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Hot for Hydro: Quick and easy ways to defend your plants against some common nasties

Spider mites are too small to see with the naked eye--use a magnifying glass! Spider mites are too small to see with the naked eye--use a magnifying glass!

Spider mites. Powdery mildew. Aphids. Root rot. All can quickly destroy the utopia you’ve created for a healthy and productive community of plants. But each of these blights can be avoided or, if they’ve already taken hold, eradicated. Let’s take a look.


Spider Mites

These tiny creatures are tough to spot, so look at the bottom of the oldest leaves for little webs. If you are vigilant, you can handpick the mites before they do any significant damage. If they aren’t stopped, they will feed off the circulatory system of the plant, robbing vital enzymes. As the mites feed, they will cause little brown dead spots on the leaves. Look under a leaf with webs, and hold it up to the light. If it has a yellowish tinge, the leaf is not photosynthesizing well and can be removed. Be sure to dispose of the leaf immediately, so the mites don’t jump back onto your plants.

If this first line of defense fails, exterminate mites with one of the oil-based sprays designed for this purpose. If you don’t like to spray your plants, try using predatory insects that feed on mites. Lacewings, ladybugs, predator mites, and praying mantises all are effective.

Powdery Mildew

This parasite is much easier to see and destroy than mites, and you want to get rid of it just as fast or it will sadden you and your plants. Powdery mildew is a spore, and spores are one of the most durable life forms on earth. They can even survive, in stasis, in outer space! One way to prevent powdery mildew is through foliar feeding. Spores cannot survive in pH levels of 7 or higher, so boost the mist’s pH up to 8 or 9, using a plain reverse-osmosis water process and a wetting agent (such as Advanced Nutrients’ Wet Betty). Or use a foliar-feeding product adjusted to a pH of 8 or 9. You can do this every day, up to seven days before harvest.


Aphids are trouble, because they breed like crazy. While a clean, filtered, and pressurized room will prevent most attempts to fly in, they can make it past your defenses. If you find them, squish them. That sends a chemical message to other aphids to keep away or die.

If you notice more about a week later, then exterminate them with an oil-based spray. There are also tons of home remedies; I’ve even heard of people making a foliar tea with a few cigarette butts! Believe it or not, nicotine is considered an insecticide!

Root Rot

Deonna Marie and her family operate South Valley Hydroponics in Gilroy, California.Deonna Marie and her family operate South Valley Hydroponics in Gilroy, California.

A symptom of oxygen deficiency in the root zone, root rot usually results from overwatering. The roots will look brown and slimy, and not healthy. Although root rot was once considered terminal, you do have a few options. I recommend using Advanced Nutrients’ Sensizym enzyme concentrate, which protects your roots, boosts floral growth, deprives harmful pathogens of food, and cleans your root zone. Another option is using a homemade technique that consists of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in an aqueous solution. One warning: If you use organically derived (as opposed to mineral-derived) nutrient solutions, you may cause nutrient lockout, and the plants will starve. Or, in the case of beneficial microbes, the microbes will die.

Remember to keep your root zone temperature between 68 and 73 degrees (aquarium-type heaters set at 70 degrees work well), with an optimal point being a constant 68 degrees. Fluctuations of more than 10 degrees are hard on the roots and make the plants susceptible to all of the problems we’ve covered here.

Good luck! Until next time, fellow growers: Grow big or go home!

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Deonna Marie is not only a hydroponics grower, she is also an accomplished fashion model!
Last modified on Thursday, 14 April 2011 22:57

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