There is one sure thing about any form of gardening: you will always run into problems with hydroponic garden pests and diseases at some stage or other. In the case of hydroponics, the problem of pests is reduced considerably because your crop is not growing in the soil, where many bugs tend to lay their eggs and hibernate.
Pests And Diseases You Might See In Your Garden
Unfortunately, that still does not mean that you will be totally immune to receiving attention from nasty creatures as those healthy-looking leaves and fruit will be just too much for them to resist, and they will find other ways of getting at an easy meal.
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Observation is Vital
One of the most important lessons any gardener learns is that of observation. Bugs and insects have developed various defense mechanisms. The main one is the ability to blend into their environment so that they can go unnoticed for as long as possible. Another survival strategy is to breed very rapidly. The gardener needs almost to cultivate a sixth sense when it comes to spotting pests.
A casual glance will see only healthy-looking lettuce, but the trained eye will soon spot one or two tiny aphids lurking hidden beneath the leaves. If they are dealt with swiftly, then the problem has been averted but left to their own devices, those few aphids can breed to almost plague proportions within a matter of days, and suddenly your whole harvest is at risk and getting rid of them now demand all-out war.
Take the time to look closely at your plants, turning over leaves and using a magnifying glass if you need to. Also, learn to recognize when a plant is not looking one hundred percent healthy and is displaying even the slightest signs of stress.
Here are some of the most common hydroponic garden pests and diseases you are likely to encounter:
The mealybug is an oval-shaped scale insect that sucks sap from the veins of leaves. They produce a sticky substance known as honeydew, which often gives away their presence. They can be dealt with by wiping with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or spraying with insecticidal soap.
These tiny insects are almost invisible to the naked eye, and they thrive in greenhouse conditions. You often only become aware of them when you see a fine web covering the underside of leaves, and the base of leaves starts to become a mottled brown as they suck out the chlorophyll. In small infestations caught early, they may be destroyed simply by misting the leaves with a mild soapy solution. Use vegetable-based insecticidal soap if they get out of control.
Small, winged insects a little larger than the head of a pin, and they too like to suck sap. Leaves become distorted and lose color. They are best dealt with by spraying with soapy water.
There are various types of aphid, but they all have one thing in common: they can breed really fast. It is estimated that if all the offspring from a single aphid were to survive for a year, then their combined body weight would be sufficient to throw the earth out of orbit. Fortunately for us, they are quite fragile creatures, and if you spot them early, they can be dealt with before we go spinning off toward another universe.
They are sap suckers and tend to favor the tips of green leaves. They are easily destroyed by a quick blast of soapy spray. This is a concise list of some of the most common pests, but there are many more and many varieties of the ones that I have listed. What I was trying to emphasize is that they are easy to deal with if you catch them early. Given that most of the plants you are growing are likely to be edible, then you need to decide if you are going to treat your pests with chemicals or organic treatments.
Organic pest control is cheaper
Organic pest control tends to be cheaper, and as I don’t want to expose myself to any more toxic chemicals than I need to, I tend to opt for them. There is, however, a vast array of chemical sprays and treatments on the market that is highly effective at killing any pest you care to mention, and you only have to go into a garden center and describe your problem, and you will be offered a selection of arms with which to respond. On the organic front, the arsenal is more limited, but here are some of the treatments that have worked perfectly well for me.
Insecticidal soaps can be sprayed from an ordinary spray bottle and are my weapon of choice. You can purchase them or make up your own using any number of recipes off the net using common household ingredients. Neem oil is produced from an evergreen tree that originates in India and is now grown widely worldwide. Its oil is prized by both the organic gardening and cosmetic industry. It will be available at most nurseries or online.
This is a product that any gardener who has access to nettles can make himself. Simply steep a large handful of nettles in lightly simmering water for five minutes then filter the greenish-brown liquid into a spray bottle. It gets more potent as it ages and is an excellent insect deterrent but beware as it does smell. On the disease front, the main threat comes from high humidity, and the close density of planting that is common in the hydroponic system. This makes growers, particularly greenhouse producers, susceptible to molds and mildews of which there are many.
The secret is to increase ventilation as much as possible and to reduce humidity down to the lowest levels, your plants will accept. Both pests and diseases are reduced if you practice good garden hygiene. Remove and throw away dead plants and leaves immediately. Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment between crops as well as greenhouses. Use tools specifically for the hydroponic system to avoid unintentionally carrying disease spores from other plants in the garden. If you are using grow lights, then don’t be tempted to share the light with other houseplants that you may have as you risk transfer problems.