Nobody likes dealing with bugs or diseases, especially when it comes to caring for your plants. While these things can be, well, pests, we always try to remember that bugs cohabitate with us, especially if we tend to surround ourselves with nature, and they really are not something to fear or dread! Once we can get comfortable with that fact, we can move on to avoiding them while confidently and calmly caring for our indoor or outdoor plants.
This blog highlights some of the best practices for pest management, as well as touch on preventing disease, and some of the things we can do to reduce pests & disease before your seeds even sprout.
We’ve found that the best practice to keep pests out of your garden is through integrated pest management. Focus on the following tips to help prevent any infestations before they start:
When you first buy a new plant, make sure to keep it isolated, preferably outdoors, to identify any tiny eggs or other bugs. Try to keep your plants isolated for a period of 1-2 weeks, allowing time for larger nymphs to develop and therefore making them easier to detect. You can also use a magnifying glass to check the undersides of the young leaves before integrating new material with more crops.
Keep your plants protected. This will be easy if they are indoor, urban gardens or houseplants. Once you have isolated your plants outside and allowed time for nature to clear any bug infestations, you can screen your plants so that they are not susceptible to new bugs or pests.
Additionally, remove any potential pests from the actual soil ball of the plant. Sometimes the plant you bought will have some Arthropods (pillbugs, sowbugs, and millipedes) within the soil because they prefer damp, dark, moist environments. These generally won’t harm plants, as they largely eat decaying organic material, but in the case of millipedes, they may eat bulbs and tubers.
Remove plant residues from within and near your plants. Bugs and pests can continue to mature on dead/dying plant material, producing adults that can reinfest crops. Also be sure to remove any weeds from around (and within) your garden area, as they can act as a carrier for new bugs and pests. This won’t be necessary for indoor plants of course, but do make sure you are clearing out any dead leaves from around the plant to protect from disease.
Some of the most common garden pests you may encounter on your indoor plants are spider mites, whiteflies, fungus gnats, and common brown scale. Scale can be problematic indoors because they have good temperatures year-round and will produce around the clock (they can produce young without any fertilization, so that means you could potentially run into a big problem pretty quickly). The good news is that they are pretty much immobile, which makes them easy to control. One way to do this is to simply discard the plant. However, there are a couple of homemade remedies you can use too such as sprinkling cinnamon on top of your soil or mixing hydrogen peroxide with water and spraying it on your plants. You can also try and revive it with a homemade soap spray. Try following these steps if you run into a scale infestation:
- Place a plastic bag or some covering around the soil of your plant. This prevents any scale from falling into your soil.
- Spray a natural, rosemary-based soap on the plant.
- Run your fingers along the stems and plant leaves, turning up the scale with your fingernails. Discard any scale that fall onto the plastic bag. Go over the entire plant well, sometimes they can blend in.
- After you’ve sufficiently soaped and scraped the plant, spray it down with a shower head or hose. Make sure to rinse all the soap off the plant as not to affect its growth.
- Check the plant again for the next three days, making sure that you hadn’t missed any scales. If necessary, you can repeat steps 1-4. Check again once a week for two months just to make sure!
Indoor (and outdoor) crops and herbs, can also be affected by disease. Urban Leaf makes sure to screen for disease resistance in our seeds for disease resistance as well as to make sure they will be compact and produce high yields in small spaces – perfect for urban gardening! If you are curious about the cultivar we use, check out the back of your seed packet which will list the name. However, we did want to mention a few here that are particularly powerful in preventing disease!
H-19 Little Leaf – Organic Cucumber Seeds
These seeds have a broad disease resistance and stress tolerance. They are highly resistant to anthracnose, angular leaf spot, bacterial wilt, and scab; and intermediate resistance to cucumber mosaic virus and powdery mildew.
Bobcat – Beefsteak Tomato
These vigorous, yet sturdy plants are adaptable to both garden and patio containers. They produce a high yield of large globe-shaped fruit and have high disease resistance. Highly resistant to Fusarium wilt, Grey leaf spots caused by Stemphylium, and Verticillium wilt which are common in tomato plants.
At the end of the day, the truth is that pests and disease are a reality of gardening that you are almost certain to encounter at one stage or another. Although discovering an unwanted critter in your garden can be demoralizing, with proper treatment and a focus on the underlying plant health they are almost always curable. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have on this topic – find us on Instagram or join our private Facebook group.