Mix chard bed

The National Gardening Association recently ran a report  which stated that the main reasons people grow food in their gardens are:

58% desire better tasting food
54% want to save money on food bills
51% want better quality food
48% want to grow food they know is safe

–“Calling All Gardeners,” by Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., March 23, 2011,

It’s raining again!  With cold temps,rain and a dusting of snow on the mountains, it’s hard to believe spring is here.   All in all, guess it was a pretty mild winter and a wet one to boot.   We sure did need the rain!

In the garden arena, the broccoli was downright mediocre- big plants, gorgeous leaves puny heads.  Last year we had lovely huge heads; but, this year was a disappointment.  Not to worry!  Nothing goes to waste here at the urban homestead, broccoli leaves are great to cook with – just ask sis.

Because of the somewhat mild winter, the aphids thrived and survived.  Not good! Hundreds have been spotted MUCH earlier than in normal years.  They are now happily sucking on the juicy steams of our lovely kales and chards.  We’ll tolerate these sap suckers for awhile, hoping they’ll move on to our beneficial borders of host plants – nasturtiums.  Or  hope that the lady bugs roll into town soon.

If not, I might just have to take matters into our my hands and shoot ‘em with a nice garlic spray.

Garlic Spray (via

1 garlic bulb
1 quart of water
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

Crush the garlic, mincing it fine. Add finely chopped onion to the mixture, while adding the rest of the ingredients except the soap. Wait an hour before adding the soap to the mixture. The spicy ingredients must sort of stew or steep, almost like tea. After an hour, add the soap and your non-toxic spray is ready to use! This can be stored in the fridge for a week.

Every growing season, there’s always something to contend with.  It’s the roll of the dice when it comes to farming.


  1. Tessa says:

    Have you guys had lower than normal temperatures? And how about the wind? We are having a heck of a time getting things up and running since we moved because of lower temps and high winds- according to my records anyway. Then again, we did move to a much colder zone!

  2. Chris says:

    This is the recipe given to me by my Organic Gardener Mentor Angel, Sophie, when those nasty aphids attacked my edible tea roses 2 springs ago. Little suckers fell right off and were not happy!

    10 Drops Organic Lavender Essential Oil
    1 TBSP. Dr. Bronner’s or other Castille Soap (acts as the carrying agent)
    (Note: Sophie recommended we use the Peppermint or Tea Tree variety as I had small bottles of both on hand)
    Warm Water in a Spray Bottle. (About 1 cup)
    Mix, Shake & Spray.

    Sophie recommended not using more than once a week.
    Try to avoid spraying between 10 am – 2 pm

  3. Aimee says:

    My broccoli didn’t do that well this year either. The heads were a decent size but we haven’t got the side shoots that we did last year. We were eating broccoli well into summer. My big pest this year GOPHERS! Killed our artichoke and got into the lettuce patch. I’ve trapped 5 so far, but there are so many more. Grrr!

  4. Amy Nance says:

    Your website has really inspired me, and I have learned so much from the articles. Thanks for getting all of this info out there! Also, thanks for this recipe! I had a real problem with aphids last year, but I don’t want to use chemicals on food plants. This will be an great alternative. I do have one question….it sounds like the water would need to be hot in order to steep the spicy ingredients. I just wanted to be sure that my assumption was correct. Thanks!

  5. Nebraska Dave says:

    I guess it was our turn here in Nebraska. Thursday night we got 4 inches of wet sloppy snow. Most of it melted Friday but now Saturday morning it snowing again. Every year it seems that March for Nebraska is a very unstable month. It can be 85 with sun or in the twenties with snow or any where inbetween. Actually wet sloppy snow is the best moisture because as it melts it all soaks into the ground and none runs off. It’s actually better than an April shower.

    Have a great California garden day.

  6. susanne says:

    Ouch! It may not be toxic but I’m so glad I’m not an aphid in your garden. I will add your scary recipe to my collection of home-made pesticides. Just reading the list of ingredients makes my eyes water. Our aphids won’t be here till June, so we’ll use it then. Is it your own concoction or did some other fiendish professor come up with it?
    I’ll give your website a mention if it’s alright- always enjoy reading your reports

  7. jengod says:

    Love that you’re blogging, Justin. More more more!

    • Anais says:

      @jengod: Copy that!

  8. Tricia says:

    About 10 years ago I made some of this because we were getting ravaged by aphids in Miami’s heat. We had a house guest staying with us who came home and found a pitcher of amber liquid on the counter. He got a glass full of ice, poured himself a big glass and took two huge gulps of my super hot garlic aphid spray. It took his brain 2 seconds to figure out what happened. I don’t know who was choking more, him for drinking it or me for laughing on the floor. Lessons learned: always smell what you are going to drink and if you are in someone elses house ask before you help yourself to their “tea”.

    • Anais says:

      @Tricia: What a funny story! Thanks for sharing! 😉 Yep, you never know what you might encounter at us city farm folks homes … strange concoctions in what seems to be innocent bottles. LOL

    • Anais says:

      @Tricia: What a funny story! Thanks for sharing! 😉 Yep, you never know what you might encounter at city farm folks homes … strange concoctions in what seems to be innocent bottles. LOL

  9. Robin Milcowitz says:

    A friend of mine grows yard long beans (summer beans) as a “sacrificial plant” to draw aphids away from your other plants. They tend to emigrate to this plant more because the ants (who protect them) utilize the plant as well. It’s a symbiotic relationship and what you’ll begin to see is that the plant will become a great nursery for ladybugs that will eventually move on to your other plants.

    • Anais says:

      @Robin Milcowitz: I like that analysis! How aptly put. Thanks for sharing

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