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How to Organically Control Spittlebugs

Written by Mindy on November 18th, 2017

This garden pest is an interesting one, which really does not cause much damage but looks unsightly. How do you know if you have spittlebugs? Well, the answer is simple. You just look for small globs of white bubbles on the plant’s stem and leaves. If you are looking for an example of what you are looking for, think of your spit on the ground-hence the name spittlebugs.

organically.controlling.spittlebugsThe biology of this bug is unique in the fact that the little insect can be found inside the bubble. While we still do not know all the details of this little insect, we do know that they pierce the leaves or stem of the plant and suck juices from the plant as food. In just, they really do not cause noticeable damage in small numbers. On the other, large numbers feeding on a leaf can cause the leaf to be distorted and/or fruit.

Some of the favorite foods of this garden pest are fruit trees, grasses, and even some flowers such as Bachelor’s buttons.

If the number of “spit wads” is few, simply ignore the spittlebugs. On the other hand, if you have a lot, the best approach is to spray them off with a hard blast of water from a watering hose. But to prevent from causing another problem due to wet foliage, make sure to utilize this technique in the morning if possible.

Another approach to controlling spittlebugs is through prevention. In September through October, the spittlebug female lays her cluster of eggs in plant debris and leaves. The eggs hatch and the nymphs appear in late April to early May. These nymphs hide inside the bubbles of spit and feed on the plant material. The nymphs continue to feed for five to eight weeks. At that time, they have become adults and leave the plant nursery for grass and/or broadleaf plants. Toward the fall, the female returns to a plant to lay her eggs.

To break this cycle, keep your garden clean. If you suspect a spittlebug problem, do not compost your garden debris or leaves from your yard. Also, make sure that grass and broadleaf plants are kept away from fruit trees and other plants that you have seen spittlebug nymphs on. The reason for this technique is the fact that you are removing the food source of the adult and in doing so you will stop the cycle prior to egg laying.


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Guide to Controlling Leafhoppers

Written by Mindy on November 12th, 2017

As the name implies, this insect hops from one plant to another with no problem. This free roaming mobility is what makes controlling this garden pest difficult. Having said that though this type of movement is what makes the leafhopper easy to identify. Beyond hopping from one host plant to another, this pest also moves sideways.

controlling.leafhoppersBelieve it or not, there is not one type of leafhopper. The common name of a particular leafhopper is associated with its host-example rose leafhopper, potato leafhopper, and grape leafhopper. Before we get to how to control this garden pest, we first must look at the life cycle.

The cycle begins in early spring. Eggs that have overwintered in plant material will begin to hatch in early April. This hatching will take six to nine days. What appears from this hatching are wingless nymphs. These nymphs will molt five to six times in two to seven weeks. At that point, the nymphs have matured into what looks like wingless adults. Later on, these mature nymphs will develop wing pads. Once the females are mature, they will lay one to six eggs per day in tender new growth of the stem and leaves of host plants. This will appear as pimple-like structures on the host plant. The cycle will repeat again and it is not uncommon to have at least two generations per season.

In warmer climates, adult leaf hoppers will overwinter in crop debris and grassy areas around gardens.

The problem with the leaf hopper is not the pimple like structures on the plants but the plant diseases that this garden pest carries. First, some species of this pest produce honeydew, which is a sweet substance or waste of the pest. This substance attracts not only ants but also a fungus called sooty mold. This fungus is difficult to control. The second problem comes from the other plant diseases this pest carries. In all, it is better not to get this garden pest but what do you do if you find that leaf hoppers have invaded your garden.

The first thing that needs to be done is to remove the plant that is infested with leaf hoppers and their eggs. Second, make sure your garden is cleaned up and no plant debris is around for the leaf hopper to overwinter in. Third, make sure your environment is welcoming to beneficial insects and if need be purchase some. Finally, if you see just a few or suspect you have them, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the plant along with the ground. This substance will cut into the exoskeleton of the leaf hopper and kill it but when it rains you must reapply.


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Leaf Miner – An Organic Approach to Control

Written by Mindy on November 6th, 2017

The leaf miner can attack a large range of plants from trees, fruits, vegetables, and even flowers. As the name implies, the leaf miner larvae eat their way through the middle layer of the leaf. This causes a telltale white curling trail. The larva continues to eat for two to three weeks and when ready to pupate it falls out of the leaf. Once it hits the ground, the larvas go down one to two inches into the soil. Here the larva will pupate. Adults will emerge in 15 days as flies. Females mate and deposit their eggs into the middle epidermis layer of the leaf. Several generations of leaf miner will appear in a season.

leaf.minersThe first technique is a two part one. The first approach is to check your plants often. If you see signs of the tunnels, squish the tunnels to kill the larva. Leaves that have several tunnels, simply remove the infected leaf and through away. The second part of this approach is to keep your plants healthy. A healthy plant is more likely to recover from the damage compared to one that is under stress due to improper watering, nutritional deficiencies and/or environmental conditions. What this means is to make sure that you only water when needed, feed with an appropriate fertilizer, and/or make sure the growing conditions are right.

The second technique is to cover the ground under plants that have been infected with plastic. This technique works as a control because it blocks the soil from the larva, which prevents them from pupating and turning into adults. This is also very important to do with host plants, such as blackberries, cabbage, and peppers just to name a few. These plants provide shelter for mature larva during the winter months. Covering the soil prevents them from surfacing in the spring.

If you are growing blackberries and/or vegetables, you may want to consider using floating row covers. These cover hover over the plant material keeping the adult female flies from getting to the foliage to lay their eggs. This is especially important if you are growing spinach, which is a favorite of the leaf miner.

Finally, keep in mind that while a small infestation can be controlled by squishing the larva in the leaf, there is a slight problem with this approach. Empty tunnels can become home to pathogenic fungus and/or bacteria, which will compound the problem. The best approach is to prevent the problem when possible and to block the life cycle of the leaf miner.


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Tips for Organically Controlling Mealybugs

Written by Mindy on October 30th, 2017

Prior to controlling this garden pest, one must know what to look for. The mealybugs themselves form white or pinkish fuzzy clumps that attach to stems and at the base of leaves. These clumps are also sticky to the touch. While in small numbers, this pest does not cause a lot of damage but there is a cascade effect that comes from mealybugs.

organically.controlling.mealybugsThis pest has a mouthpart called a stylet, which they force into the plant so that they can harvest plant juices. As this pest feeds, it produces a waste product called “honeydew,” which is sticky. This “honeydew” is a favorite food for ants. Once this substance is discovered by ants, you will then have an additional problem. Also, this “honeydew” attracts a fungus called sooty mold.

As you can see, it is better to get rid of mealybugs regardless of how few to prevent this cascade effect.

The first approach deals with a small infestation. This can be taken care of by first cutting away any area that has the sticky clumps. If this is going to cause an issue with the shape of your plant, you can also dip a cotton swab or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and apply to the infested areas.

The second approach is to make sure that you are inviting beneficial insects into your garden space. While if you have the proper plants, they will come. You can also order some insects such as ladybugs and lacewings.

The next approach is tied into the second technique. As stated before, mealybugs produce a waste product called “honeydew.” This is a favorite food of ants. In exchange for the “honeydew,” the ants protect the mealybugs. Getting rid of the ants allows the beneficial insects to really take hold on this garden pest.

To make the environment less inviting is the fourth approach. What I mean by this is not overwatering and/or over fertilizing. Mealybugs love new soft growth, which is easier to pierce. Both overwatering and/or over fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer will roll out the welcome mat to mealybugs.

While overwatering can cause a problem, spraying off the foliage of the infected plant is another technique. This simple process dislodges the mealybugs and washes them away. It will also reduce the number of ants, which will give other approaches discussed above a chance to work more efficiently.

Finally, if you cannot get a hold on this pest, remove the infected plant material and throw away. Do not compost.


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How to Propagate Angel Wing Begonias

Written by Mindy on October 12th, 2017

Begonias are an annual staple to many container gardens. While there are several different types, one of the most unique is the Angel Wing Begonia. The name comes from the shape of the leaves, which as the name implies looks like angel wings. Whereas you can dig up the whole plant and bring it in before a killing frost, why would you when propagating this annual is simple.

propagate.angel.wing.begoniasTo begin the process, one must first clean and sterilize a 3 to 4 inch container that has a drainage hole in the bottom. If you are going to do several cutting, prepare one container per cutting. The preparation is easy and begins with filling a basin with water. Add one capful of bleach to this water. Place pot(s) in the bleach water and soak for a few minutes. Once that is done, scrub to remove any dirt or hard water stains. Next, rinse in clear water and set out in the sun to dry.

After the pot(s) have dried, fill with an all purpose potting soil mix that has some sphagnum moss mixed in. Water this planting medium until you see moisture coming out the bottom of the container(s). Once this is done, you are ready to start propagating your angel wing begonia through cuttings.

Prior to making your first cut, you will need to sterilize your knife or cutting tool. This is easily done by either soaking the tool in bleach water or just wipe down the cutting surface with bleach or rubbing alcohol.

Next, look over your angel wing begonia and select healthy stems. Using your knife, take a four to five inch angle cut. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting and dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Place the cutting in a hole created in the planting medium using a pencil. After that is done, gently press the soil around the cutting. Repeat as needed for remaining cuttings.

Put your cuttings in a location that receives indirect sunlight. While the indirect exposure to the sun is important, a critical key to success is moisture. Monitor the soil moisture often with your finger and water when needed.

In several weeks, the cutting(s) will have developed roots. How can you tell? Well, all it takes is a little tug of the cutting. If you feel resistance then the cutting has rooted. At that point, you can upsize the container.


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