Identify and Eliminate Indoor Garden Pests

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...

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The Worst Indoor Garden Pests:
Spider Mites

These tiny black specks are actually small groups of mites hanging out together!

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.

Mites can reduce the yield of your garden to nearly zero! The best strategy is PREVENTION

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.

Mites are almost impossible to get rid of. Twice I have had to stop gardening for several months to rid the garden area completely of 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.


Thrip and mite damage looks like heat damage or over-fertilization, and makes identification tricky without a microscope

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.

Thrips, at different stages of growth

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.

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats chew holes in the roots of your plants, causing other problems that tend to get worse

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.

Prevent algae from growing and you are likely to prevent fungus gnat problems

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.

Controlling Your Pest Problem

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.

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