By Hydrofarm’s Kelley Ryan
It’s Not That They Mite, They Will!
Spider mites can and will have a devastating effect on your garden. They can show up in both indoor and outdoor gardens, but in my opinion, having an infestation indoors is the worst. If you are new to gardening, you could find it hard to spot the telltale signs of early spider mite damage. Often, a beginner gardener will only see the signs once it is too late, when the spider mite webs are prevalent in the canopy.
You ‘Mite’ Have To Use Your Spidey Sense To Find ‘Em
So, you might be asking yourself how to spot those early signs. One symptom of their presence is brown/yellow flecks on the leaves. This flecking will lead to more and more spotting, then complete curling of the leaves and then eventual burning and dropping of the leaf. All of this depends on the intensity of the infestation.
But A Microscope Works, Too
The spider mites themselves are very small, and they prefer to live on the underside of your leaves. To the naked eye they look like tiny, moving grains of sand. Have a microscope handy and get a good look at them; they are menacing little beings.
They Are Web-Based
These tiny buggers feed on the sap in your plant’s leaves, which causes damage and stress to your plants and will eventually kill the plant if left untreated. The webbing they weave is where they get their name; it is different from a regular spider web. It looks more like soft, thin gauze on top of your plants.
Spray ‘Em And Slay ‘Em
If you catch the infestation early, there is hope. Using an insecticidal soap, neem oil or pyrethrin spray will do the job. There are also some products available with oils such as geranium or peppermint as their active ingredients. Whichever product you choose, it is imperative that you apply more than once; this ensures any eggs that hatch between sprays are also dealt with.
This is my suggestion: spray just before your lights are set to turn off; this eliminates any additional damage that could be caused by lights on the water droplets on the plant leaves. (I do have friends who prefer to spray with the lights off and a green light, this is entirely up to you.) Wait 2-3 days and spray again, then repeat once more for a total of 3 full applications. Make sure you cover your entire plant, including the underside of the leaves. If your plants are in flower you can still use a spray, but be cautious. If the flowers stay too wet, it could lead to other problems.
I prefer the pyrethrin/pyrethrum spray method; in my experience this is the best way to eradicate mites from your garden. There are also ‘bug bombs,’ which are usually pyrethrum-based aerosol cans you set off in your garden, then you must leave the space. They spray a cloud of pyrethrum and hopefully kill all of the mites.
Let Me Mention Prevention
I have become the master of prevention; after an infestation I clean my room like crazy; reflectors, ballasts, floors, you get the idea. I will also set off one of those bug bombs when the room is empty to act as a ‘just in case’. In fact, I have a group of friends who exchange plants and cuttings with each other. Of course, they’re my friends, but I am not trusting when it comes the possibility of hitchhiking spider mites! I will make a little bath at half strength and as long as the cuttings are well rooted I turn them upside down and dunk them in the bath. So far (fingers crossed) I haven’t had another problem.
Early detection is critical to saving your harvest. Hopefully I’ve given you a clear idea of what to look for. Mostly what I wish for you is that these little buggers stay outside of your indoor garden.