Pests & Diseases
With any garden whether it be in-ground, aquaponic, or greenhouse enclosed, you will have bugs show up who will find your vegetables quite tasty. The nature of the aquaponics system makes using pesticides to control bugs out of the question. Any pesticide that you use will most certainly affect the balance of your system by causing harm to your fish or beneficial bacteria, not to mention that fact that you don’t want those toxins in any of the food that you are growing. Here we will give you natural alternatives to those pesticides and methods dealing with these pests so that you can keep your crops healthy.
I have two indoor systems, one of which I have been running for at least two years. Both systems have had aphids at one point or another. Aphids are a common problem in any garden. I know what you’re thinking. If it’s an indoor system how did the aphids get there? Sometimes I pick seedlings up at the nursery to save time or get certain plants late in the season if I hadn’t germinated my own in time. I picked up a few hitchhikers. These guys are tiny so they are easy to miss if you’re in a hurry.
So, these little guys look like little white balloons with short stubby legs. They are anywhere from the size of a pinhead to about a millimeter. They may seem small, but the are not to be taken lightly. I had a Jalapeño bush that lost a few leaves and a couple of pods to these little guys. The colony actually grew on the underside of the leaf so that by the time I had discovered them, they were thriving.
They make their living by sucking the sap out of the plant they’re living on. I’ve had them attack my tomato plants as well as my Brussels sprouts. Yes, even the Brussels sprouts! The damage can be seen in the form of yellowing leaves as well as deformed leaves. The buds can also sprout stunted. I had one occasion where half of the leaf grew normally and the other half looked like a smaller version of itself as if it had stopped growing early on. Needless to say, these little bugs are detrimental to your plants’ health.
There are a few way to get rid of these guys without resorting to chemical warfare. If the system was outside you could rely on your local lady bugs to come in and take care of them. You could bring some lady bugs inside to take care of them as well… if you’re okay with having even more bugs inside your house that is (my wife was not too keen on that). They are so effective that there are commercial suppliers of lady bugs specifically for aphid control. One of the options I’ve tried which has been very effective in controlling these little pests is spraying them with a mixture of water, lemon juice, and dishwashing detergent. The recipe follows below. Just load up your general purpose spray bottle and spray it generously on the affected areas. The aphids will dry up, turn brown, and fall off. When I spray over my system I usually put a paper towel behind and under the leaves to keep too much of the dish detergent from getting into the system. I don’t want to kill too much of my beneficial bacteria or through off my pH levels.
Mix all ingredients together in the spray bottle and give it a few shakes. Spray on the aphids as necessary being careful not to let too much drip into your system.
White Powdery Mildew
Baking soda is a good way to control powdery mildew on plants. The baking soda fungicide is mostly effective as a preventative, offering only minimal benefits after your plants have become infected. Weekly spraying of susceptible plants during humid or damp weather can greatly reduce the incidence of powdery mildew in your system.
Powdery mildew spray:
– spray bottle
– 1 tablespoon of baking soda
– ½ teaspoon of liquid soap
– 1 gallon of water
Do not store unused mixture. While this recipe has been known to be effective, it can burn the leaves of some plants. Don’t apply it in full sun. Try it on a few small leaves first to test the plant’s reaction to the mixture.