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If Your Broccoli is Curling its Leaves it’s Not Getting Ready for a Night on the Town.

The invasion is subtle, like aliens silently descending on a warm summer night to blend into the environment, hiding where least expected, leaving humankind thinking that all is still well with the world, while gruesome creatures multiply. You should understand this about aphids.  If you do not mount an offensive promptly, you might as well not plant cole crops such as broccoli and cabbage in southwest Idaho.  

I went out last night to begin chemical warfare with insecticidal soap. Unfortunately, I could only find a hand held spray bottle.  I only treated 2.5 of my large, healthy broccoli plants before my hand began to cramp and become non-functional.  Next morning, a trip to purchase an alien stun gun a gallon sprayer made me a much more formidable enemy of aphids.  I returned to doing the best I could to thoroughly cover every inch of the plants with the mixture.  I wear regular kitchen rubber gloves for this procedure.  Who wants to touch slimy, dying aliens  aphids?  Also, the most complete coverage with the soap can only be obtained by individually lifting most of the leaves, especially the large outer ones.  It is best to protect the skin.  A strategy to add to that is making sure to spray the plants from as many directions as possible, i.e. both sides of the row.

Aphids mostly hide under the leaves, but there is an occasional colony on an upper level.  One of the key things to look for is oddly curling leaves.  Broccoli leaves are naturally a bit wavy in some places , but a distinctive tight curl should be unfolded.  It is highly probable that there will be a thick mess of aphids sucking the life out of it.

aphids on broccoli hiding under leaf

aphids on broccoli hiding under leaf

aphids on broccoli curling leaf

aphids on broccoli curling leaf (middle left of photo)

aphids on broccoli same leaf pulled open

same leaf pulled open

use insecticidal soap concentrate diluted in a gallon spray applicator

well labeled sprayer

All of this effort paid off very nicely for me last year.  Otherwise, the aphids infiltrate so deeply that it is impossible to clean them out, even after they are dead from soaking in salt water.  The broccoli is inedible.

At least those green catepillars from white cabbage moths usually float to the top when the broccoli is cooked.  If I don’t find them, my husband assures me I’m just getting extra protein…

If you are eating your broccoli raw, the pre-soak in salt water (roughly a gallon to 2 tablespoons of salt; doesn’t have to be exact, just inhospitable to bug life) is definitely recommended.  Unless, of course, you like to eat worms.

One last note, you can see in the picture of the gallon sprayer that I finally figured out how to write over the volume markings so that I’m not straining my eyeballs to read them while I fill it with liquid.  The evening has cooled enough for me to go continue to combat.  See you in the broccoli leaves.

maintaining edible broccoli

healthy row of broccoli

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