Tips for Identifying and Removing Bugs from Your Indoor Garden

Introduction:

From lettuce and herbs to pineapples and peach trees, today’s technology allows indoor gardeners to grow our favorite produce indoors, all year round.  IGWorksTM’s lighting and hydroponic products make it clean, attractive and easy.  However, if you garden long enough, you are bound to have an issue with bugs.  They’re part of life, just like all of the other nuisances we occasionally have to deal with.  But, fortunately, this nuisance is easy to deal with.  And, most importantly you don’t need to use any nasty pesticides in your home or on your food.

The two most common indoor pests are gnats and aphids.  The best thing you can do when it comes to these bugs is to identify the problem early.  These enemies are easy to identify, but only when you know what you’re looking for.

Public Enemy #1: The Fungus Gnat

Remove Fungus Gnats from Your Indoor Garden

It won’t take you long to notice gnats.  They’re tiny, but they are the very definition of pests!  They buzz around day and night, and always seem to find themselves a few inches away from your face.  You can swat at them all you’d like, but getting rid of them is a little more tricky.  Laying out sticky traps or other solutions to capture them will not help your case much.  That’s because adults will lay as many as 300 eggs that become larvae, and this process can take over a week.  So, even if you’ve killed all of the gnats you can find, there are likely more coming.  Whether you’re growing with hydroponics or soil, here’s how you get rid of gnats!

Solutions for Destroying Gnats:

Destroying Gnats in Soil:

  • Solution 1: Mixing Hydrogen Peroxide with Your Water
    • Wait for the top inch or two of soil to dry out, and the next time you water your plant(s), add 1 part of 3% hydrogen peroxide to every 4 parts of water you use to water your plants. That means 1/5th of your watering can will be 3% hydrogen peroxide and 4/5th’s of your watering can will be water.  This will kill any eggs or larvae living in the soil.  This process will be most effective if you do this with all of your plants at once, so that any remaining gnats do not re-populate in other planters.
  • Solution 2: Add a Fan to Your Garden
    • Adding a fan to your garden prevents them from stopping long enough to lay eggs. It will also help pollinate some of your fruiting plants.  Don’t underestimate this simple, but very effective solution!
  • Solution 3: Letting Soil Dry Out
    • Gnats like to lay their eggs in damp soil, and their larvae need moisture to survive. So, if your plants are tolerant to a brief drought, let the soil dry out completely before you water again.
    • For plants that may not be tolerant to a brief drought, watering only ½ of the pot at a time will help to reduce egg and larvae populations significantly
  • Solution 4: Organic Neem Oil
    • Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from seeds of the neem tree. It’s been used for hundreds of years as a naturally occurring pesticide. It is non-toxic to humans and animals.  Mix 5ml (1 tsp) of neem oil with 1ml of non-toxic dish soap and 1 liter of water.  You don’t have to use the dish soap, but it makes the very sticky neem oil easier to mix with water.  You can spray your whole plant, but it will make the plant sticky and you’ll have to wash it more thoroughly to remove the taste of neem oil and soap when you harvest.  Instead, I suggest spraying the soil with a healthy dose of your neem oil.  It does not work instantly, but reduces these bugs ability to feed and procreate over time.  Re-apply weekly until your problem is gone, and use it occasionally as a preventative measure.  One of the great things about neem oil is that it will be absorbed by the plant itself and prevent bugs in the future.
    • Note: I don’t suggest Neem oil for hydroponics.  Neem oil coagulates in water and will clog your pump.  It’s also sticky and can be difficult to remove from other hydroponic equipment.
  • Solution 5: Adding a Layer of Course Sand or Rock Over the Soil
    • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Adding a layer of course sand or rock over the soil can trick gnats into thinking that there just isn’t any moist soil underneath to lay their eggs in.  If you use sand, make sure it’s quite course so that it stays on top of the soil rather than mixing with the soil as you water.
  • Solution 6: Setting Traps for Adult Gnats
    • This is probably the least effective method for controlling gnat populations, but can be helpful when used in combination with the above solutions. Using fly trap paper can be helpful.  Many people will also cut small holes in plastic wrap that is placed over a cup of apple cider vinegar.  The gnats are attracted to the vinegar and find their way into the small holes, but find it much more difficult to escape.  It’s a good way of trapping gnats, but unless you get rid of the eggs and larvae by using the solutions above, you’ll never get rid of your problem completely.

Destroying Gnats in Hydroponics:

  • Solution 1: Mix Hydrogen Peroxide with Your Water Solution
    • You can’t mix as much Hydrogen Peroxide with your water solution as described in the soil section. It will kill your plants.  But, mixing 10ml per gallon of hydrogen peroxide whenever you refill your water solution will kill gnat eggs and larvae.
  • Solution 2: Add a Fan to Your Garden
    • Adding a fan to your garden prevents them from stopping long enough to lay eggs. It will also help pollinate some of your fruiting plants.  Don’t underestimate this simple, but very effective solution!
  • Solution 3: Setting Traps for Adult Gnats
    • This is probably the least effective method for controlling gnat populations, but can be helpful when used in combination with the above solutions. Using fly trap paper can be helpful.  Many people will also cut small holes in plastic wrap that is placed over a cup of apple cider vinegar.  The gnats are attracted to the vinegar and find their way into the small holes, but find it much more difficult to escape.  It’s a good way of trapping gnats, but unless you get rid of the eggs and larvae by using the solutions above, you’ll never get rid of your problem completely.

Public Enemy #2: Aphids

Remove Aphids from Your Indoor Garden

Perhaps the worst thing about Aphids is that they don’t fly around to let you know they’re there.  So unless you know what they are and you’re paying attention to your plants, you can miss them.  If you’re not aware of them for long enough, they can become a major nuisance.  Outdoors, these bugs are much less of a problem.  Spraying them off your plants with a garden hose a few times will usually solve your problem.  Indoors, that’s not an option.  Whether you’re growing with hydroponics or soil, here’s how you get rid of aphids!

Solutions for Destroying Aphids:

Destroying Aphids in Soil:

  • Solution 1: Remove Leaves and Fruit with Aphids on Them
    • Remove any leaves or fruit with aphids on them should be your first course of action. If the problem is wide spread before you first notice it, this can be a difficult choice.  Lettuce and herbs can be easy enough to re-plant, but you don’t want to kill your wonderful indoor fruit tree because of aphids.  So, use your instincts and learn from experience.
  • Solution 2: Dish Soap
    • Yup, Dish Soap. Add 1 tablespoon of non-toxic dish soap to 1 quart of water, and spray your leaves and plants with it.  The soft bodied aphids can’t take the dish soap, and will quickly perish.  Remember, it may take a few applications to finally get rid of them all.  Aphids are great at hiding in little nooks and crannies you didn’t reach.
  • Solution 3: Organic Neem Oil
    • Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from seeds of the neem tree. It’s been used for hundreds of years as a naturally occurring pesticide. It is non-toxic to humans and animals.  Mix 5ml (1 tsp) of neem oil with 1ml of non-toxic dish soap and 1 liter of water.  You don’t have to use the dish soap, but it makes the very sticky neem oil easier to mix with water.  You can spray your whole plant, but it will make the plant sticky and you’ll have to wash it more thoroughly to remove the taste of neem oil and soap when you harvest.  Instead, I suggest spraying the soil with a healthy dose of your neem oil.  It does not work instantly, but reduces these bugs ability to feed and procreate over time.  Re-apply weekly until your problem is gone, and use it occasionally as a preventative measure.  One of the great things about neem oil is that it will be absorbed by the plant itself and prevent bugs in the future.
    • Note: I don’t suggest Neem oil for hydroponics.  Neem oil coagulates in water and will clog your pump.  It’s also sticky and can be difficult to remove from other hydroponic equipment.

Destroying Aphids in Hydroponics:

  • Solution 1: Remove Leaves and Fruit with Aphids on Them
    • Before you do anything else, make sure to remove any leaves or fruit with aphids on them. If the problem is wide-spread before you first notice it, this can difficult.  But, it’s almost certainly the best thing you can do to get rid of them.  Aphids will climb all over and around your leaves, hiding in little nooks and crannies.  And, all it takes is one or two for a nasty infestation.  So, get rid of as many as you can before you take next steps.  Because plants grow so quickly with hydroponics, it may be a reasonable option to start over if you don’t notice the problem quickly enough, and it’s widespread.
  • Solution 2: Dish Soap
    • Yup, Dish Soap. Add 1 tablespoon of non-toxic dish soap to 1 quart of water, and spray your leaves and plants with it.  The soft bodied aphids can’t take the dish soap, and will quickly perish.  Remember, it may take a few applications to finally get rid of them all.  Aphids are great at hiding in little nooks and crannies you didn’t reach.

Conclusion:

Using the steps above will help rid your home of these bugs, should they ever become an issue for you.  Using multiple solutions when you have a problem is your best bet for getting rid of these pests quickly.  Preventative measures will help ensure that these pests don’t come back.  Preventative measures for soil include the use of neem oil, hydrogen peroxide, sand and fans as described above.  Preventative measures for hydroponics include the use of hydrogen peroxide and fans as described above.  A happy indoor garden is a bug free indoor garden.  And with the use of the above solutions, you’ll be a happy indoor gardener.

There's more great growing information in the links below:


Let’s grow together,

Dave

 


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