HELLO TO MY FELLOW TRAVELERS along The Highway. I’m The Rev—REvski—back with you again, and this time with the beginning of a little mini-series regarding pest/parasite control by prevention and using pretty safe methods without using hard core poisons. So, if interested, make sure you tune in for every issue of The Highway coming up, and I will share almost 5 decades of growing knowledge with you regarding pests and dealing with them. Today I am going to start out with a few examples of bad habits that lead to pests showing up. From time to time, maybe twice a year I get a little rise in my Fungus Gnat populations; I always have a couple (literally) buzzing around in my gardens—no worries it’s all good.
Now I don’t have any photos of parasite damaged plants, but these photos are easily available to you online or in any decent grow bible. I don’t have photos because I never have parasites except very rarely, like once every 4 or 5 years I will get some standard parasite that has found its way into my gardens indoors. I handle them swiftly and harshly. if it’s Spider Mites—which I have never in my life seen eradicated with natural/organic methods; only seen them kept under control/maintenance without true poisons. But, I have seen it done with mite killers that use the same dangerous poison found in lice shampoo, but exposing a living environment (including yourself and your pets) to any kind of highly toxic poison should be avoided like the plague, in my opinion. Anytime you are planning to kill living things in your gardens, please do your own thorough research from objective sources.
Allowing Plants from Indoors to Sun Themselves Outdoors
Doing this (sunning indoor plants outdoors) my friends, is a potentially devastating mistake; I know it “sounds” like a great idea, and what could be wrong with letting your plants get some fresh air and real sunshine? Well the fresh air and the sunshine aren’t the potential problems in this scenario, “lemme ‘splain Lucy…”
The outdoor environment is a far more dangerous place for plants raised outside, they must survive massive opportunistic parasites and other problematic life forms, so they must be tough. Your indoor plants have basically been raised in “The Garden of Eden” by compare, with limited exposure to pests, compared to an outdoor plant. Indoor plants are particularly vulnerable here, much like if you were tossed into The Amazon Rainforest for a day. You might be alright, but you are not prepared to deal with many things that could come into contact with you.
More than a couple of times in my life I have seen gardens fall to a “mystery disease” that wiped out the gardens only a month or so after the grower had decided to take some of the plants outdoors to get some sunshine. I would guess these were viruses of some type, or another bad ass pathogen. Not only are indoor plants more susceptible to predators outdoors, they are often at least slightly stressed in many gardens due to the use of chelating liquid fertilizers and/or poor environmental conditions. When plants are even a little stressed they send out like a “Bat Signal” that tells predators they are ripe to be taken, actually attracting predators like they had GPS pin dropped on them.
Powdery Mildew, Spider Mites, White Flies, Aphids, Thrips, and Russet Mites, are several examples of other “hitchhikers” that can be brought back into your gardens from the plants you took outdoors for the day. Russet Mites, are probably your number one worst problem potentially, aside from a virus I mean, and running a close second are Spider Mites and Thrips; Powdery Mildew is actually not really hard to eradicate utterly from your garden and I will show you how I have done it several times recently for friends’ gardens, in an upcoming issue.
Overwatering and Soil Compaction
This one is (perhaps) surprisingly common and will not only cause you to have unhappy looking plants, but can cause the pH value of your soil to dive dramatically causing many issues, and usually the first one is a nitrogen deficiency—it’s not a nitrogen deficiency at all it’s a nitrogen lockout—but those subjects are for another article.
The most common pest problem with overwatering is Fungus Gnats, and highly stressed plants sending out those “Bat Signals” I spoke about earlier, alerting any nearby parasites that there is easy food to be had. Aphids, Thrips, and White Flies can actually seek these plants out like they were using a Garmin. Other opportunistic parasites like mites and mildew that can hitchhike into your grow will have an easy time assimilating stressed plants. You want to avoid ever letting plants get too unhealthy in your garden because your odds of invasion go way up. Letting selected plants that you have decided to kill, just die slowly in your gardens is a very bad idea.
Fungus Gnat Countermeasures
Fungus Gnats: This one isn’t hard at all and takes about 10 days to fully work. All you have to do is hang up some of the Fly Paper things to knock down the numbers of flying gnats, and then mix about a teaspoon of the BT powder with water in a 12 or 16 OZ squirt bottle using bottled spring water. Then, just after watering your plants walk around squirting about 2 to 4 OZ of this mixture on the soil of each plant—boom! Easy, right? The Fungus Gnat larva hang out in the first couple or few inches of soil on top. Takes about 10 days and they will be gone. I have done this for myself and others at least 10 times with 100% success.
I recently read an article posted by a college study of this very BT vs. Fungus Gnats thing, and in this article, they recommend using the type of BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) found in mosquito dunks and not the type of BT I am recommending in the Safer’s brand in the photo; however, firsthand experience tells me the BT I am using also works well, but check it out for yourselves. Remember that in an organic soil mix Fungus Gnats don’t do any harm to your plants at all, in fact the larva in the soil are actually beneficial in many ways, but they can bug you for sure. They are only disease ridden possibly, if they have come from a diseased environment then into your gardens, but if they have come from your own garden they won’t be carrying any diseases. So, don’t believe the bullshit around all the diseases Fungus Gnats will bring to your plants, it’s just not true 99.9% of the time in my experience.
Using plenty of perlite in your soil mix is also helpful as the conditions that result from overwatering can really give fungus gnats an environment they LOVE! Also, if you check your growing containers by weight to see when they need water, make sure and set them down gently because this can really compact your soil to a point of anaerobic conditions quickly. Alright dudes and dudettes, I will be coming back at you next time in this miniseries about pests with another parasite I hate to have in my gardens, and I’ll tell you how to avoid it and how to fix it. Cheers, and REvski out!