08 am -

    Bugs are starting to get me too —- I found a whole bunch of shiny looking beetles on my basil plants, and something is putting holes in the leave of my pepper plants.

    I'm about to open up a whole can of whoop-%$$ on them (Organic, of course).

    Never give up, never surrender, dude!

  18. Mike Lieberman June 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm -

    What do you plan on using?

  19. Whenuwish1 June 22, 2010 at 8:17 pm -

    Well, so far the beetles aren't DOING anything — just hanging out. No plant damage that I can see.So I pick up the pot and sorta shake them off.

    I have NO idea what is eating the pepper leaves — I'm going to try the Neem oil and soap first. If that doesn't work I'll cover them.

    If THAT doesn't work I plan to cry like a girl and hope the bugs are emotionally moved enough to leave my peppers alone.

  20. Mike Lieberman June 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm -

    Shaking them off seems like an easy way to handle the beetles. Crying also seems like a viable method. I've heard that insects are very sensitive creatures.

  21. Brenda June 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm -


    I found some organic pest control tips here….maybe one will work. Good luck!

  22. Mike Lieberman June 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm -

    Appreciate the link. Thanks.

  23. Carol April 9, 2011 at 2:10 am -

    boil some water with cayenne. spray on leaves.
    sometimes urine works. it didn’t this last time for me.
    don’t worry about urine bacteria—if it’s your own, it’s just feeding the plant

  24. Mike Lieberman April 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm -

    Nice. Thanks for the tip.

  25. i heart salt June 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm -

    What was your resolve on the aphids? Dr. Bronner’s? I just spent an hour hosing down my tomato plants and I am considering the Dr. B spray bottle route. Think it matters which one you use? I keep the almond one on hand.
    Thanks for all of the great advice!

  26. Mike Lieberman June 30, 2011 at 12:56 am -

    It definitely helps to spray down with the Dr. B and then spray down with water 20 mins after each application.

  27. Colorado Gardener January 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm -

    THANKS for your pic. Its what’s on my kale this year. My local greenhouse suggested essential oil of cinnamon + water in a spray bottle.  I tried all tips, but to resolve the issue, the work would be so intense in the off season (its winter here), it would zap my fervor for springtime planting. So, I removed all kale from my winter plot. Sigh.

  28. Mike Lieberman January 6, 2012 at 8:40 am -

    They definitely seem to hit harder in the spring and summer.

  29. Whofrey March 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm -

    Mike, I had the same problems with my Kale, Kohlrabi and Apple Tree. I used a 50/50 mix of vegetable oil and liquid dish soap and sprayed them with about a 4 tbls/gal mix of water. These little buggers dried up and died. I continued to spray once a week and my problems were solved. Hope this help. Keep up the good work. 

  30. Mike Lieberman March 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm -

    Thanks for the tip!

  31. Robbie March 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm -

    I had an aphid problem the first summer I was here in GA.  I order lady bugs on the web.  Not only did they take care of the aphids, but they layed eggs, so they’re the gift that keeps on giving.  I think I’ll order some since I just got kale seeds from one of your sponsors…

  32. Mike Lieberman March 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm -


  33. Vawojtowicz July 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm -

    I used garlic organic spray and milk to keep the Aphids off my roses and still had to pick some off. But with a food source plant I think the netting is probably the best way to go:). Good luck. Aphids are the worse!

  34. Valerie August 24, 2013 at 3:29 am -

    Marigolds and other wild flowers bring in the ladybird and other birds and bugs to eat off the aphids and slugs……Encourage all these by planting marigold seeds (easy to grow) in between all veg as well as herbs, garlic and onions. Let nature do it’s job by planting a balance in your plot however small it is……..Blue tits love grubs but they also like blossom…….Allow them some and let them clean up the uglies by encouraging a bird feeder near the roots of your plants.

  35. krok January 14, 2015 at 10:11 pm -

    I just read that soaking tomato leaves overnight creates an alkaloid that kills the aphids. You strain it spray it and they die. I wish I had known that last year. My kale was three feet high but the little grey things hugged into the curly leaves and feasted.

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