Spider Mites, Powdery Mildew and the Big Blue

Not only is a hydroponic garden environment ideal for growing your favorite plants, the elevated humidity and room temperatures are the breeding ground for two of the gardeners worst crop destroyers - WPM (or white powdery mildew) and spider mites.

The two spotted and red spider mites are major problems for indoor gardeners. They are tiny; very difficult to see. They feed from the bottom sides of the leaves. The first visual you may have of an infestation are small yellow spots on the leaves. At first you may confuse this with a nutrient deficiency.

Many insecticides have little or no affect in controlling spider mites and there is always a concern that chemicals will still linger in the plants at harvest. Controlling by spraying is very difficult. These parasites work from the undersides of the plants leaves. Not only do they lay their eggs in the dark hidden places of your grow room, but adults can hibernate within those same cracks and crevices that chemical washes will not reach. If you had a spider mite infestation in the last grow cycle, expect it to happen again. So what is the solution? Don't have spider mites in the first place. Spider mites enter your garden from a number of sources.

1. Contaminated cuttings.

Isolate all externally-sourced cuttings and starts from your existing crop until you are able to determine the health of these foreign plants.

2. Intake air.

Think about the black "crud" that accumulates on the tips of your fan blades. What's that about? When your exhaust fans are running, your fresh air intake vents are are drawing in anything that happens to be near the vents, including spider mites and mildew spores - pests so small that you need a magnifying glass or microscope to see them. I was recently in Las Vegas and was asked to examine a commercial hydroponic installation which was using the Big Blue had been put into operation to combat spider mites and powdery mildew.

This gardener had a room dedicated to his mother plants. He had placed a smaller Big Blue Ozone Generator at the fresh air intake. As the outside air was drawn into the room it pre-treated the incoming air, killing any airborne contaminates. Let me add a word of caution here. Elevated levels of ozone will kill your plants!

This professional gardener had been running the Big Blue for over a month on his intake. The ozonated air was drawn across and through his mother plants. He continuously monitored his plants condition over this period. He showed me some light tip burn on the leaves of the plants nearest the Big Blue. He commented that it wasn't significant enough to rotate the plants. Update: 3 months later the plants were thriving of powdery mildew or insects of any kind.

3. Sterilize your grow space.

Diluted chlorine beach and a rag will never clean your grow room completely.

If it did, hospitals would not be using ozone to sterilize their operating rooms between surgeries. If you already have a Big Blue, remove it from the exhaust ducting after harvest. Clear the room of any living things. Place the Big Blue in your grow room and seal that space up. Run the Big Blue for 24 or 48 hours. The ozone gas will find its way into the cracks and crevices that are the breeding grounds of future infestations. It will absolutely sterilize the room for your next crop.

And finally, after your space is sterilized, whatever pests are found later...you brought them in! Don't have your friends over. Don't let your pets in your garden. And please, after working in your outdoor garden, don't wear those same cloths to check on your hydroponic crop. Garden naked.

The Big Blue functions as more than just an exhausted air scrubber. If you're as serious as we are about our gardens health, sterilize that space before your next planting. You've gone to the trouble and expense to provide your crop with the best growing conditions possible. But what have you done today to keep this plague from stealing your future harvest?

Visit our dealers tab for a retailer near you. I hope this has been helpful. I'm sure there are other tricks that have proved useful in avoiding spider mite and white powdery mildew infestations.

Please e-mail us with your suggestions.

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