So, this week, the blackfly showed up on my vegetable patch.
This was earlier than I’d been expecting, and interestingly they’d made a beeline for my overwintered broad beans. I don’t normally overwinter broad beans, but late last year I had a few seeds, and missing the buzz of germinating seeds I sowed them under a cloche.
I’ve often heard that overwintered broad beans are less susceptible to blackfly, so I was interested to find out if this really was the case. I hear this advice every year, and I often wonder if it has any truth or is one of those old tales of allotments past.
Fortunately, I caught the blackfly early, loitering on a single bean pod, and quickly tossed the whole thing in my Council garden waste bin.
Although commonly known as a broad bean lover, blackfly unfortunately attack lots of other allotment favourites, such as courgettes, French beans and runner beans. They’re a sap sucking insect that attack young growth in large clusters, weakening the plant and stunting its growth.
How to Get Rid of Blackfly
It was my young runner bean plants that have taken the hit so far this year. Out of nowhere, the blackfly had taken over pretty much every plant around my wigwam. Having only just discovered pests eating my strawberries, I got all overcome and melodramatic, exclaiming 2015 as a difficult growing year and writing off runner bean recovery before I’d even made any effort to save them.
I cleared my head and made my way into the kitchen. It was time for the soap and water.
Hot, soapy water, sprayed over the infestations is the best way I have found to deal with blackfly. You have to stick at it, as getting rid of them may take several days of spraying but I’ve found that eventually this method does work. I’m not sure Fairy Liquid is purist organic, but it’s just about good enough for me…
Lewis thought ‘washing the plants’ (and everything else on the patch) was great fun, but I’m not sure he enjoyed squishing the little bugs as much. I really can’t describe how odd squishing blackfly between feels, but it really is strange. You’ll hopefully know what I mean, as I think this might be one of those things that only a veg grower understands.
Three Days Later
Three days later and it looks like everything is going to be okay. The blackfly appears under control thanks to good old Fairy (other washing up liquids are available), and Lewis and me have found another garden job we enjoy doing together.
Nasturtiums as Sacrificial Plants
Another tip I have used in the past is to grow nasturtiums as sacrificial plants. A load of nasturtiums are as cheap as chips and blackfly love them. Planted out amongst the beans and courgettes, the blackfly will attack the nasturtiums instead of the veg plants. Of course, this method cannot be 100% successful, but I’ve found that it does reduce the amount of blackfly on the beans.
I suppose the moral of the blog post is don’t panic if you discover blackfly. It’s not the end of your crops. Just get rid of the blighters with some soapy spraying and thumb and fore finger squashing, and with a bit of luck, all will be okay.
If only dealing with those pesky cabbage whites was as easy.