Sunday, October 30, 2011

Container Gardening Pests: How To Get Rid Of Aphids, Spidermites, Leaf Miners

Although this is a PF blog, most personal finance bloggers grow plants, herbs and vegetables for the most obvious reason. I grow mine for pleasure. Visual and edible pleasure : ) Lately, the wide range of plants, herbs and flowers on my balcony has attracted so many pests and it has been a struggle to deal with them so far until the last few days. I have found a new gardening weapon. It's called the humble sticky tape.

The Failure of Commercial Pesticide

Yates aphid and bug spray didn't achieve anything. The aphids still made out like crazy and flourished. It may have killed beneficial insects instead and left me with a swarm of spidermites that were out of control. I had to uproot my mint plants and dump them. My purple miniature rose were cut back to the stems and I'm not sure if they'll ever recover from the shock. The poor hibiscus cuttings are now under attack and the last thing I wanted to do was chuck another plant out.

Using Sticky Tape to Remove Aphids and Spidermites

Suddenly I had a brainstorm. If the humble sticky tape can remove dust and lint off every surface - then why couldn't I use it to remove bugs from my plants? With my 1.5 inch wide tape, I cut off a bit and stuck the tape to the aphids and the results were amazing - it picked up all the aphids in the vicinity of the tape! The bugs couldn't escape and I didn't have to squish them one by one which can take hours. I used a skewer and rolled it along the surface of the tape and suddenly the 5-10 aphids stuck on the tape were vanquished. Just keep reusing the tape until it's covered with dead bugs. It's gross but highly effective.

Day one= 150 aphids squished. Day two=20 aphids, Day three=40 aphids and Day four= 5 aphids only. The numbers are dwindling rapidly and at this rate, by day 7 there will be none left. You'll need good eyesite to spot your aphids. Check in between the flower buds, under the flower buds, on new shoots, on top of the leaf and particularly the underside of leaves are where they love to congregate and on the underside of the leaves near the soil.

Using sticky tape to remove the pests is non toxic(can someone prove otherwise?), easy, cheap and very effective. I've been sticking the tape to the underside of the hibiscus plant leaves, gently pressed the leaves against the tape to squish the microscopic red spidermites and crush the eggs, gently unpeeling the tape from the leaves. Hundreds of squished red spider mites, eggs and webbing were on the tape. If I had done that one by one by hand it would have taken hours, I would have missed heaps and you can barely see the mites anyway so it would have failed. The sticky tape picks up so much due to its sticky residue. It was gross but the option was to either spray a lot of pesticides frequently or use a tiny bit of sticky tape over and over again on the infected leaves.

Using Water Spray and Natural Methods to Remove Aphids and Spidermites

Advice on the internet is to use pesticide or spray your plant hard with water and water jets. They will simply just fly or climb back onto your plants. Spraying with water just doesn't work and I've tried all those techniques. Even using a soapy spray mix doesn't work. I've tried the garlic + chilli soap spray method and it doesnt work for me. Admittedly I haven't tried mixing soap+oil+water which is another 'natural' option. Some people buy ladybugs/lady beetles to eat the aphids. I also haven't tried filling a bright yellow dish with water- yellow is supposedly attractive to the aphids.

Using Plants to Ward Off Aphids and Other Bugs

Some recommend planting dill, geraniums, chives, corriander, garlic, onions, petunias and radishes etc to attract beneficial predatory bugs but that doesn't seem to work with my container plants. Sure the aphids doesn't eat my geranium and chives yet they aren't scared off either. They love to munch on my corriander so that advice isn't effective.

There are so many plant bugs around that love to dine on my tasty plants. The sticky tape solution will work on aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and soft scale. It's still early days yet to see whether it will fully solve my problem however there are significantly less and less bugs! This should help the plant to recover somewhat and eventually all the pest eggs will have hatched and will be removed via the humble sticky tape.

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