Prevention is the real key to controlling indoor garden pests. When that fails, it is the accurate identification of the pest that can make or break your indoor gardening efforts. Believe me I know, just check out my bug woes. When you grow a small garden indoors, you leave most of your insect problems outside. For the most part, there are 3 different insects that commonly become a problem for indoor gardens. They are...
Look closely at this picture... mites are very small, but
they often hang out together in small groups. Mites are the worst indoor garden pests. If the
conditions are right, 10 mites can become 10,000 mites in only 30 days!
Mites are sap suckers. They bite into veins, usually on the undersides
of leaves where they are more protected. They are so small that they are
easily overlooked until there is an obvious problem.
Damaged leaves have many tiny dots on them, but you must look close. A 30X magnifying scope comes in handy for this type of close inspection. If you suspect you have mites, make sure to check the undersides of the leaves well. Mite and thrip damage often looks like heat damage or over-fertilization.
The spotted mite is one of the most common. It has big black spots, one on each side. It starts out a yellowish color, and as it matures and reproduces in fall it turns a red color. This gives them their other name, red spider mites.
Black mites are also pretty common, and there are many
other types that all look very similar. The important thing is that all of these pests are dealt with in basically the same way. Pruning, insecticidal soap, pepper spray, and in very bad situations you may need to shut down the garden area completely for two or three months.
Thrips are also very, very small and go easily unnoticed. Thrips are also sap suckers. One clue that you have them is the spots of shiny residue they leave on your leaves after feeding on sap. Unlike mites, which are basically round, thrips are oval...the shape of a very tiny grain of rice. They do not tend to gather together in the numbers that spider mites achieve.
Outdoors, thrips are only a problem for about 6 weeks, around August and September. This is the time you are most likely to get them. Again, a 30x magnifying scope is very handy for taking a good look. Their appearance changes a little as they develop, so here they all are. They are usually a tan, or white, or yellowish color. Finally, thrips spend part of their life in the soil, so you will notice some kind of jumping or flying activity at the soil level if you have these indoor garden pests.
This insect is more obvious, despite its small size. You can't help but notice them flying around here and there. Flying through the air, they appear completely black. The fungus gnat also spends the first part of its life in the soil.
The gnat larvae feed on your plants roots, and other organic matter. Fungus gnats are much more of a problem with hydroponics than with gardening in soil. Once they are flying adults, it's just a matter of time before they lay more eggs in your soil, keeping the problem going.
Once you have identified your indoor garden pests, it is time to do battle with them. For vegetables and other garden items you plan to consume, I recommend natural pest control methods.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT
having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow
your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality
nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with
and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as
possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only
just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only
because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique
and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more
high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole
year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to
increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the
same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your
own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...
The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!