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Not All Bugs Are Bad Bugs

When you get a pest infection the first means of defense is identifying what type of pest you have. Below is a table describing common pests and how to get rid of them:

 

Aphids

Description:

Remove damaged leaves, wash plant leaves with warm water for a week then spray an insecticidal soap onto leaves.

Treatment:

Remove damaged leaves, wash plant leaves with warm water for a week then spray an insecticidal soap onto leaves.

 

Caterpillar

Description:

Most kinds of caterpillar are considered plant pests and will eat the leaves.

Treatment:

Pick off by hand.

 

Colorado Potato Beetle

Description:

Inch long striped beetles and their larvae will eat everything on a plant.

Treatment:

Pick off by hand and optionally, spray with insecticide.

 

Cockroaches

Description:

Small dark colored insects with beetle like bodies.

Treatment:

Pick off by hand if you can catch them. Remove any organic debris from the base of the plant. Set out roach traps.

 

Cutworms

Description:

Small worm type insects that curl up into a ring shape. They eat through plant roots and topple the plant.

Treatment:

Not too common in hydroponics - if found, spray with insecticide.

 

Earwigs

Description:

Small dark brown centipede-like insects with a pincer tail.

Treatment:

Pick off by hand (they usually come out at night).

 

European Corn Borers

Description:

Small, 1 inch long caterpillars who bore into plant stems and eat them from the inside out.

Treatment:

Spray with insecticide.

 

Fungus Gnats

Description:

The hatched offspring of tiny black flies. The maggot offspring attack plant roots.

Treatment:

Discard any damaged plants, spray with insecticide. Not too common in a hydroponics garden.

 

Imported Cabbage Worms

Description:

Small velvety green caterpillars that eat plant leaves.

Treatment:

Spray with insecticidal soap.

 

Leaf Hoppers

Description:

Small, 1/8 inch long, wedge shaped insects that suck the sap through the plant leaves.

Treatment:

: Pick off by hand and apply insecticide if needed.

 

Mealybugs

Description:

Small bugs create white, powdery masses on leaf stem joints.

Treatment:

Scrape off and spray with insecticide.

 

Mexican Bean Beetles

Description:

Small, 1/2 inch beetles will eat roots and leaves leaving only the veins.

Treatment:

Wash with soap.

 

Root Maggots

Description:

Fly larvae that hatch at the base of the plants and eat the roots.

Treatment:

Not too common in hydroponics gardens. If found, spray with insecticide.

 

Scale

Description:

Tiny waxy growths on the underside of leaves and on stems.

Treatment:

Scrape off and isolate plant, if possible. Wash leaves with warm soapy water and apply insecticide if needed.

 

Spider Mites

Description:

Red, yellow or green microscopic bugs forming cobwebs.

Treatment:

Isolate plant if you can, wash leaves with warm, soapy water and spray with insecticide.

 

Striped Cucumber Beetles

Description:

: Small, very destructive, striped back beetles 1/4 inch long. As adults, these plant pests eat leaves and larvae eat roots

Treatment:

Use insecticidal soap.

 

Tarnished Plant Bugs

Description:

Small beetles about 1/4 inch long with tarnish-like markings on it's back. They inject plants with a substance that deforms leaf tips and stem joining.

Treatment:

Clean off all nearby organic debris and spray with insecticide.

 

Thrips

Description:

Very small and slender bugs leaving dark blobs on the leaves.

Treatment:

Remove bugs by hand, wash leaves with water and spray insecticide.

 

White Flies

Description:

Tiny, white flying bugs

Treatment:

Very resilient. Spray with insecticide or something stronger. Also spray all surrounding plants.

 
Good Bugs

"Good Bugs" are the fighting troops of your army that will destroy the invading army of "Bad Bugs". These "Good Bugs" have really never been used in gardens until recently.

Aphid Preditors

Description:

Each Aphid Predator larva must eat 10 aphids to reach full development but will happily eat many more if they are available. Great for indoors because they do not fly toward the light. For a small indoor garden, one release of 100-250 predators will get you started.

 

Beneficial Nematodes

Description:

Beneficial Nematodes control over 250 different insects in the soil, including weevils, loopers, borers, moths, and fleas. They are harmless to earthworms, and leave plants alone. Not to be confused with pest nematodes, beneficial nematodes are parasitic, and invade the bodies of their prey, leaving behind the dead insect carcasses. One batch fits onto a small, 2" sponge and will cover up to 2,000 square feet. To use, submerge the sponge in water and soak into soil with a watering can or pressure-sprayer. Nematodes may also be injected into borer holes with a syringe. If necessary, Beneficial Nematodes may be stored in the refrigerator (40-50 degrees F) for up to 2 months.

 

Fungus Gnat Predators

Description:

Nature's alternative to chemical insecticides, Fungus Gnat Predators feed on the larvae of fungus gnats and other small soil-dwelling creatures including thrips, mites, and springtails. Five thousand predators treat up to 200 square feet of growing surface.

 

Green Lacewing

Description:

If an insect will fit in its mouth, a Green Lacewing will eat it. This excellent all-purpose garden predator devours aphids, mealybugs, soft scale, whiteflies and the eggs of other insects such as spider mites and thrips. Shipped as eggs, these beneficials are best applied 5,000 eggs per acre.

 

House Fly Parasites

Description:

Controls many species of flies by killing their pupae before flies hatch. In its 3-4 week lifecycle, each parasite kills 50 flies. Use anywhere nuisance flies breed. Release 5000 every two weeks for a large compost pile or 3-4 head of livestock.

 

Ladybugs

Description:

An adult Ladybug can eat thousands of aphids and other pests in its lifetime. Good for small and large areas

 

Mealybug Predators

Description:

Predators of small insects, these tiny black ladybugs are effective, proven beneficial insects that have been used commercially for over 100 years. They really enjoy mealybugs but will eat aphids and scale when the mealies get scarce. Apply 2-5 per infested plant or one for every two feet of planted area. Repeat about twice a year as needed.

 

Pirate Bugs

Description:

Pirate Bugs (Orius insidiosis) are used on many crops to control thrip, aphid, spider mite and whitefly populations. Release 5-10 per 100 square feet. For extreme thrip infestations, use in conjunction with Thrip Predators.

 

Predator Mites

Description:

Predator Mites usually gain control of spider mite infestations after 4 weeks. Release 100 mites per 25 square feet. Predator mites will be effective in a wide variety of conditions: from 55-90� Fahrenheit and from 45-90% relative humidity.

 

Praying Mantis

Description:

A Praying Mantis can grow to be four inches long in just one season and will feed on almost any insect it can overcome. Allow several weeks of warm weather for hatching.

 

Spider Mite Destroyers

Description:

Spider Mite Destroyers breed twice as fast as spider mites and eat up to five mites or 20 mite eggs every day! Over time, your spider mite populations will dwindle. To control spider mites in six weeks, estimated use is one predator for every 20 spider mites.

 

Thrip Predators

Description:

These predators feed on immature thrips (soil and leaf pupating) and an occasional spider mite as well. Use 100-500 per plant or 200,000 per acre to control thrip infestations. For maximum effectiveness humidity must remain between 70 and 85%

 

White Fly Parasites

Description:

Many commercial green- houses use Whitefly Parasites as their only whitefly control. These eggs are glued to small cards and shipped ready to hatch and parasitize pest larvae. Use 500 parasites up to four times to control whitefly infestations in a small home greenhouse.

 

White Fly Predators

Description:

Whitefly Predators are fast eaters; they eat one whitefly larva in just 30 seconds. Imagine what these hungry helpers can do for your garden as they munch up to 600 whitefly eggs every day! 300-500 predators cover 1,000 square feet. To use, just shake the predators out of their package onto plant foliage. Predators do best between 65-90 degrees

Identifying Disease in Plants

Try some less harsh solution first. My favorite all-purpose cure is to mix together water, baking soda, lemon juice and a very little dish detergent. I put this in a spray bottle and mist the affected parts of the plant. Sometimes it works like a charm and sometimes not. If you mix and use this recipe, make sure you cover all areas open to your nutrient solution or the dish detergent will get into it causing soap bubbles.

Rust

Description:

Slightly raised, powdery red pustules on the underside of the leaves causing them to turn yellow then brown and die. Helped along by high humidity. Very contagious.

Treatment:

Apply harsh chemicals like zineb or maneb.

 

Club Root

Description:

Roots turn into a mass of club shaped tubers. Plants may become stunted.

Treatment:

Dust with fungicide.

 

Damping Off

Description:

A fungus affecting small plants where stems meet soil causing them to fall over and die.

Treatment:

Remove diseased sections. If it has affected a significant number of plants, replant in new soil and clean containers.

 

Crown and Stem Rot

Description:

Fungus causes plant to turn pulpy and rot.

Treatment:

Cut away rotted plant portions and spray with a fungicide.

 

Root Rot

Description:

Fungus rots a plants roots.

Treatment:

Cut away rotted root portions and spray with a fungicide.

 

Powdery Mildew

Description:

Fungus causing whitish spots on the underside of the leaves. Eventually the leaves shrivel and die. Thrives in high humidity.

Treatment:

Spray with homemade all purpose cure described earlier.

 

Early Blight

Description:

Dark brown spots on leaves, stems and plant fruit seriously weakening the plant.

Treatment:

Treat with harsh chemicals (maneb, zineb).

 

Black Mold

Description:

Sooty black or grayish white leaf growth.

Treatment:

Gently wash leaves and scrape off mold.

 

Anthracnose

Description:

Fungus caused by over watering where leaves become marked with dark smears and shrivel. Hardly ever occurs in hydroponics plants

Treatment:

Spray with fungicide and remove damaged leaves.

 

Botrytis

Description:

Grayish white, fuzzy leaf growth caused by inadequate ventilation. Not common in hydroponics gardens.

Treatment:

Increase ventilation and remove affected leaves.

 
Identifying Deficiencies in Plants

Because plant symptoms can be very subjective it is important to approach diagnosis carefully. The following is a general guideline to follow in recognizing the response to nutrient deficiencies.

Nitrogen (N)

Description:

Restricted growth of tops and roots especially lateral shoots. Plants become spindly with general chlorosis of entire plant to a light green and then a yellowing of older leaves which proceeds toward younger leaves. Older leaves defoliate early.

 

Phosphorus (P)

Description:

Restricted and spindly growth similar to that of nitrogen deficiency. Leaf color is usually dull dark green to bluish green with purpling of petioles and the veins on underside of younger leaves. Younger leaves may be yellowish green with purple veins with N deficiency and darker green with P deficiency. Otherwise, N and P deficiencies are very much alike.

 

Potassium (K)

Description:

Older leaves show interveinal chlorosis and marginal necrotic spots or scorching which progresses inward and also upward toward younger leaves as deficiency becomes more severe.

 

Calcium (Ca)

Description:

From slight chlorosis to brown to black scorching of new leaf tips and die- back of growing points. The scorched and die-back portion of tissue is very slow to dry so that it does not crumble easily. Boron deficiency also causes scorching of new leaf tips and die-back of growing points, but calcium deficiency does not promote the growth of lateral shoots and short internodes as does boron deficiency.

 

Magnesium (Mg)

Description:

Interveinal chlorotic mottling or marbling of the older leaves which proceeds toward the younger leaves as the deficiency becomes more severe. The chlorotic Interveinal yellow patches usually occur toward the center of leaf with the margins being the last to turn yellow. In some crops, the interveinal yellow patches are followed by necrotic spots or patches and marginal scorching of the leaves.

 

Sulfur (S)

Description:

Resembles nitrogen deficiency in that older leaves become yellowish green and the stems thin, hard and woody. Some plants show colorful orange and red tints rather than yellowing. The stems, although hard and woody, increase in length but not in diameter.

 

Iron (Fe)

Description:

Starts with interveinal chlorotic mottling of immature leaves and in severe cases, the new leaves become completely lacking in chlorophyll but with little or no necrotic spots. The chlorotic mottling on immature leaves may start first near the bases of the leaflets so that in effect the middle of the leaf appears to have a yellow streak.

 

Manganese (Mn)

Description:

Starts with interveinal chlorotic mottling of immature leaves and in many plants it is indistinguishable from that of iron. On fruiting plants, the blossom buds often do not fully develop and turn yellow or abort. As the deficiency becomes more severe, the new growth becomes completely yellow, but in contrast to iron necrotic spots usually appear in the interveinal tissue.

 

Zinc (Zn)

Description:

In some plants, the interveinal chlorotic mottling first appears on the older leaves and in others, it appears on the immature leaves. It eventually affects the growing points of all plants. The interveinal chlorotic mottling may be the same as that for iron and manganese except for the development of exceptionally small leaves. When zinc deficiency onset is sudden such as the zinc left out of the nutrient solution, the chlorosis can appear identical to that of iron and manganese without the little leaf.

 

Boron (B)

Description:

Slight chlorosis to brown to black scorching of new leaf tips and die- back of the growing points similar to calcium deficiency. Also the brown and black die- back tissue is very slow to dry so that it can be crumbled easily. Both the pith and epidermis of stems may be affected as exhibited by hollow stems to roughened and cracked stems.

 

Copper (Cu)

Description:

Leaves at top of the plant wilt easily followed by chlorotic and necrotic areas in the leaves. Leaves on top half of plant may show unusual puckering with veinal chlorosis. Absence of a knot on leaf where petiole joins the main stem of plant beginning about 10 or more leaves below growing point.

 

Molybdenum (Mo)

Description:

These deficiency symptoms in legumes are mainly exhibited as nitrogen-deficiency symptoms because of the primary role of molybdenum in nitrogen fixation. Unlike the other micronutrients, molybdenum-deficiency symptoms are not confined mainly to the youngest leaves because molybdenum is mobile in plants. The characteristic molybdenum deficiency symptom in some vegetable crops is irregular leaf blade formation known as whiptail, but interveinal mottling and marginal chlorosis of older leaves also have been observed.

Hydroponic Types

The Water Culture System

This is the simplest of all active hydroponics systems. The platform that holds the plants is usually made of Styrofoam and floats directly on the nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution and supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants. Water culture is the system of choice for growing leaf lettuce, which are fast growing water loving plants, making them an ideal choice for this type of hydroponics system. Very few plants other than lettuce will do well in this type of system. This type of hydroponics system is great for the classroom and is popular with teachers. A very inexpensive system can be made out of an old aquarium or other water tight container. The biggest draw back of this kind of system is that it doesn�t work well with large plants or with long-term plants.

 

The Ebb and Flow System

This works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray. When the timer shuts the pump off the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. The Timer is set to come on several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity and the type of growing medium used. The Ebb and Flow is a versatile system that can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The entire grow tray can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. Many people like to use individual pots filled with growing medium, this makes it easier to move plants around or even move them in or out of the system. The main disadvantage of this type of system is that with some types of growing medium (Gravel, Growrocks, Perlite), there is a vulnerability to power outages as well as pump and timer failures. The roots can dry out quickly when the watering cycles are interrupted. This problem can be relieved somewhat by using growing media that retains more water (Rockwool, Vermiculite, coconut fiber or a good soilless mix like Pro-mix or Faffard�s)

 

Drip System

This method is probably the most widely used type of hydroponic system in the world. Operation is simple, a timer controls a submersed pump. The timer turns the pump on and nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a Recovery Drip System the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The Non-Recovery System does not collect the run off. A recovery system uses nutrient solution a bit more efficiently, as excess solution is reused, this also allows for the use of a more inexpensive timer because a recovery system doesn�t require precise control of the watering cycles. The non-recovery system needs to have a more precise timer so that watering cycles can be adjusted to insure that the plants get enough nutrient solution and the runoff is kept to a minimum. The non-recovery system requires less maintenance due to the fact that the excess nutrient solution isn�t recycled back into the reservoir, so the nutrient strength and pH of the reservoir will not vary. This means that you can fill the reservoir with pH adjusted nutrient solution and then forget it until you need to mix more. A recovery system can have large shifts in the pH and nutrient strength levels that require periodic checking and adjusting.

 

The Aeroponics System

This method is probably the most high-tech type of hydroponics gardening. Like the N.F.T. system the growing medium is primarily air. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution. The misting are usually done every few minutes. Because the roots are exposed to the air like the N.F.T. system, the roots will dry out rapidly if the misting cycles are interrupted. A timer controls the nutrient pump much like other types of hydroponic systems, except the aeroponics system needs a short cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of minutes.

 

The N.F.T System

This method is the kind of hydroponics system most people think of when they think about hydroponics. N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution so no timer required for the submersible pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the plants, and then drains back into the reservoir. There is usually no growing medium used other than air, which saves the expense of replacing the growing medium after every crop. Normally the plant is supported in a small plastic basket with the roots dangling into the nutrient solution. N.F.T. systems are very susceptible to power outages and pump failures. The roots dry out very rapidly when the flow of nutrient solution is interrupted.

 

The Passive System

This method of growing hydroponically is very easy and is an ideal introduction to growing without soil. It also needs very little equipment, yet should still allow you to grow plants better than simply in soil. The system is set up by filling up a pot with some medium for the plant to grow in, rather than soil this could be either perlite or clay pebbles which are both popular neutral growing mediums and are easy to purchase in garden centers. The medium is rinsed thoroughly before being placed into the growing pot. If you are using perlite make sure you rinse this in a well ventilated area as dry perlite is very dusty, also make sure the pot you are using has drainage holes in the bottom. The plant is then placed into the medium like you would plant a normal plant into soil. I have grown my plants from seed and grown them entirely in rockwool cubes so I can just place the cube with the plant straight into the pot. This also means no mess, apart from the perlite which can make the area look like it's just snowed and it also gets very sticky when wet. The pot and plant is then placed into a pot saucer tall enough for quite a bit of nutrient solution(Water and Nutrients) to sit in, the nutrients are then used to water the plant as you would water a normal plant in a pot so that the nutrients flow through the medium into the saucer at the bottom. This process will probably only need to be done every few days when the plant is small but might need to be done once or maybe twice a day if it's warm weather or the plant is growing large and using lot's of nutrients.

 
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