By Breeder Steve of the Spice
of Life Seed Company
Spider mites bite! You must get rid of them, or at least try to keep their numbers
down. They are like little mosquitoes that suck the lifeblood from your plants.
??? Once mites get into your garden, they
are nearly impossible to get out. Their persistence is incredible. They breed
quickly and can develop resistance to certain sprays. Almost every grower has
heard of and used many home remedies, as well as the commercially available
??? The key to a mite-free
garden is prevention. Just don’t let them in. The problem, as a friend
recently pointed out, is that every garden on the West Coast is under siege.
The vegetation that surrounds our dwellings supports an everpresent threat
??? Having clean clothes
and shoes is important, as pests may enter the grow space on you, your
friends, and your pets. Bring only clean tools and sterilized growing medium
into your growroom.
Remember that if you have houseplants
they may be supporting a population of mites as well.
??? Ventilation fans are
essential for healthy plant growth as well as discouraging the mites. A
hot growroom with poor ventilation is a breeding ground for mites, especially
if the place gets dry. I once saw an attic garden that was full of plants
but had no ventilation. The gardener also claimed to be too tired after
work to carry water into his attic regularly, so the plants were bone dry
and covered with tents. A terrible sight indeed.
??? Vapour barriers and
finely screened vents for intake and exhaust fans are essential to avoid
sucking in bugs from the outside.
??? The best growrooms
are cool, well ventilated rooms. Mite growth slows dramatically at lower
temperatures. At higher temperatures they become very active and mobile.
A garden started in a frozen climate is safe provided that the mites don’t
tag along in a bag of compost.
Webs & Eggs
??? Spidermites spin webs
which facilitate movement among the plant’s branches and neighbouring plant’s
branches for the shortlegged demons. Wipe off any signs of webs immediately
If you have mites you will know it by
the very small white dots on top of your leaves. If you look closely underneath
the leaf you will see the little white eggs clinging to the underside and
most likely the little white or reddish brown spidermites walking around
or sucking the sweet juice of your plant, reducing the quantity and quality
of your harvest.
??? Once you’ve got mites
bad the best solution is to tear down, clean up, and start again with a
renewed interest in prevention. However, if they persist and you shudder
at the prospect of starting all over again then you should introduce predator
??? Formally known as Phytoseilus
Persimillis, predator mites will eat the evil spidermites and their eggs,
given the proper cool temperatures. They may even wipe the mites out entirely
and then starve to death themselves. Note that the predators may not be
as effective if the mite population is too high when they are introduced.
??? Any one of a number
of spray solutions may be used to knock down their population to a level
where the predators will be able to take over, but wait a few days after
spraying before introducing the predators or the residual miticide will
also harm them. A new spray is being touted as killing spidermites but
not the predator mites.
??? I strongly recommend
that you spray nothing on your buds except the mildest home remedies such
as a small amount of Listerine and Sunlight dishsoap dissolved in water
and sprayed or scrubbed onto the plants. A few cigarette butts soaked in
a litre of water, filtered and than sprayed is the favourite miticide of
one crazy Dutchman I know.
??? Pokon is the most popular
commercially available mite spray on the market today. It is fairly safe
in composition and has the advantage of being in a nifty new aerosol can
that can be sprayed upside down, very convenient for spraying the bottoms
of leaves. The active ingredient is from a natural source and not harmful
to humans, but follow the instructions with any pesticide! I say again,
do not spray buds!
??? A great natural way
to kill the little devils is with Silicone Dioxide, also known as diotomecious
earth. It sounds nasty but it is merely fine sand with very sharp edges,
mined from fossilized material, ground pumice. Its razorlike edges slice
the carapace or shell of the mites’ bodies and then they dehydrate.
??? In the stores look
for Insecolo, it’s a white dust that attracts the bugs, they eat it and
then get sliced inside and out. The dust is harmless to plants and animals
(ourselves included) but very destructive to small crawling insects such
as mites. Sprinkle this on the leaves and the soil, the mites will die
a hideous death, and you will rejoice one battle won.
Insecticidal Soaps and Sprays
??? Eternal vigilance is
the cost of freedom from spidermites. The real key is prevention, as going
the extra mile during the construction of the grow room can save a marathon
cleanup later, which usually only provides a short term remedy. Wilson’s
insecticidal soap does a pretty good job at cleaning them up, especially
with some elbow grease and a J cloth. Never use systemic pesticides. If
in doubt, find out.
??? Pentac or Kelthane
are sprays that may be used while the plants are in vegetative cycle. People
should not be messing around with Malathion or Diazinon, and in fact it’s
best to avoid all chemical solutions, even Pokon. Very frightening indeed
is the “ultimate mite killer” Avid. This is a dangerous and harmful product,
avoid! A new organic spray that is very effective is made from orange oils,
it is called SM90. I’ve heard very good reports about it, and use it myself.
Traps & Companions
??? Traps are another possibility,
something that they get stuck in, commercial or home made. Although this
is only a band aid solution it can’t hurt. Put two-sided tape on the walls,
ceiling and floor, as well as on stalks, branches and pots.
??? Companion planting
is an interesting idea, however I’m not convinced of its effectiveness.
I’ve tried garlic, marigolds, and dusty millers. The mites killed the marigolds
in no time, while the dusty millers lived as did the garlic, but neither
thrived as well as the mites.
??? Spider mites are a plague
on indoor gardens, while outdoors the elements and naturally occurring
predators make them less of a threat. Frequent spraying of water on plants
impedes the mites’ progress, as do heavy gusts of wind. One grower I know
of uses a compressed air blower once a week to blow any mites off of his
??? Plenty of wind is essential
in the grow room, so put oscillating fans all over the place. For best
results the plants should dance inside just as much as they would dance
??? Remember, growing inside
is the art and science of creating nature. You must remember the four basic
elements, earth, wind, fire, and water. To grow successfully these elements
must be balanced. Too much or too little of any one of these will cause
difficulties. A healthy plant, like a healthy person, is less likely to
have problems, so make sure it (and you) have a healthy and balanced diet.
Of what is up to you.
??? If you have mites try
not to spread them. If you don’t have mites, take precautions to keep it
that way, and thank your lucky stars.