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Insect & Disease Control

Top indoor pests and how to get ride of them

About the only good news about soil & hydroponic garden pests is that these are all pests that have already been experienced in floral shops and greenhouse. By the time hydroponics came along we had identified the pests and their treatment some time ago.

The best method of pest control, however, is early detection and treatment before the pest gets completely out of control.  A little conscientious attention by regular careful monitoring and inspection of the plants goes a long way in preventing serious infestations.

Taking the time to educate yourself on common pests will only better help you in identifying them early on.   Very often, pests can be avoided altogether through impeccable greenhouse management and regular washing of the plants.

Here’s some of the most common hydroponic pests to keep an eye open for at all times.

Whitefly

Whitefly are easily recognized by their powdery white wings. They are small, mothlike insects that feed by sucking on the leaves and stems.

They can be prevented through the release of parasitic wasps which feed on whitefly nymphs.  It is also a good idea to check the undersides of the leaves, hand washing any of the tiny eggs that may be present.

If you find yourself with a serious infestation it can be treated with neem oil spray which completely disrupts the nymph’s feeding and growth habits.  A gardener wants to treat the underside of the leaves with a light spraying.

Aphids

An aphid attack normally occurs when the plants are already weak or stressed. Keeping your plants healthy is powerful deterrent to aphids in the first place.

If a gardener does have an outbreak, however, it can be treated be treated with an insecticidal soap which is also beneficial for controlling many other hydroponic pests.  An aphid infestation can be prevented by carefully monitoring how heavy you’re feeding.

Plants that are overfed can essentially grow too fast which leads to weakened stems and leaves which is just the conditions aphids thrive in.  Aphids are also a common outside garden pest, so a gardener needs to be careful about bringing in pruners or other garden equipment without a careful washing.

Spider mites

These tiny insects are a perennial problem and can occur unexpectedly at just about any moment.   Spider mites are prolific leaf suckers and are recognizable by the yellow spotting and drooping leaves.

The most effective method of removing spider mites would be a complete and careful cleaning of the whole plant.  A follow up treatment with an insecticidal soap and a light oil spray.  

Spider mites thrive under dry conditions and preventing them can be successful by maintaining a high humanity and by regularly lightly misting the plants.

Thrips

Pronounced “thripes” this is a tiny insect that is normally a light brown in color and appear on the undersides of the leaves.  Thrips are also another of the leaf suckers and do considerable damage fairly quickly if they’re not spotted early.

Thrips are a herding insect and they are easily shook out in a small cloud when the stem is given a vigorous shaking.

Treatment is a straight forward application of insecticidal soap and a light spraying of neem oil.  For extremely severe infestations there are multiple commercial insecticides available that can treat them on a large scale.

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats are not one of the more known hydroponic pests, but they are far more common than they may seem. Part of this is that often they are mistaken for whiteflys but fungus gnats are not white, but rather a dull grey or light brown.

Its not the adult gnats themselves that can damage the plants, they actually don’t feed on them anyway.  Rather, this is where they lay their eggs and it is the larvae which can devastate an entire crop.

Pyrethrin is an effective treatment as well as neem oil and insecticidal soap. A gardener will also want to dispose, preferably by fire, any plant that is heavily damaged or infested with the fungus gnat maggots.

Good crop and facilities management

The best prevention for all pests, however, is good crop and greenhouse management. Keep the plants clean, well-nourished and keep the facilities tidy.  Remove any weak, yellowed or poor looking plants that are likely to become infested.

An ounce of prevention is a much more practical way to manage pests then after a serious outbreak occurs.  

Garden Disease Control Overview

The problem when you get into the area of garden diseases is that there are just so many that it would be nearly impossible to discuss them all with any detail.  Volumes have been written on all the various garden diseases and their corresponding treatments.

Given that, what we’re going to do here, rather, is cover the most common garden diseases and how to treat or prevent them. These are all diseases that almost every gardener probably going to encounter at some point or another.

Before we get into all that, though, let’s explore undoubtedly the most important aspect of disease prevention. After all, if a gardener can avoid these diseases in the first place, its only going to save them a lot of trouble trying to treat them later.

Grow Room Disease Prevention

Although it is very true that not all preventive measures will protect your garden from a serious disease, the point here is that while these steps may not completely protect your garden, they certainly will maximize the chances that these diseases can be prevented.

First and foremost is maintaining good plant health.  You’re thinking to yourself, “well, obviously.”  Healthy plants do not simply come about because of dumping tons of fertilizer on them.

The main factor here is developing a healthy soil.

Build your soil up with compost, cow manure and other organic matter so that the seedlings are taking hold in a strong, well-drained soil that is very rich in nutrients.  Plants that start off in a healthy soil are better able to let their roots take hold and spread in a more vital manner.

Remember, the stronger the root system-the stronger the plant.

The most common plant diseases

Even the most well-tended gardens can occasionally suffer from some sort of disease. Most often than not, however, these diseases are the result of some nutrient deficiency that the gardener completely overlooked.

These are some of the disease almost every gardener will encounter at some point or another.

Blossom end rot

This is a very easy disease to spot but a rather time consuming one to adequately treat.  Blossom end rot strikes tomatoes, egg plant and related soft-tissue vegetables.  It is recognizable by a small rotted spot on the bottom of the fruit.

Sometimes it is overlooked because of overwatering or an over abundance of rain causing conditions that may result with rotted fruit.

Blossom end rot is caused by a deficiency of calcium which results in the fruit rotting as it is being formed.

There is no quick fix on this.

A gardener is going to have to take the time to do some soil amendments to increase calcium levels.  This can be achieved through calcium rich soil amendments and by mixing in bone meal or other organic matter containing calcium.

Downy mildew

This very common condition is a fungal infection which occurs in cool, damp weather. It first appears as a spotting or yellowing of old growth leaves.  Downy mildew spores when humidity is at or approaching 100% and it can overwinter on dead plants or undecomposed compost.

The first line of defense is trimming away sick or infected leaves and dispose of them, preferably by fire.  It will also help to keep the compost pile away from the garden in a secluded area.   It is also important not to use the compost unless it is completely broke down and rotted.

Another good policy is to discontinue watering during the midday sun and develop a habit of watering only during the early morning hours.  A light spraying of cotton seed or garlic oil on the cleaned plants will also discourage downy mildew growth.

Fusarium wilt

Perhaps the most dreaded disease of them all is Fusarium wilt which most often strikes tomatoes and related plants like potatoes or eggplants.  It almost always hits in the seedling stage and before the plant is fully mature.

Fusarium wilt is soil born disease which can remain present for years and is difficult to get rid of or completely prevent.  Your best bet when struck with it is to stick with resistant varieties or relocate where this family of plants are grown because it easily takes a few seasons before it is gone.

Dispose of any pot or flats that the plants were originally planted in and begin to improve the soil with compost and other organic matter.

Leaf spot

Leaf spot is another fungal pathogen that hits many a garden.  It is recognizable by the dark spotting of older leaves.  

It rarely affects just one family of plants and can strike everything from a fruit tree to vegetables ranging from tomatoes to lettuce.  There is also a bacterial leaf spot which can infect annual flowers like petunias or pansies and fruits such as strawberries.

Leaf spot almost always begins with a nursery seedling so be careful to inspect the plants carefully for any sign before you purchase.

It can be prevented by keeping the garden clean of dried leaves or dead plants that the pathogen can cling to.  Completely rake all debris away from the plants and do a heavy mulching of clean straw or hay.

There is no cure, however, for bacterial leaf spot other than selecting resistant varieties.

Rust

The bad news about rust is that there are over 500 separate known strains of it that can strike the garden. It almost always affects mature plants and leaves and normally occurs later in the summer.

Rust is identified by the raised rusty colored spots appearing on mature leaves.  It occurs in very sunny conditions following a heavy rain or watering.  An infestation happens because of moisture evaporating off the leaves in the full sun.

Your best course of action is to remove and dispose of infected leaves and adapt an improved, more direct watering system.  Avoid using overhead sprinklers in full sun and switch to a more controlled drip irrigation system.

Unless you’re growing heirloom varieties try to stick with the resistant varieties that are available.

 

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