Pest Update - Spider mites & Caterpillars

Hibiscus (spider mites) - Today I noticed several yellowing leaves on a hibiscus plant that was otherwise doing very well. To make sure, I inspected the underside of the leaves closely and found a few spider mites. Good thing I looked! The infestation isn't very big, but I want to "shock and awe" them to prevent a larger problem like last year. Last year was horrible, the infestation was so bad, the hibiscus plants were practically sticks because all the leaves fell off. Well that was last year, so this year I'm bringing out the big guns, Forbid 4F. Last year I purchased a small 5ml bottle of Forbid 4F on eBay and this is the first time I have a chance to use it. It's a highly recommended product that offers knockdown and residual control of all kinds of mites and whiteflies. I guess the boy scout in me always wants to be prepared. =)

Nicotiana (caterpillars) - Another round of inspection led me to the Nicotiana plants, which haven't been blooming for awhile. I immediately knew something was wrong when I noticed small feces all over the leaves and blooms hollowed out. It only took a few minutes to find many caterpillars all over the plants, mostly at the tips of new growth. Not sure what species of caterpillar they are. They were eating the inside of flower buds mostly. A quick trip to Home Depot and I purchased some Southern Agriculture Thuricide, it's a product that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). BT does not kill on contact, but rather must be eaten by the caterpillar to be effective. After a day or two, the caterpillar stops eating and dies. BT cannot be applied during daytime hours as it degrades rather quickly in direct sunlight, so applying in the late evening is best. BT is also safe for beneficial insects, birds, and animals.

Container Gardening - Soil Temperature and Perched Water Table

The Zucchini 'Squash Contender' I planted in a large container was not successful. The leaves were not growing very big, maybe a couple inches, and growth seemed to be stunted. The container itself (light teal colored plastic) was very hot to the touch with direct sunlight. Also after discarding the plants and all the soil, the bottom of the container soil was very wet. This is a common problem with container grown plants in the Florida heat and humidity. When excess moisture remains in the bottom of your containers, it's called the Perched Water Table. Basically the soil is always saturated and will not drain from the bottom.

So I'm making a few adjustments. First, I spray painted the container a flat white to reflect light and reduce heat within the soil. Remember, the darker the container color, the more heat it will absorb. Second, by sitting the container on a couple 2x4's raises it a couple inches off the ground improving air flow as well. Keeping the soil cool is key for optimal root growth and plant strength. And finially, I'm using cut nylon strands from a mop as a wicking system. This nylon material absorbs moisture easily and will wick excess moisture out of the container. I used (6) 14" long nylon strands, with 7" inside the container and the remaining 7" laying on the ground outside the container. The idea is for sunlight to evaporate moisture from the nylon strands as it wicks moisture out from underneath the container.

Photo Journal 5/11/2010

Growth has been pretty fast, with only a few minor issues with pests. Had a few aphids attacking an Ornamental Pepper seedling but I took them out with a soapy spray. Also had some thrips attacking Hibiscus bloooms, Plumeria leaves, and Zinnia. They were causing hibiscus blooms to drop prematurely. I took care of this with a couple treatments of Green Light Spinosad spray and now they're gone. Here's a photo gallery of pictures I took today around the garden...

A Mothers Day Lily for someone special

Hibiscus with double blooms

Datura metel 'Purple Trumpet'

Gator Magic, Dancing Fire, and Cosmic Dancer hibiscus

Ornamental pepper seedling

Cody's workshop from Lowe's & HomeDepot

Cody's bird feeder he made @ Lowe's. The doves love it!