It is summer, and the aphids are taking advantage of my little garden. Today the okra is under attack. What natural insecticides can be used?
Something much louder has been occurring the past few days. Truck after truck of debris is being moved out. Tornado Bob may have made a huge mess, but day by day, things are getting better.

July 9th 2013 Blog

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Aphid invasion.

Is it hot enough for you yet?  Another delightful summer day in Central Oklahoma.  I could remark about the Wolf spider that caught a Brown Recluse and is currently sucking it dry while clinging to the wall outside the front door.  That’s all I have to say.  I am sitting inside, typing away on my laptop, surrounded by cool air generated by an electric motor outdoors and pumped through ductwork suspended above the ceiling and back down into the living quarters via vents.  This morning was spent pulling weeds, cutting the one okra pod and pushing tomato fertilizer spikes in the soil around my half-eaten tomato plants.  The hornworms are gone.  I gave the tomatoes a pep talk and now they actually look… stronger.  The okra is another issue.  All seven of my okra plants have aphids clustered around their growth points and covering the young tiny okra pods.  It is time to blast the plants with water, and if that doesn’t work, bring out the insecticidal soap with its fatty acids.  Does terrible things to soft-bodied insects.  It is time for the Ivory.  Did you know Ivory soap has been around since 1879? 

Ivory’s claim to fame was it floated (it was whipped to incorporate air into the soap).  They did a contest in 2001 to see if soap that floated actually mattered.  Apparently not.  Ivory was reformulated to include glycerin, perfumes and tetrasodium EDTA, a lovely chemical thrown in to reduce soap scum.  Ivory now sinks, but I still use it for my plants.

 I keep leftover Ivory soap in some water inside a jar under the sink. One solid teaspoon mixed into one quart of warm water will make a very effective killing solution.  The soap has to be a surfactant (something that will cut down the surface tension of water) so the soap will work, either to loosen the aphids or wash dirt off your hands.  Natural soap has a pH of 9 or 10, making it very alkaline, but very useful.  Detergent is also a surfactant, but is derived from petroleum products.  Detergents stink, which is why they add perfumes and additional chemicals to them.  Don’t use detergents when washing your plants.  Also keep in mind some plants do not like soap on their leaves.

If looking for a natural soap and Ivory isn’t your thing, take a trip to the health food store and buy some Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure-Castile soap.  Fels Naptha (also employed for washing off poison ivy oils, but can be a skin irritant) may be found in supermarkets and is also quite good.  Coconut acid or palm kernel acids qualify for veggie fatty acids, but even beef tallow will work as an animal fatty acid source, but with some effort.  Rendered fat is solid at room temperature, so very warm water should be used to put it into solution.  Throw in some garlic, herbs, cayenne pepper, onions, etc.  Many insects do not like these spicy things.  And if you store it for any length of time, and did use beef tallow, you’ll also be treated to fleeting whisps of rancid fat when you open your container.   Just be careful where you apply your aged insecticidal soap, or some dog or cat will come by and roll on your treated plants in ecstasy.

Check out these sites for making your own anti-bug soap:‎‎

Goodbye trees, shrubs, windows, shingles, siding, insulation….

The clean-up of tornado Bob has been going on since Saturday.  Teams of trucks, cranes directed by men sitting, pivoting and manipulating scoops from the anchored end, skip loaders and chain saws have been thumping, grinding, thudding, crunching and roaring throughout each day.  Much progress has been made as the train of vehicles loaded with debris rumble up and down the road, each load reducing the piles that have been decomposing or just taking up space.  The front of our driveway is now quite bare, except for the crape myrtle that stands tall with ropes in three directions holding it in place.  A third rope had to be added after 70 mph winds blew in from the north, bending Myrtle over more to the south than she needed to be.  She now has life lines connected to one bolted triple plank firmly embedded in cement, one decapitated sturdy young oak, and one old oak that had been stripped of all leaves.  I am happy to report the old oak is leafing out in all directions, somewhat confused while trying to determine which of the leaves will go into branch status.  It basically looks green and fuzzy from a distance, now graced with a white rope around its trunk.

Myrtle probably misses her companion, a large Autumn Olive that lived by the driveway and sheltered her from strong south winds.  She may also wonder what happened to several smaller oaks that had also been to her south.  Mother Nature is rallying, and the injured plants, in spite of the miserable temperatures and lack of moisture, are slowly coming back.  I’ll just stay indoors in the cool, watching the trucks go thundering by.